Permanent Collection

Luis Feito

Madrid, 1929
Number 148, 1959Number 148, 1959

A year after painting Número 148, Feito, a member of the El Paso group, was amongst the artists selected by Frank O'Hara for the exhibition New Spanish Painting and Sculpture at New York's MoMA, which subsequently toured several venues in the United States.

Feito painted his first abstract works while still a student at Madrid's School of Fine Arts, before joining El Paso. The extreme sensitivity of these early paintings, their formalist moderation and a purity that borders on total whiteness make them particularly significant jewels in the crown of Spanish abstract expressionism.

However, by the time he painted Número 148, Feito had set himself different objectives. Hence, the suggestion here is more that of a landscape than one of complete whiteness. However, his is not a concrete landscape, but a generic one. The same year Feito produced this work, Lasse Söderberg described his painting as "a world evoking the scorched highlands of Spain, the limestone walls and the apparently lifeless villages." In the same vein, one year earlier Manuel Millares had spoken of Feito's "no man's land." Some critics had gone further still, speaking of a cosmic vision. With so many possible interpretations to choose from, Feito's option was simply to remain silent. Be that as it may, when viewing Número 148 we are confronted by a work in which the artist has defined some nebulas, certain nuclei of light, in contrast with other areas dominated by shade. This contrast of light and darkness is at times redolent of a baroque chiaroscuro, although put together in a more modern fashion, mixing sand with oil.

Number 363, 1962Number 363, 1962

With its insistent contrast between red and black, this grave, tense painting is characteristic of the evolution of Feito's style during the period immediately following that of his abstract landscapes.

Manuel Millares had defined Feito's work as belonging to "no man's land," but Número 363 is an example of an even more stripped-down Feito. There is now not even a search for a place of light, which makes it impossible to use the landscape metaphor to explain the painting. For Feito, painting is an independent reality governed by its own laws, which connects him with the pioneers of abstraction.

The chromatic range of this work inevitably suggests a certain Spanish character, as is also the case of José Guerrero's Rojo sombrío [Somber Red] and other works whose theme is related with returning to Spain. The colors in Número 363 are anything but indifferent and are readily identifiable with blood, death and the bullfight.

While he allows them to take place, Feito manages to avoid the pitfalls of such associations, producing a work that operates on a different level, a dramatic work in which the dramatic quality, however, is measured and contained.

Number 460-A, 1963Number 460-A, 1963

In 1963, the year he painted Número 460-A, Feito declared in an interview, "I am following my path, a path I cannot explain." He also voiced a dislike of his work being subject to interpretation. Referring to his paintings of the 1950s, he spoke of "what people have called sidereal landscapes." And, with certain sarcasm, he described works like this one as "including the entire orchestra: planets, explosions, crashes, a sun." His tone of voice must have been so dubious, his words so full of underlying meaning, that the interviewer used quotation marks to highlight the reference to the sun.

Like most of his pieces, Feito's 1963 paintings revolve around a nucleus, or sun. Call it what you will, this red circular form can be found here in the lower part of the painting. Spread out around it we see a large black stain. The background, or what we might be tempted to describe as the sky, is an intense yellow. The effect produced by this combination is that of a truly uncommon energy. Despite these more-or-less figurative interpretations, the painting does give the impression of a system that is closed within itself, a system that Feito, as is to be expected, does not explain.

Juan Manuel Bonet, en Catalog Museo de Arte Abstracto Español, Cuenca, Fundación Juan March, Madrid, 2016