Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)

A pioneer of the language of installation art, Francesc Torres (Barcelona, 1948) critically reflects on the diverse manifestations of culture, politics, memory and power through a large variety of media and supports, which give him a prominent place in the art of the last decades. The MACBA retrospective includes a selection of works carried out from the end of the sixties to the present with recent productions. Moreover, this exhibition features other unfamiliar or little known aspects of his work, such as the influence of poetic practice and, notably, the importance of drawing and of the work on images that links Torres to the language of painting. Torres’ work is essential in revealing a kind of continuity of the avant-garde practices in the eighties and nineties, an aspect often questioned by the media, the institutions and the market. Although in the sixties the avant-garde practices formulated the first examples of institutional critique and in the eighties the artists opted to create works for the museum as a means of escaping the pressures and conditionings of the market, his work, in contrast, has been located halfway between these two positions. On the one hand, Torres has used the space of the cultural institutions as a support and means to convey the analysis of the links between ideology, power and submission. On the other, his work makes clear a declaration on the position of the artist in terms of society: the relationship between individual and group, the role of political discourse in terms of social action, and the set of received beliefs that make up a specific collective thought. Francesc Torres’ work shows two thematically separate moments. An experimental poet, he reaches artistic practice through researching language, influenced by the work of Joan Brossa. Although there are no remaining works from this first period, his interest in language can be traced to a series of objectual works that combine formal research and engineering through the notion of prototype and the idea of fabrication and authorship. But Torres is fundamentally interested in the work to the extent that it is action, as a means of transmission and contact with the viewer. At the end of the sixties, Torres was a direct witness of the multiple proposals of artists who reacted to minimalism and introduced the organic and the use of biological material, as we can see in the work of Hans Haacke or more emphatically in that of Robert Smithson. In parallel, Torres researched organic systems and natural materials as a metaphor of objectivity and of control over the elements. Photography entered the stage as a documentary support that not only accredited the existence of a work but finally became a material in itself. The exhibition reveals to us an artist deeply concerned with the physical qualities of the works and the material links with certain artistic traditions. Torres emerges as a painter of history through the constant themes of his vocabulary: the machine, speed, and the prehistoric figure. We are faced with the logic of the collage and the alteration of the media image, which comes from publications, television or cinema, as in the case of Newsweek Series (1990). A series of ink drawings from 2007, The 1930s and 40s in the Air, explores the particular iconography of the fighter planes and the typologies of these machines. The drawings remind us of passages of previous works and return us to a world linked to childhood, where the fascination with speed and battle are explained by innocence. Da capo, a score notation to tell the musician that he/she must resume the performance of the piece from the start, clearly informs us of the position of the artist after his long career.

Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)

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