Miquel Barcelo at C&M Arts
Art in America, June-July, 2005 by Brian Boucher
A recent exhibition of paintings and works on paper by Miquel Barcelo, a durable figure on the international scene since the 1980s, characteristically combined high seriousness with a sense of fun. His typically rough canvases are so lively that it sometimes seems that depicted objects have actually emerged out of the very surfaces themselves. The paintings cross back and forth between abstraction and figuration, and touch on still life, land- and seascape, and genre.
Born on the Spanish island of Mallorca and a frequent traveler since first visiting Paris in his youth, Barcelo now maintains several studios, including one in Mall, where the works on paper in this exhibition originated. Strongly influenced by the Art Brut works he saw when he arrived in France in 1974, he also refers to more historical painting, such as the Spanish still lifes known as bodegones.
In Fuerte Marejada (Strong Seas), 2003, rich blues and greens indicate the sea, a recurring subject. Fuzzy black material on the canvas's surface creates high relief topped by white paint, as in a model of choppy waters seen from above. Intense color, rich texture and large scale convey the maritime drama. Sabonera (Foam), 2002, by contrast, uses a cool palette and low relief to create the calmer impression of waves mildly breaking on the shore, the gray-white pigment becoming froth.
As in several works, Ull de Perdiu (Partridge's Eye), 2004, combines painting and drawing. A layer of white paint of varying thickness has been pulled across rougher layers of brown and blue-green. On top of all this appears what looks like the contents of a sketchbook page transposed onto the canvas, with charcoal studies of the fruits, vegetables and game that often occupy Barcelo's still lifes.
A humorous side shows in works such as Vous Etes Ici (You Are Here), 2004, whose mock-helpful title playfully contrasts with its disorienting portrayal of space: some areas resemble a Tanguy-like landscape, but the horizon line that starts at the left edge vanishes partway across the canvas. And in 6 1/2 Citrons (2004), we see not the six-and-a-half lemons we might expect, but rather six lemon halves. On a bright yellow ground, round or oval passages of gritty, greenish relief become squirting slices of citrus fruit, their outlines sketched in charcoal.
In the show's seven works on paper, Barcelo depicts women of Mall. Gestural watercolor passages describe silhouetted black figures in brightly patterned robes going about their work; the laborer in Ramasser des Restes (To Gather Up the Remains), 2004, for example, contains an echo of Millet's gleaners. Barcelo renders his exotic subjects as if he were untouched by postcolonial self-consciousness--or any other theoretical concerns, for that matter. Indeed, he seems content throughout to offer pleasing images that are engaging and sophisticated but nonetheless traditional.
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Bibliography for "Miquel Barcelo at C&M Arts"
Brian Boucher "Miquel Barcelo at C&M Arts". Art in America. June-July 2005. FindArticles.com. 15 Sep. 2006. http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1248/is_6_93/ai_n13804273