21/12/2006 - 25/2/2007
Tàpies’ Posters and the Public Sphere
"Tàpies’ poster production can be classified into two broad groups. Firstly, the posters he produced for his own exhibitions. Secondly, those that engage with the public sphere and which constitute invaluable graphic and artistic testimony to certain needs and aspirations felt by civil society, as well as other cultural realities forming part of our recent past. Tàpies’ posters also provide documentary material of the highest order, both on general issues (the abolition of the death penalty, amnesty and human rights, protests against nuclear power, calls for peace or against apartheid, etc.) and particular questions (defending Chile, Bosnia, etc.). However, above all his posters are connected to events in the social, cultural and political history of Catalonia, both during the last years of the Franco regime and during the period from the restoration of democracy to the present, with posters dedicated to the Assembly of Catalonia, commemorating the Catalan national day on 11 September and the fifth centenary of the first book printed in Catalan, defending the Catalan masters and music sung in Catalan, as well as those announcing or commemorating other important events, such as the festivities of La Mercè, the establishment of the Catalan broadcasting company in 1983 and the international recognition of Catalan culture. To this we should also add a subgroup comprising the artist’s homages to writers, poets, musicians, film directors and intellectuals, and which introduce a new use of the poster as an open, public letter."
Nuria Enguita Mayo, exhibition curator.
"Tàpies’ posters, which are imbued with a yearning for a social Utopia, are closer in spirit to the Russian avant-gardes of the twenties, a time when new art came to the fore and the artist was at the service of the people and education. Tàpies offered up his artistic language to the service of a social Utopia, dream and vindication, and he has continued for more than four decades without interruption. 1960 to 2006 is the overall period covered by this exhibition. Whilst these posters comprise a journey through Tàpies’ painting over the last few decades, it is also true that his paintings are ‘contaminated’ by the social purpose of the poster and that both his pictorial work and his posters have become a form of public art. All Tàpies’ painting embodies a great manifesto in favour of freedom as the essential right of people and nations, but in the poster this proclamation becomes a cry, a guiding voice, a public message."
"Tàpies’ posters occupied an important position in the Catalan public sphere as instruments vindicating democracy and Catalan identity, whilst serving as ambassadors for Catalonia internationally. Over the years, then, Tàpies’ posters reflected both the evolution of his own work and the progress being made in terms of the cultural and social demands of the country. It is true that many of Tàpies’ posters announce his exhibitions, but even these have a certain air of the manifesto about them."
"Tàpies brings all the spirit and resources from the language of painting to his posters. However, unlike other poster artists, who more or less faithfully reproduce their habitual aesthetic, with Tàpies the graphic force of the concept rises above all aesthetic considerations, so that there is less material and more spirit. (...) In Tàpies’ posters we may find such resources as drawing, collage, frottage, the pencil stroke, the forceful application of a thick paintbrush, traces of such ‘poor’ materials as cardboard, scratches using cane, angry spray paint and the mark of a tampon. However, they nearly always reflect personal energy through calligraphy. His posters are full of visual force and power and are designed for visual interpretation: the impact of illuminated or capital letters, the presence of the human element represented by fragments of the body such as the foot, symbolising life as a path that we travel along by the action of walking (‘You make your path as you walk’, Machado dixit), the senses (eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hands) as a source of perceptive knowledge, letters and numbers, hieroglyphics, newspapers, plays on words, the use of objects to produce a striking graphic effect, which should be more convincing than the word. (...) The high conceptual quality of Tàpies’ posters leads us to say that in many cases these can be considered almost visual poetry; sketches for a concrete poetry. The resources he uses are often those characteristic of graffiti, of the impact of automatic writing and of the spontaneity with which he turns concepts, matured and shaped decisively, into reality."
"Tàpies’ posters fully belong to the political fabric and they show the artist, the intellectual, as a servant, a kind of ‘social worker’, or an ‘art worker’ at the service of the people, since the forms of representation of a public domain that is autonomous and opposed to the dominant forms must always reflect the roots of people’s real experiences. With his posters, Tàpies erases the barriers between the political and the poetic. He creates conceptual cartographies for an emancipating public domain within the ideological context of an unrepeatable historical moment."
Excerpts from Pilar Parcerisas’ prologue, ‘Tàpies’ Posters and the Public Sphere’, Els cartells de Tàpies i l’esfera pública / Los carteles de Tàpies y la esfera pública (Barcelona: Fundació Antoni Tàpies, 2006).