Valencian Institute for Modern Art Opens Jose Manuel Ciria The Last Decade

The Valencian Institute for Modern Art presents José Manuel Ciria: The Last Decade an exhibition on view Sep 13 – Nov 06, 2011.

The exhibition begins with a still life by Ciria in tribute to the death of contemporary painting. Vanitas (Levántate y anda (Vanitas [Rise up and Walk], 2001) includes the iconic images of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917) and the textual works by Joseph Kosuth alongside Ciria’s own paintings. These artefacts, assembled and arranged as though in a letter file, suggest the idea of an immobilised history of art and transmit Ciria’s wish to break away from the past. Works like Fragmentación de nubes I-V (Fragmentation of Clouds I-V, 2002) or the series La mascara de la mirada (The Mask of the Gaze, 1993-2005) denote the artist’s experimentation with the creation of abstract motifs and repetition as a means of discovering the possibilities of the unconscious. The series of heads entitled Rorschach presents a single figurative element as a means of conveying absolute emotion despite the spatial limitations imposed by the format of the canvas.

After moving to the United States in 2005, Ciria began to create the series Post-Suprematista (Post-Suprematist), inspired on the Russian painter Kazimir Malevich. Pretextos I-III (Pretexts I-III, 2006) shows how Ciria, like his Russian predecessor, chose to return to figuration – a style he used for the first time in the eighties – as a way to turn his work in a new direction. In spite of this change, the gestural strokes and the underlying grid are reminiscent of his earlier works and create a dynamic formal tension that is inherent to Ciria’s practice.

The artist’s series La Guardia Place goes one step further in his flirtation with figuration through both the image and the text, with pieces like Perro colgado (Hanged Dog, 2006) or Tres bailarinas (Three Dancers, 2007) evoking the themes through their titles as much as through their semi-abstract forms. The artist returned to pure abstraction for his Tríptico para la tradición española (Triptych for Spanish Tradition, 2006), a tribute to the Spanish people that reminds us of Elegies, a work by the American artist Robert Motherwell. Half-way between figuration and abstraction, Ciria made several large-format pieces in 2009. The spherical forms of El Castillo de los Pirineos duplicado (The Castle of the Pyrenees Duplicated, 2009), for example, resemble the heads executed by the artist at the beginning of the decade.

The head has taken on importance in the artist’s recent work. Either as a geometric element or as a reminder of the human body, the head provides Ciria with a constant form with which the artist can make infinite experiments with colour, line and pictorial gesture. After all, it is on this variation that Ciria bases his work and that gives more leeway to his artistic explorations.

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