In 1966, Antoni Tàpies (1923–2012) began writing his memoirs. Motivated by his need to embrace militancy as a political strategy, he undertook a review of his personal biography and his career as an artist, a project that was completed in 1977 with the publication of Memòria persona. Fragment per a una autobiografia (A Personal Memoir. Fragments for an Autobiography). With this text he managed to reconcile the difficulties of life under the Franco regime and vocalise the urgent need to express his own political stance. As he wrote then: ‘I now understood that, all told, the condition as a solitary bird, as an independent rebel that artists need to assume at times painfully, may also lie at the center of the freedom and hope that inspire so many ideas that turn to militancy.’
The chronological section embraced by this exhibition takes us from 1946 to 1977: from the post-war period and the dictatorship to the end of the Franco regime and the beginning of Spain’s transition to democracy. The political biography of Antoni Tàpies that is derived from this selection of works is not intended to illustrate the life of the artist but the distribution of his works. The international triumph of abstract art, which Tàpies participated in from the fifties, celebrated a universalism in painting that modified its original intentions. The polysemy and ambiguity of the signs in the artist’s work have made interpretation even more complicated. The result is a rich body of work, formally attractive and open to new interpretations; a body of work that, towards the end of the Franco regime, became an icon of political commitment.
With more than fifty major works, this exhibition aims to show how it was possible to be modern under a fascist regime that systematically repressed any attempt to exercise the freedom associated with critical modernity. The selected works suggest a discontinuous journey marked by censorship and political activity. Mostly in Catalonia where, between 1966 and 1977, there was an intense process of mobilisation against the Franco regime. All this makes Tàpies’ work the site where the viewer becomes a citizen, willing to turn aesthetic interests into political motives. Yet, seen today, against the current political conditions facing Catalonia, many of those paintings provoke a feeling that history is repeating itself. These are works that aspire to retain their relevancy in relation to the viewer’s present moment.(F.Tàpies press-release)