Since the sixties, contemporary art has been linked to a series of periodic crises on a global scale. In this context, the new selection of works from the MACBA Collection—from the self-critical reflection of modern painting to art’s efforts to understand a world that behaves like a system of interrelations subject to constant change—suggests some precedents to what we are now calling systemic crisis. Critical Episodes (1957–2011). MACBA Collection traces an itinerary round different moments of change and transition from the most recent modernity to the present.
Passages of Critical Modernity
The exhibition is arranged in a sequence of six episodes or passages that can be read with relative independence. Fissures deals with the spaces of disorder in which we construct ourselves as contemporary subjects. The works by Erick Beltrán, Anne-Lise Coste, Peter Friedl and Matt Mullican question the figure of self and the forms of subjectivity that are normally silenced. Drawing as one of the first representations of the world, mental maps and the categories used by the processes of knowledge, and the prejudices that are often at the root of our cosmic vision, are their artistic matter. Next to them, Paul McCarthy and Raymond Pettibon blow away the social conventions. With the irreverence typical of punk, a generation of artists educated for the first time in the state-school system rejects the received forms of learning.
In this sequence of Critical Episodes, Voyeurism, Fetishism and Narcissism investigates the effects of the universe of the screen on contemporary visuality. Cinema’s narrative conventions have modified our perceptive habits irreversibly, so that we are now left in the acritical space of the observer. Judith Barry, Dara Birnbaum, Dan Graham, David Lamelas and Jeff Wall experiment with the manipulating potential of the various forms of image construction and analyse the visual codes with which we interpret facts.
Art in a Global World
Following the questioning of modern painting and the mistrust generated by an art that appealed exclusively to individual perceptions, different artistic practices have developed since the sixties proposing a collective effort to understand the contemporary world. Retaking the war cry launched by the North-American critic Clement Greenberg, Content Becomes Something to be Avoided like a Plague, MACBA presents a critical revision of pictorial modernity with works by Art & Language, Andrea Fraser, Raymond Hains, Nigel Henderson, Robert Morris, Robert Rauschenberg and Antoni Tàpies, among others.
In parallel to this revision of painting, in the sixties and seventies the world became progressively articulated as a global system. Artistic practices realised that art cannot ignore the current socio-political moment. The Art of the First Globalisation pioneered a way of looking that, toward the end of the twentieth century, became generalised as a systemic world model. Marcel Broodthaers, Öyvind Fahlström, Hans Haacke, Miralda and Hélio Oiticica share this new historical order.
In the eighties, a second globalisation led to a profound transformation in the field of production. This is the line taken by Work, Power and Control, a visual reflection around the new models of production and capitalist work values. The end of the old industrial models, the new micropolitics of power and the so-called securitarian drift are subjects of interests for artists such as Allan Sekula, Andreas Siekmann and Krzysztof Wodiczko. Their critical works oppose the physical materiality of sculpture by Sergi Aguilar, Eduardo Chillida, Jorge Oteiza, Jaume Plensa, Richard Serra and Susana Solano, among others. A modernity that makes a fetish of industrial work through aesthetics of a constructivist origin.
The last episode recovers the figure of the Catalan psychiatrist Francesc Tosquelles through the video-essay Déconnage. Coinciding with the centenary of Tosquelles’ birth, the exhibition offers a revision of this referent of anti-psychiatry who, after being sentenced to death by Franco and forced into exile in France, became an inspiration for thinkers such as Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze.
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Thursday 15 November, 6pm
Launch of the book by Erick Beltrán The World Explained. A Microhistorical Encyclopaedia
With Anke Bangma, editor, and Erick Beltrán
Museum galleries. Free admission. Limited places
12 and 29 November and 19 December, 7.30pm
With commentary by Carles Guerra, Chief Curator, MACBA, and Antònia Maria Perelló, Head of the MACBA Collection
(exclusive to the Friends of MACBA)
Museum galleries. Limited places
Daily guided tours
(included in the admission fee)
Weekdays, 11am to 7:30pm
Saturdays, 10am to 9pm
Sundays and public holidays, 10am to 3pm
Closed Tuesdays (except public holidays)