Exhibition

José Guerrero
Pelegrinaje (1966-69)

June 14September 29, 2019

Jointly organized with the Centro José Guerrero, this exhibition is part of the programme presented by the Fundación Juan March at its two museums with the aim of focusing on lesser-known aspects of artists represented in its collection, in this case José Guerrero. For the Centro, where it has been on show between April and May, it is one of a series of exhibitions organized since 2001 that define a specific period within the artist's career and which look closely at the significance of one phase of his artistic activities.

"Pelegrinaje", 1969. Colección particular, Madrid Pelegrinaje, 1969. Colección particular, Madrid

The exhibition, which takes its title from one of the oils on display–Pelegrinaje (1969), which refers both to Lorca's poem Los pelegrinitos [The Little Pilgrims] and to the artist's own wanderings between continents–focuses on a study of the years when Guerrero temporarily returned with his family to Spain in 1966, almost twenty years after he had left "in pursuit of modern art" and settled in New York. Two key issues convinced Guerrero with regard to his return: the opening in Madrid of the Juana Mordó gallery in 1964 and his meeting with Fernando Zóbel, who opened the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español in Cuenca in 1966. Three places and three contexts were essential at this period: Madrid, Nerja–where Guerrero purchased and renovated a modest country house–, and Cuenca –where he joined the artistic community associated with the museum. This was a brief but fruitful period for the artist as it was then that he achieved the maturity that determined the rest of his output. Guerrero's return closed a cycle and led on to a period that enabled him to affirm himself and gain confidence before returning to New York where he embarked on a new direction in his painting.

This return was partly the result of the disorientation provoked by the paradigmatic shift which the emergence of Pop Art produced in the art world. Guerrero returned to Spain in search of his roots, and with his ideas ever more clearly defined he now firmly allied himself to a series of artistic principles that brought him approval and recognition in a favorable environment. His works of this period reflect that self-affirmation while exploring new formal terrain: they move towards a successful synthesis of the most vibrant expression and of the desire for order that was coming to prevail in a context marked by the Minimalist sensibility. The second half of the 1960s had "cooled down" the earlier gesturalism and halted the prevalence of action. Guerrero took note and extracted a positive lesson from this.

The exhibition, which takes its title from one of the oils on display–Pelegrinaje (1969), which refers both to Lorca's poem Los pelegrinitos [The Little Pilgrims] and to the artist's own wanderings between continents–focuses on a study of the years when Guerrero temporarily returned with his family to Spain in 1966, almost twenty years after he had left "in pursuit of modern art" and settled in New York

In addition, the artist's re-encounter with the landscapes of his childhood and with the memory of his own culture allowed him to conclude the cycle of his complete immersion in Abstract Expressionism through the use of new references. He abandoned the dispersive sense of his New York works and the tension was now confined within the canvas itself. This characteristic of his work of these years is evident in the major painting that opens the exhibition, La brecha de Víznar [The Ravine at Víznar] (1966), the artist's tribute to Federico García Lorca. Discussing the painting, Juan Antonio Ramírez emphasized its "restrained vigor, that austere boldness which judiciously avoids rhetorical overacting."

Also, worth special mention is the presence in the exhibition of works on paper, which was always an important medium for Guerrero but in which he achieved truly masterly heights at this period and which perfectly reflects the tension between gesture and drawing, mark and structure. These works channel the overflowing energy of the previous period, balancing it in a judicious interplay of tensions and releases around increasingly defined planes and structures, all in harmony with the emotional stability and the "pacification" of his impulses that he achieved at this period.