The questioning of the two-dimensional limits of painting and its transformation into an “architectural” piece—two ideas that run through the vast artistic career of Rafael Canogar (b. Toledo, 1935)—serve as this exhibition’s leitmotif. A pioneer of informalism in the 1950s, Canogar’s approach to abstraction was a material and gestural one, like that of his colleagues in the El Paso group. However, his relentless—and ongoing—creative investigations led him in search of a personal abstract language which, from the 1990s onwards, found in architecture and the tension between construction and deconstruction a method and a purpose for creations like those on show here, where collages of overlapping pieces of paper propose a reinvention of painting.
With an austere yet intense palette of colours, applied with smooth, precise brushstrokes, these collages revolve around simple geometric forms in relief. They are accompanied by titles that allude to building elements and architectural concepts, constituting a classical treatise of sorts, albeit created solely through visual means. In these works, chosen by Canogar himself, the artist submits his painting to a process of purification where forms are reduced to their geometric essence and charged with textures that evoke walls of buildings suspended in time.
The relations between colour, line and volume construct minimalist and rigorous paintings, in which the abstraction rests on a series of compositional rules that could well be compared to the principles of Vitruvian architecture (firmitas, utilitas and venustas; in other words, strength, utility and beauty). Moreover, these works suggest a blurring of the boundaries between different artistic disciplines, thus reviving the Leonardesque idea of painting as an intellectual endeavour—which, in the case of Canogar, springs from a deep meditation on the visual resources of a painter who sees with the eyes of an architect.
Rafael Canogar, The Wall, 1994. Construction on oil-painted, hand-made paper, pasted on panel, 200 x 200 cm.
Rafael Canogar, Organ, 2006. Construction on oil-painted, hand-made paper, with gold leaves, pasted on panel, 217 x 120 cm.
Rafael Canogar, Lintel, 2009. Construction on oil-painted, hand-made paper, pasted on panel, 100 x 81 cm.