The estate of Juan Genovés, the celebrated Spanish painter who captured the chaos of fascism, is now represented by Opera Gallery, which has 16 locations worldwide. To commemorate his addition, the gallery’s Madrid branch will feature his work in a group exhibition this May.
Genovés was formerly represented by by Marlborough Gallery (New York and London).
Genovés died in May 2020, leaving behind an oeuvre of social realist works that examined—with the immediacy of an eyewitness—the terror of the Spanish Civil War, and subsequent regime of Francisco Franco. Born in Valencia in 1930, he matured from a child into a young man amid this political upheaval and in the period after Franco, known as the Transition, helped chart Spain’s reconstruction of its cultural landscape.
“Opera Gallery is thrilled to represent the estate of this prolific artist whose legacy looms large within the context of art history in Spain and beyond”, Gilles Dyan, chairman and CEO of the gallery, told ARTnews.
Genovés’ art was fiercely political and rejected what he viewed as abstract art’s elitism. The struggles of the working-class, he seemed to say, were too urgent to be at the mercy of interpretation. Fresh from viewing an exhibition of American Pop art in Madrid in 1962, Genovés said,“I began to understand that painting could be used to truly say things,” that it could be more than “just stains of abstraction.” One of his best-known works, the 1967 oil painting Los gritos (The Screams), depicts a crowd—Genovés repeatedly returned to that image, calling it “an artistic obsession—fleeing from an anonymous horror.
Some 500,000 reproductions of another work featuring running figures, the 1973–76 acrylic and silkscreen print El Abrazo, were disseminated across Spain, which was amid a social flux following the 1975 death of Franco.
Later in his life, the frenzy of his early paintings ceded to meditations on the individual’s place within the social fabric. Often, Genovés took an aerial view of his subjects, as though he were channeling the perspective of a god or a bird. “I realized that my crowds came out as individuals,” Genovés said. “I am interested in painting each person with their minutely different ‘being.’”
His works were met to acclaim during his lifetime and today are held in institutional collections worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern in Spain. In 1966, he won a special honor at the Venice Biennale in Italy.
“Juan Genovés faced the blank canvas body to body, with his astonishing mastery of perspective; the horizon always marked the surface of his painting, but it was far away and his bird’s eye view-which did not lose detail-was ultimately the gaze of a photojournalist in the eye of the hurricane,” Belén Herrera Ottino, director of Opera’s Spain branch, told ARTnews.
Ottino added: ‘I am sure that now Juan will continue to paint life from above, always from a bird’s eye view.”