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Manolo Valdés’ meninas reign again in Madrid | Culture

by News Room
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At this stage of his career, that of tranquility, Manolo Valdés (Valencia, 82 years old) no longer resorts to filters. Neither in his work nor in his opinions. The celebrated painter and sculptor, who has spent half a century in his career—first as one of the voices of the choral political pop of Equipo Crónica and, since 1981, as a solo artist—recognizes that “as you get older, you have less prejudices.” Known especially for his multiple recreations of works by some of the great masters of art history, from Velázquez to Rembrandt, from Monet to Matisse, Valdés has just inaugurated in Madrid, the city to which he returns after 10 years of absence, a exhibition with recent works gathered under the title of Allegro.

The two floors of the Opera Gallery – a space that has 16 locations around the world – have been filled with sculptures and paintings, more than 40, which return to the odalisques of Matisse, the meninas from Velazquez or the kinetic sculptures of Alexander Calder. It is, as the artist often says, a collection of “whims”, a journey with pieces that “perhaps, at another time”, he would not have included, “but would have made a strategy”. In the same way, he does not think twice when denouncing what he considers unfair or reprehensible: from the exclusion of the Opera Gallery of Arco to the “decay” of the IVAM, which was the flagship of contemporary art in the city. native of him.

The artist Manolo Valdés, at Opera Gallery.Samuel Sanchez

Arriving the night before from New York, where he usually resides, Valdés receives EL PAÍS on the second floor of the spacious gallery, which opened its doors in the capital last year. He appears relaxed and lively. Relaxed. He details that, for this exhibition (open until April 13), one of the images he wanted to use is that of Queen Mariana of Austria, painted on different occasions by Velázquez, whose recognizable silhouette is defined by the voluminous cut. of hair and the flared skirt. With his revisions of that figure in sculptures made from materials such as resin and steel, Valdés proposes rethinking an “icon” that something must have to have survived over hundreds of years. “In addition, these icons have not only been talked about from the history of art, but also from more abstract disciplines such as music,” he reflects.

Zygmunt Bauman, the thinker of liquid modernity, took the art of Valdés—who often composed his works as a collages, made with pieces and scraps—as an example of that contemporary trend that accuses the loss of the solidity with which our ancestors apprehended the future: “(His works) Do they come or go? Do they go up or down?” asks Bauman in Art, liquid? “There is no difference between creation and destruction.” For Valdés, the drive to return to themes from the history of art again and again through the reinterpretation of volumes, shapes and materials poses, above all, a form of “curiosity.” A way of being in the world: “You ask yourself a lot of questions and try to answer them.”

The history of art, its future, could be considered the very object of Valdés’ practice. He, who has methodically reviewed it to try to unravel some of the secrets of the immemorial cult that humans profess to images, what does he think of the current revisions that are being carried out in this discipline, since the recovery of the figures of women artists ignored by the canon to the promise of decolonizing museums? While the inclusion of women seems “great,” he does not feel the same regarding the recent statements by the Minister of Culture, Ernest Urtasun, who announced at the end of January a “review” of the national collections with the purpose of “ overcome the colonial framework”: “What the minister said seems very simple to me,” says Valdés. “We are in Culture with a capital letter, a little seriously.”

Manolo Valdés, with works from his exhibition.Samuel Sanchez

“I do not believe that today the Ministry of Culture is leading rigor, neither now nor in recent times. It is very instrumentalized,” continues the artist. “I come from another time, from the time when we fought for freedom and there was an objective, which was to normalize our situation, and different ways of thinking; We were working in that direction. Now that time has passed, I feel that part of the freedom I fought for has been lost, because I have to think with each medium with which I do an interview, with each person I meet, what I have to say,” he says. .

Valencian as he is, Valdés is also not indifferent to the recent news of the resignation of the former director of the IVAM Nuria Enguita, who resigned from her position after receiving a complaint from the Generalitat for a donation she made: “That museum was iconic, and Today it is garbage,” says the artist, witness to the birth of that institution. “It doesn’t exist, and who is to blame? I know: the sectarians. Aren’t there people who have the knowledge and neutrality to run the institutions? When they appoint a museum director, it is very embarrassing that those of us who have experience already know what he is going to say. We are not in those. I understand that (Enguita) has left for whatever reason, I also understand the discomfort that she must have with a Minister of Culture who is mediocre, to say the least. But I think she left because she failed. And the same thing happens at the Reina Sofía: there can be no one as sectarian as what we have had,” says Valdés, concluding with a reflection: “What about the dialogue? What happens to all those unstable institutions that have gone down?”

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