The Lázaro Galdiano Museum of Madrid and Arte Global, with the sponsorship of Fundación Banco Santander and idealista, present the exhibition José Manuel Ballester. Paisajes encontrados: El Bosco, El Greco, Goya. (José Manuel Ballester. Found Landscapes: Bosch, El Greco, Goya.), whose inauguration will take place on 19th May 2016.
The germ and starting point of the exhibition is the Espacios Ocultos (Hidden Spaces) project initiated by the artist José Manuel Ballester (Madrid, 1960) in 2007, which emptied the “action” of emblematic works of art history as the Garden of Earthly Delights, or La Anunciación by Fra Angélico. In the words of Elisa Hernando, curator of the exhibition, the artist’s intervention was meant to “highlight the space that surrounded the main theme, through the elimination of all the characters and elements related to movement. From this exercise of emptying the artist began a new reading of the classics”.
Since then, continues the curator, Ballester has intervened a growing number of masterpieces of art, always characterized by a predominance of architecture or interior spaces, as the author points out, continuing his line of research around the concept of ” appropriationism “. The result powerfully highlights different artistic styles and leads Ballester to “a profound reflection on to which extent the context influences the way to understand, appreciate and relate to the very reality of each historical moment, and how decisive the way one perceives reality in all artistic performance is”.
In Paisajes encontrados, the artist starts from a selection of six paintings by three great masters of the collection of the Lázaro Galdiano Museum: Hieronymus Bosch (Netherlands 1450-1516), El Greco (1541 Greece-Spain 1614) and Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Spain-France 1746 1828). All of them will be displayed next to the original works by José Manuel Ballester who, through a meticulous process, has eliminated characters of such emblematic works as El Conjuro o las Brujas, El Aquelarre or La Era from Goya; San Francisco en éxtasis from El Greco; Las Meditaciones de San Juan Bautista of Hieronymus Bosch or La Visión de Tondal from Bosch’s workshop. The seventh pair that completes the exhibition consists of the magnificent piece of Cristo agonizante con Toledo al fondo, from El Greco, lent for the occasion by the Banco Santander Collection, and the pieceLugar para una crucifixión made from it. In addition, coinciding with the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the death of Hieronymus Bosch, Ballester shows the work El jardín deshabitado, based on the painting of the Garden of Earthly Delights – property of the Prado Museum – with a video-art projection that explains how the photographer interprets its composition.
According to Elisa Hernando, all these Found landscapes “deal with three different styles that reflect the society and history of each period: the Renaissance landscapes of Hieronymus Bosch, always on the look-out for representing an idealized and orderly world; the expressionist landscape of El Greco, which led to the upcoming German art movement of the twentieth century; and, to complete the series, we find two examples of Goya’s landscapes, the first, as in the case of El Verano, a genre scene typical of the age of Enlightenment, and the second purely romantic scenery of the work El conjuro or Las brujas and El aquelarre”. Thus, Ballester brings over to the spectator the way in which each era represented space and nature through the plastic of their most prominent artists. Also, according to the artist, “each historical cycle has certain streams that predominate over others and respond to collective criteria of judgment”.
The artist respected the original sizes of the works and produced them by using different techniques, even in some cases printing them on canvas, as for Vanitas and Lugar para la crucifixión. As Ballester points out: “… what surprised me most in this workwas perhaps the rigor with which the landscape were scrupulously designed. The effort with which Goya painted his works forced me to work “in Goya’s way”. The sky of San Francisco en éxtasis by El Greco may seem flat; however, it is a complicated sky with many shades and load on the brush”.
Simultaneously, the artist’s interest in the passing of time and the silence behind it is reflected in the new scenarios generated from his works and thenew narratives they open. Coinciding with the loan of the work Las meditaciones de San Juan Bautista of Hieronymus Bosch to the great exhibition of the Prado Museum, José Manuel Ballester will present three visions of this same work: one reproducing the work as we know it, the other removing all the characters and living things in it, and the third, very unique, revealing to our eyes the figure of the donor of this painting, the person who Hieronymus Bosch represented but later, for some unknown reason, concealed, by painting over it a giant plant which represented temptation. Moreover, in Visión surrealista, inspired by La visión de Tondal painted by Bosch’s workshop, “…the time sequence since in this case I represent the subsequent sequence caused by the disappearance of living beings “, describes Ballester. Tondallus, the protagonist of the original canvas, disappears, and “…All that remains is a giant human head which I considered as a building”. The coins that were falling from the nose of the main character are gone, because they are already at the bottom of the big barrel; similarly, the mirror holding a female figure on the left side of the original composition has been dropped, as the character who carried it disappeared as well, and the sword and helmet holding the rage remained on the table”.
Elisa Hernando concludes that the exhibition is “…the result of a process of decontextualization, which helps the viewer to discover new readings of the classics, and to connect them to later works. The images are torn from their original context in order to provide them with a new sense. This is given by what Walter Benjamin understood as the loss of the aura of the original work, due to the process of mechanical reproduction processes in modernity”. The plastic techniques brought within our reach by technology allow us to assess aspects of the art from the past that had gone unnoticed and, at the same time, to renew our reading of these works.
José Manuel Ballester is a Spanish artist of international renown, whose production focuses on photography and architectural painting. His works are based on three fundamental aspects: time, light and space. By doing so, he creates a dialogue between the spaces, the characters, the geometric shapes and the atmosphere. In 2010, The Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport of Spain awarded him the National Photography Prize.
Elisa Hernando Calero is the director of Arte Global. She has curated several exhibitions such as Exploring Paradigms, Middle East Artists, MUSAC, León, Spain; Dialogues, Eugenio Ampudia, Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman, Jordan, ALBA, Beirut, Lebanon; and Mitos Contemporáneos, Mira Bernabeu, DA2, Salamanca, Spain.
The exhibition is organized by the Lázaro Galdiano Museum and Arte Global, and is sponsored by Fundación Banco Santander and idealista; it will open to the public from 20th May until 11th September 2016.
José Manuel Ballester. Paisajes encontrados: El Bosco, El Greco, Goya
Curator: Elisa Hernando Calero
Organizers: Lázaro Galdiano Museum and Arte Global
Sponsors: Fundación Banco Santander and idealista
Dates: From 20 MAY to 11 SEP 2016
Inauguration: 19 MAY 2016, 19.30 P.M.
Place: Lázaro Galdiano Museum
Visit included with the museum ticket (general ticket 6 €).
Lázaro Galdiano Museum: C/ Serrano 122. 28026 Madrid. How to get there
Visiting Hours: From Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 16.30 p.m.
Sundays until 15.00 p.m. Closed on Mondays.