Exhibitions

Spanish avant-garde artist Manolo Millares to show at Frieze 2016

Image Cuadro 18 (1), 1957, mixed media on burlap, 39 3/8 x 59 in / 100 x 150 cm © Manolo Millares, courtesy Waddington Custot

Manolo Millares, considered one of the greatest figures of 20th century Spanish art, and a major influence for many Spanish and indeed global, avant-garde and conceptual photographers, is to receive his first solo presentation of his work in London, during Frieze Masters 2016.

Millares played a large role in Spain’s Informalist movement, the European counterpart to America’s Abstract Expressionism, and a keystone movement for European photographers – and indeed photographers working globally – whom are interested in experimenting with avant-garde ideals of conceptualism.

Millares was a founding member of the artist group El Paso (1957–1960), whom advocated political engagement and formal experimentation, and which exerted an enormous influence on the propagation of avant-garde ideals in Spain under the repressive Franco regime.

Manolo Millares, born in 1926 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, and whom died in 1972, in Madrid, was a self-taught artist whom worked with with artists Antonio Saura, Luis Feito and Rafael Canogar in the group.

In 1958, the artist moved to Madrid before being exhibited at the Bienal de São Paulo (1957); the Venice Biennale (1958) and the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh (1964).

In 1971, a year before his death, a large solo exhibition of his work was organised at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

Millares was working in an era when European society was still coming to terms with the horrors of the Second World War. His black paintings, such as Ínsula (1967), which will be on display, are often interpreted as expressions of existential anguish during this period.

In works such as Cuadro (10) (1964), burlap, a type of coarse canvas commonly used by the artist is subjected to violent manipulations; folded in upon itself, with holes burnt through it with a blow torch, tied up in knots or doused with black paint.

Millares cited the work of Goya as an influence, especially his haunting ‘Black Paintings’, as well as Joan Miró, an artist who also made obsessive use of the colour black. The only other two colours used by Millares through his career were red and white.

In his later works, the artist also began to mark the pictorial surface with graphic lines, shapes and linguistic signs made with charcoal or chalk, reminiscent of graffiti – the popular form of protest used by the disaffected in society.

Enrique Juncosa writes: “These figures are especially evocative, becoming metaphors for the human condition and its fragility, while also signifying its capability for resistance and survival.”

Manolo Millares’s work will be displayed at Waddington Custot’s stand at Frieze Masters , from 6 – 9 October 2016