Bleda and Rosa, Trafalgar (detail), 2013, nine ink-jet prints mounted on paper with text, overall 75 1/2 x 63 3/4".

Bleda and Rosa, Trafalgar (detail), 2013, nine ink-jet prints mounted on paper with text, overall 75 1/2 x 63 3/4".

Bleda and Rosa

Fúcares Madrid

Bleda and Rosa, Trafalgar (detail), 2013, nine ink-jet prints mounted on paper with text, overall 75 1/2 x 63 3/4".

Some twenty years ago, artists María Bleda and José María Rosa first earned public recognition for a very simple and evocative series of photographs titled “Campos de fútbol” (Soccer Fields), 1992. For all the images in this series, the pair used a similar compositional strategy to show empty spaces rich in associations. Their practice has remained fundamentally the same ever since: serial works, images of spaces seen from a distance, a certain neutrality, a primary focus on landscape. Drawing inspiration from the Bechers, Bleda and Rosa focus on the evocative power of any place that has a unique past. From the celebrated 1994 series “Campos de batalla” (Battlefields), which followed “Campos de fútbol,” to the ambitious “Origen,” 2003–2008, the couple’s work has consisted of serial landscapes capturing a sense of place that is concrete and physical yet rich in intangible resonances—the location of a battle that took place a thousand years ago, say, or an archaeological site where remains from the Paleolithic Era have been found. The historical references in these images are not explicit; they ask the viewer to link the present of each space to a suggested past.

Landscape, time past and present, memory, and documentation make themselves felt in Bleda and Rosa’s recent series “Prontuario” (Handbook), 2011–13, as well. The series’ subtitle, “Notas en torno a la guerra y la revolución” (Notes on War and Revolution), indicates its intentions: to follow the traces of an important moment in Spanish history, the Peninsular War, when Spain fought Napoléon’s army. This was one of the few eras in modern Spanish history when enlightened liberals enjoyed a certain political influence—though the war was largely waged by nationalists, who were by no means liberal (indeed, they were reactionaries), fighting France because it was a foreign and modernizing force. “Prontuario” incorporates photography and written documentation related to the French presence in Spain, including images of landscapes where major events took place, focusing on paintings removed by the Napoléonic forces from churches and palaces around the country, ostensibly with the aim of creating a Spanish museum in Madrid; many of these works ended up in France instead.

For this series, Bleda and Rosa have strayed from the strict format of landscape photographs taken from a distance and broadened the scope of their iconography. Unlike most of their earlier works, this one includes texts as well as images, and depicts a range of subjects. The result is a kaleidoscopic inventory of the series’ theme in five panels that commemorate as many episodes: the siege of Cádiz, the siege of Gerona, the Battle of Trafalgar, the Battle of Vitoria, and the popular uprising in Madrid. With photographs of places displayed alongside documents related to these events, each panel attests to the different forms of knowledge that together constitute history: written testimony, iconographic and architectural remains, and so forth. The work’s subject is not so much the events themselves as the multiplicity of different ways they can be addressed and narrated.

Pablo Llorca

Translated from Spanish by Jane Brodie.