Cover of the book Spanish Art Now

A review of this book


Self-Published, Madrid, 1966

This book describes the work of seventy-six artists in Spain’s post-civil war period. I tried to choose a representative selection: older and younger, from different parts of the country, and a few foreign artists who had become part of the Spanish art community. Each person got a single page, whether he or she was a recent graduate of art school or an international figure.

I wrote the text, collected (and took some of) the photos, and developed a basic design that minimized the preparation time and costs. I even set some of the type.

A spread from Spanish Art Now

Pages from Spanish Art Now

The texts from these pages.


Manuel Millares was born in Las Palmas, Canary Islands, in 1926. A self-taught artist, he painted at first in a surrealistic way, then turned to a magical abstraction in 1949. His Pictografías Canarias, begun in 1952, were closely linked to the later Informalist movement by an interest in texture and new materials. He moved to Madrid in 1955, where he became a founding member of the El Paso group.

Millares began working with burlap in the late fifties, first as a collage material, then as the surface of the painting. He stretches it over frames, cuts it, knots it, sews it, and paints it. Holes are left in the surface and bunches of cloth bulge out, creating different planes. These are supple­mented by imaginary spaces formed by lines scratched and painted on the various surfaces. Black and white, occasionally set off by a thin, rusty red or a patch of unpainted cloth, dispute the surfaces, creating yet more apparent spaces. The content of his work is usually tragic, the bunching and gashing of the cloth often suggesting tortured human forms.

Manuel Hernández Mompó was born in Valencia in 1927. He studied at the Fine Arts School of that city, and lived in Paris, Rome, and The Netherlands. The last brought him into contact with the work of Mondrian, which inspired a constructive phase (1957) and has continued to be a strong influence on him.

Mompó populates his canvases with scenes taken from everyday life, with marketwomen and umbrellas, shadowsand half-identified sounds. He paints them rapidly and intuitively, but always with references to a personal alphabet, to express such things as depth and movement. His strokes are strong and well-defined, and his colors are bright ones that are carefully chosen to recreate a happy, optimistic mood. He prepares the canvas with luminous grays, and paints in oils, occasionally adding charcoal, pastels, india ink, and other materials.

Homunculus, oil and burlap, 130 x 97 cms, 1966

Six Projects for Paintings, ink, 1966


Cover of the book Contemporary Spanish Art

The work on the cover is Gustavo Torner's assemblage, Homage a Duchamp.


Published by Art Digest, Inc., New York, 1975, 160 pages

This book covered post-war avant-garde movements, from the Surrealist-inspired Dau al set of Barcelona and the abstract expressionists of Madrid’s El Paso to the installations and events of the early 1970s. I was the text editor, photo editor, translator, designer, production manager, and the author of most of the chapters—some of which I had to sign with pseudonyms because the publisher wanted the book to appear to be an anthology.

It was far more complete and contained more photos of art works than any other book on the subject at that time. According to the Encyclopædia Britanica, it probably still is.

The first part of a chapter of Contemporary Spanish Art.

Informalism was the principal abstract movement of the fifties and sixties.

After Informalism

It is a common and unfortunate mistake to think of Spanish art as being primarily expressionistic. Throughout its history, from the Romanesque through Surrealism, it has always nourished an intellectual current of equal importance. But because this fails to fit the convenient image that most people have of the country, it is rarely taken into consideration. Asked what is Spanish about Spanish art, they will invariably begin by citing Goya and Picasso, the bullfight and flamenco.

But the art that grew out of Informalism in the decade of the sixties was clearly not expressionistic. The transition was carried out bv artists who found themselves incapable of sharing the spirit of the older style. Uncomfortable in the presence of so much freedom and distressed by the outright sloppiness of those late arrivals who were trying to cash in on the popularity of the movement, they imposed disciplines of their own. Gradually reducing the emphasis on texture and gesture, they eventually reached the opposite extreme. But even though they rejected the Informalists' goals and ideals, they continued to share many of those artists' more specifically Spanish preoccupations and traditions.

Many people, including some of the artists involved, will question the statement that there can be national characteristics in a style of such minimal means and distinctly international intentions. They may argue that a line is a line or a blue a blue no matter where and by whom it may be painted. Yet they must admit that there is a great deal of room for expression within these limitations. Lines may be long or short, hard or soft, wide or thin, receding or advancing, rigid or sensuous; blue may mean any of a hundred different shades with associations as far apart as the Andalusian sky or the barrel of a gun.

The first observation that one might make of Spanish formalist art is that it was never as restricted as the American brand. Where the Americans tended to concentrate on single problems and make statements that were as clean and simple as possible, the Spaniards enjoyed a fuller, more complex approach. Scale, shape, space, and all the other concerns of Minimalism failed to seduce them. Nor were they particularly moved by geometry, which they preferred to treat as a tool rather than as a subject. And color very nearly amounted to a new discovery, for Spanish art had always dealt in values rather than hues, locked, over the centuries, in a somber tradition of black and white.

Texts copyright © 1966, 1975, 1998 by William Dyckes