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Juan Genovés. Crowds
September 5 - October 13
Moscow Museum of Modern Art on Gogolevsky bulv Moscow Museum of Modern Art on Gogolevsky bulv

The Moscow Museum of Modern Art, in collaboration with the Marlborough Gallery, presents the first solo exhibition in Moscow of a Spanish artist Juan Genovés. The pictorial chronicler of the Modern period in Spanish history, he made a lasting impact on the Spanish art scene starting from the second half of the 20th century and up till now. The exhibition at the MMOMA will open as part of the annual international fair Cosmoscow.

The project will feature about 90 works exploring the theme of crowd during different periods of Juan Genovés’s artistic journey: first, within the context of political struggle against the dictatorial regime of Francisco Franco (1960-70s), then through the transitional period that led to the establishment of Spanish democracy. The artist mostly works in painting, drawing and, since early 2000s, sculpture, equally experimenting with mixed media including some elements of collage and assemblage.

Juan Genovés is a contemporary of the most cataclysmic and tragic events in the Spanish history of the 20th century. The artist was born in 1930 in Valencia into a family of a furniture decorator. At the age of 16, after studying in his father’s studio, he entered the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Carlos (Valencia). He developed as a painter in the post-war period when the government under General Franco pursued a policy of totalitarianism and — in the field of art — avant-garde creative groups began to form in the shadow of the institutions of the official neo-classical aesthetics: the artists themselves tended to see their own activity as a socially commitment and focused largely on Abstract art. Juan Genovés made part of this latter camp; even during his years at the Academy, he founded one of such groups — Siete, ‘seven’ in Spanish.

In 1960s the Franco regime leveraged Abstract Art to represent Spain on the world cultural stage and to demonstrate the cultural freethinking domestically. Aware of this political trends and at the same time influenced by the general processes in world art, the discordant artists returned to figurative painting after practicing avant-garde experimentation. One of the prominent Spanish neo-figurative groups was Grupo Hondo (‘deep’ in Spanish) whose co-founder was namely Juan Genovés (1960). This was the time when he coined his iconic figurative style, with many human figures forming a crowd, a multitude, a ‘collective citizen’ resisting the system, running away from it and, as a rule, suffering physical violence and death.

In 1970s the artist’s works showed increasing tension, he concentrated more on individual figures, they grew in scale as if the artist had got a camera zoom among his tools. Tragic set-ups and sometimes even the powerful emotions of participating characters came to the foreground. Despite depicting numerous daily situations, Genovés still left his characters depersonalized. Their faces are covered: on the one hand, this reflects the real historical details when participants of political actions and arrests tried to conceal their identity (not to mention the blindfolded protesters sentenced to the execution by firing squad); on the other hand, the depersonalized human crowd was his very compositional discovery that was to become a motif essential for his further creative ideas. During this period, Juan Genovés painted one of his iconic works — The Embrace (1976) — that was to become a symbol of the modern Spanish history and is placed now in the building of the Congress of Deputies, where it was moved from the Reina Sofía Museum as a

Spanish hard way to democracy after General Franco’s rule had gradually come to fruition by mid-1980s. It was when Juan Genovés elaborated a new vision of space, often bleak, with human silhouettes tiny and dispersed in the immense fantastic universe. For a time being, his hyperrealistic style in human depiction gave place to a more stylized manner and a dramatic concern with the effects of light and shade. Actually the term ’Realism’ (or even ’Critical Realism’) often used regarding the works of Juan Genovés is pretty tentative. His art style is far from recording everyday life or literally depicting the reality. However, what the spectators see is nothing short of the chronicles of Spanish political and public life.

Crowded paintings of the recent decades can be seen as an embodiment of the idea of globalization that engulfed a greater part of the Earth and at the same time as a bird’s eye snapshot taken from a copter. This soaring point of view hints at the author’s attitude towards the crowd as a mass that can spread in all directions and be now a chaotic undirected stream, now a directed force, a flexible material in the hands of both an artist and a politician. Despite all sorts of manipulations, the world of Juan Genovés’s little people seems full of diversity and vitality — and so the chronicle of social processes of the second part of the 20th and the early 21st century gets an upbeat ending.

With Juan Genovés’s project Crowds, the MMOMA takes up with the program of presenting personal exhibitions of world-famous foreign artists and maintaining the relationships with international cultural institutions and embassies of different countries. Thus, with the participation of the Embassy of Spain in Russia, an exhibition of artists from Latin America Another Part of the New World was launched in the year 2015. In the year 2017 opened a large-scale exhibition dedicated to the architect Antonio Gaudí, first time in Russia.

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