(1942 - )
This face could stop a crowd...
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Manolo Valdés began training as a painter at 15 years old at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Carlos in his native Valencia. In 1965, at the age of 23, he formed the artistic group Equipo Crónica with fellow Valencian artists Rafael Solbes and Juan Antonio Toledo, whose aim was to create an intelligible style that referenced everyday Spanish life in opposition to Franco’s administration.
Toledo left the group shortly after their first exhibition, but Valdés and Solbes signed a manifesto in 1965 that established the group’s focus, which was to infuse the Pop Art movement with political meaning and to question Francisco Franco’s dictatorship, as well as the history of art. Valdés and Solbes continued their association until Solbe’s death in 1981, participating in over sixty solo and countless group exhibitions.
Following Solbe’s death and the end of the Franco regime, Valdés’ work took on new meaning. “I took out the political message from my work as it evolved,” said the artist in a 2016 interview with Studio International. “But, by the end of Equipo Crónica, our message had already changed, because we were now living in a democracy. We no longer had to fight for things that we had already fought for and achieved. So much time has passed and, if Equipo Crónica were still active, I have no idea what we’d be painting now.”
From this time, Valdés’ focus shifted toward art history and materiality. By reinventing recognizable images appropriated from historical masterpieces by iconic artists like Velázquez, Rembrandt, Goya, Picasso and Matisse, Valdés created works that are familiar but transformed by their modern context.
“My starting point might be something from Velázquez, for example,” said the Artist. “Then, from that painting, I pick a fragment. Generally, it’s a head. Between when that head was created in the 17th century and now, so many things have happened in art history: material paintings, abstraction, pop art … What did pop art teach us? It taught us large scale. So when I look at and reread that image from the 17th century, I can’t stop thinking and block out everything that’s happened in art history between then and now. Everything that’s happened becomes a tool with which to reinterpret the original image.”
To this day, Valdés uses whatever materials he can find, wood, aluminium, bronze, string, burlap, paper, mirror etc., to create large-scale (even monumental) works rooted in fragments from well-known artworks. These figures become a symbol of European art history and a point of connection for the spectator who is introduced to the Artist’s wit, his unique use of colour and texture, to works that fit somewhere between Pop Art and material art.
With an extensive artistic range that engages disparate media, Valdés produces witty yet historically informed works that recall the past through artistic innovation, works that explore art history and contemporary culture simultaneously, but whose materiality is the focus of the artist: “I must create something for which the materials are dominant, the subject is an excuse,” (from an interview with Prestige, 2017).
Landau Fine Art is proud to exhibit new works by this award-winning artist whose oeuvres is included in the great museums and private collections of the world including but not limited to: Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; Menil Foundation, Houston; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Modern Museet Art, Stockholm; Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and the Museo Nacional Centre de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid.