Aged only 22 when El Paso formed in 1957, Canogar was—and remains—an artist in tune with his time, whose oeuvre has evolved with the changing reality of the socio-economic situation in which he is living and working. In an interview conducted by Tate Modern for the 2015-16 exhibition The World Goes Pop, he explained that whether he was working in an abstract informalist style or the figurative multi-media Pop style that dominated his oeuvre in the late 1960s-mid 1970s, his output ultimately springs from an inner intuition and a craving for freedom:
“Informalism had been the most eminent expression of freedom, of the unique and unrepeatable, achieved through a direct and spontaneous type of calligraphy. Intuitive and passionate works, carried out with the urgency that the time, the age and its theories demanded. Self-affirmation and self-realisation were, in addition, the forces necessary to break away from the formal structures and aesthetic convictions of the time. As a result, with this vitality, with this cry for liberty that could not be contained, you did not want to domesticate these forces or attempt to repeat or academicise what felt like a cry out of time, as the context was changing profoundly.”
Perhaps this vitality, this urgency, is why Canogar’s work from the Informalist years still seems so fresh to us today?
Our exhibition focuses on precisely this period with a selection of 2 works executed between 1958 and 1963. Viewed together, these sober canvases reveal the intense, pulsating nature of Canogar’s unique, sweeping, gestural technique and somewhat baroque sense of composition. Their unmediated, dramatic quality certainly echoes the immediacy inherent to the actionpainting of the contemporary New York School; but, if expo-sure to the likes of Pollock and de Kooning in Spain in the mid-1950s proved the spark which lit the flame of the El Paso group, Canogar and his compatriots never forgot their Spanish roots.
Born in the historical city of Toledo, at the geographical heart of Spain, the Hispanic references—both historic and contem-porary—that influenced Canogar’s work are manifold.
For our part, we sincerely hope this exhibition of a key artist in the history of postwar Spanish art contributes in a positive way to the wider global conversation—one which seems so pressing today—about the irrevocable connection between art and life.
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