As mentioned in my previous post, I spent last week in my home town of Valencia, running around in the Summer heat and trying to catch up with as many art museums and temporary exhibitions as possible (as I tend to do every time I visit). In my previous piece I focused on 'traditional' art forms, particularly painting, so here I will talk about the 'modern' stuff I saw (whatever the distinction means!).
In terms of modern and contemporary art, the obvious first stop for the art lover is Institut Valencià d'Art Modern (IVAM, Valencian Institute for Modern Art), a European-class institution which (like many of its kind in Spain) suffered badly from funding cuts in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and has not been free from the occasional scrap regarding management and curating policy. IVAM acts primarily as a venue for temporary exhibitions, and the line-up for this Summer is very substantial. Perduts en la Ciutat (Lost in the City, 18/05/2016-04/06/2017) is a huge exhibition put together from IVAM's extensive collection and which feels slightly (on purpose, I suspect) like a bit of a jumble, with cities and urban spaces as a common thread and touching on art forms as diverse as painting, printmaking (some beautiful Robert Rauschenberg prints), sculpture (Miquel Navarro's delicate constructivism, for example), photography (with great work across the decades by the likes of Bernd and Hilla Becher, Gabriel Cualladó, Horacio Coppola, Humberto Rivas, Gabriele Basilico or Thomas Struth), film, video, landscape construction (check out Hannsjörg Voth's stunning work!) and graphic novel. Fotografia Documental als Estats Units. Anys 30 (Documentary Photography in the US. The 30s, 21/04-04/09/2016) presents a small sample of the spellbinding film and photography shot at the time by the likes of Lewis Hine, Paul Strand, Walker Evans or Dorothea Lange, often under the auspices of the Farm Security Administration in order to document the consequences of the Great Depression of 1929 and explain the need for political action to the public. An incredibly informative and engaging exhibition, València Línia Clara (Valencia Clear Line, 09/06-02/10/2016) tells the story of the development of the comic book/graphic novel genre in Valencia in the 1970s and 80s, when, building on veteran post-war publications and strongly influenced by French imports, a number of first-rate local artists brought the genre to full maturity (it is worth mentioning that the graphic novel has recently achieved unreserved recognition in Spain as a major art form in its own right, with dedicated sections in bookshops and public libraries and recent masterpieces like Antonio Altarriba's and Joaquim 'Kim' Aubert's El Arte de Volar).
One of two rooms at IVAM usually devoted to permanent exhibits, that showing the drawings and sketchbooks of Valencian painter Ignacio Pinazo Camarlench (1849-1916) (see my previous post) was closed, probably in connection with the upcoming regionwide exhibitions commemorating the centenary of his death; The other contains the biggest existing display of works (including drawings) by modernist sculptor Julio González (1876-1942), a Picasso collaborator and a self-effacing, forward-looking artist of tremendous vision and sensitivity whose work never fails to make an impression.
Another very active centre for visual arts in the city is Centre Cultural La Nau, the original seat of Valencia University since its foundation in 1502. On this occasion, La Nau hosted (among others) a truly exceptional exhibition (No Ficció: Obsolescència i Permanència de la Pintura – Non Fiction: Obsolescence and Permanence of Painting, 14/06-18/09/2016) of the work of painter and mixed-media artist Artur Heras (b 1945), a creator of boundless inventiveness, demonstrated here not only in his large-scale pieces dealing obliquely with their underlying emotional content but also by a display of small, sketchbook-like drawings on paper executed with astounding playfulness and creativity.
IVAM Centre del Carme (see again my previous post) is (or was, to be honest I'm not fully clear) IVAM's secondary site located in a former monastery in a secluded corner of the old town. With a very active exhibition programme of its own, this time its line-up included a gem I nearly missed. The former monks' dormitory houses Vanitats / Intel.lecte / Espiritualitat (Vanities / Intellect / Spirituality, 09/06-25/09/2016), a selection of paintings from roughly the 1980s onwards (including very recent work) belonging to the Ars Citerior collection (initiated by printmaker Abel Martín and his family and originally devoted to Spanish geometric abstraction and constructivism, a focus which can be gleaned by looking at the contents of the exhibition). Very loosely linked in terms of theme but very judiciously chosen, these sober, small- and medium-format paintings are a triumph of minimalist composition, thoughtfulness, taste, the joyful exploration of materials, and the less-is-more principle. As a painter these pieces (by the likes of Francisco Farreras, Gerardo Rueda, Salvador Victoria, Ana Peters or Águeda de la Pisa, to name but a few) made a deep impression on me.
Despite my best efforts, there was much more I was not able to cover and I'm sure there was a lot I didn't find out about (a target for future exploration is the City Museum, Museu de la Ciutat, which apparently houses an interesting selection of paintings and sculpture from the municipal collection but which, incredibly, I have never visited). As I mentioned in my previous post, all the institutions mentioned here are within easy walking distance of each other in Valencia's historic old town, which is well worth getting to know on foot whilst ambling from museum to museum.
I'm sure there will be a fresh crop of visual arts-related events and activities to comment on when I next visit.