Fernando Zóbel. Contrapuntos, an exhibition organized and presented by Ayala Museum in the Philippines, provides an introduction and perspective on the work of Spanish-Filipino painter Fernando Zóbel (1924-1984). Focusing on the years 1957-1962, the period when he developed his visual language, the show is an unprecedented gathering of works acknowledged as prime achievements in his artistic career, the Saetas and Serie Negra series.
The paintings on exhibition embody a synthesis and harmony of Asian and Western painting techniques and show the artist’s formal progression in the mastery and control of material, technique, and concept.
The Saetas marked the beginning of the artist’s journey to abstraction. The long, fine calligraphic lines inSaeta paintings (1957-1959) were executed and controlled with the use of a surgical syringe. Saeta means arrow or dart or a Flamenco style of singing. Zóbel recalled that this series came together from encounters and experiences with the luminosity of Mark Rothko, the drippings of Jackson Pollock as well as Chinese calligraphy, and the elegant Ryoan-ji garden in Kyoto.
The fretwork of the Saeta compositions evolved into the painterly and vigorous gestures in Serie Negra paintings (1959-1962). In these black-and-white canvases, the energetic gestures resemble the paintings of Hans Hartung and Franz Kline but are balanced by the discipline and restraint of Japanese sumi-e, given Zóbel’s affinity with Zen Buddhism.
Described as a transnational artist, Zóbel was born in Manila, Philippines and educated at Harvard University in Boston. He was a key figure in the modern art movement in the Philippines in the 1950s. He purchased the work of young Filipino artists and donated this collection to the Ateneo de Manila University. This core collection formed the nucleus for the Ateneo Art Gallery, which is recognized as the first museum of Philippine modern art. He lived in Spain after 1960 and formed close ties with Spanish artists during the ascendancy of Spanish abstract painting. He founded the Museo del Arte Abstracto Español in Cuenca, Spain in 1966. In 1967, Ayala Museum was established in the Philippines, inspired by the role he played in the education and appreciation of arts among Filipino artists and the public.
Fernando Zóbel. Contrapuntos is designed as an organic mise-en-scene–a contemplative, cerebral sphere rather than inanimate scenography. The exhibition space allows paintings, sculpture, artifacts, texts, music, and publications to linger as aspects or presences in a dialogue about how an artistic practice could be reimagined as a lively form of contemporary expression.
In juxtaposition, select abstract sculptures by twentieth century Spanish artist Pablo Serrano (1908-1985) will be included to complement Zóbel with unexpected and enlightening comparisons of their work’s idiosyncrasies.
Fernando Zóbel exhibited in the Spanish Pavilion in the 21st Biennale Arte in 1962.
Fernando Zóbel. Contrapuntos is a Collateral Event of the 57th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, Italy. It will be on view from May 13 to November 26, 2017 at Fondaco Marcello, San Marco 3415, Calle del Traghetto o Ca’ Garzoni, 30124 Venezia.