on March 27, 2012
The last couple of years have seen resurgence in publishing on the great Spanish artist Antonio Lopez Garcia. For those who care about his work, it has been something of revelation and also seen as righting a publishing wrong. To those in the know, Lopez is rightly seen as among the greatest of realist artists, and although perhaps lesser known, an equal to the other titan of 20th century realism, Lucian Freud.
That said, Lopez's bio has been covered in extensive detail in other places, so I'll focus here on how this important exhibition catalogue from the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza is different from other recent books like Paintings & Sculpture, Drawings, and the MFA Boston's 2008 survey catalogue Antonio Lopez Garcia.
1. The Place to Start: The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza's recent exhibition and catalogue brought together 100 of the artist's important works made throughout his career in all media, and this fact combined with the overall quality and price pint, makes this book a fantastic starting point for learning about the artist. The book is organized thematically--Memory, Madrid, Gran Vía, Trees, Nudes, Characters and Interiors, which is a really useful way to contemplate Lopez's accomplishments. Important works like The Table, Gran Via, and View of Madrid from Torres Blancas are all included, as are less known works like his enormous 2010 sculpture Woman of Coslada
2. The Exhibition Itself: This 2011 Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza exhibition was the largest museum exhibition on the artist since the Reina Sofia's show back, which was mounted in 1993. As an aside, the catalogue for that exhibition has been long out of print (barely available in the US at all) and highly sought after by fans of the artist ($200-$400 on the secondary market). Lopez and his daughter Maria were heavily involved in the execution of both the book and show, and it is clear that this was done with care and precision. The exhibition was a huge success last summer, and according to news reports drew 320,000 visitors, the most of any temporary exhibit ever hosted by the museum.
3. Production quality: This book was produced by the same printer (TF in Madrid, Spain) who has printed the artist's other recent books Paintings and Sculpture and Drawings, and the quality is just as high as those books. He has a close working relationship with the printer, and it shows in the quality of the reproductions. An especially nice feature here is the wonderful jacket with printed flaps, laying over a wonderful natural colored cloth binding.
4. . This Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza vs. the MFA Boston survey catalogue: Although this book is more expensive then the MFA Boston catalogue from 2008 ($60 vs. $24.95), it is a much better investment in my mind for two main reasons. First, it covers significantly more ground. Second, the reproductions are really 100x better. Although they may look ok at first glance, in comparison with the other books or the actual paintings themselves, many of the MFA repros look washed out or unbalanced. Don't get me wrong, I do have a soft spot for the MFA book seeing as it was the first US museum show ever, and it was the first substantial book published for many years. But for those people looking to learn about Lopez, there are now many other options available.
5. This Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza catalogue vs. D.A.P.'s two recent monographs, Paintings and Sculpture and Drawings: The recent D.A.P. published companion volumes are really wonderful book-objects. They have incredible production quality (paper, printing, binding, jackets, etc.) and the overall scope of these projects make them probably the best overall books on the artists. Together they go deep into the artist's complete oeuvre. Although they are not catalogue raisonnes in the strictest sense, they approach the subjects with an extreme depth. The reproductions are large with tons of details. However, at $75 each they are an investment.
The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza's catalogue is a smaller book in terms of trim size and not as lushly produced as the other books (lesser weight paper mainly). The reproductions are generally smaller, without many details. That said it is $15 cheaper, and brings together the best of all three strains of the artist's work together in one volume.
Antonio López García is in the upper echelon of realist painters of his century. Born in 1936 in Spain he has studied and continued to paint in the same vein all his life and his paintings and drawings are cherished by art lovers and art historians alike. His technique is one of direct observation: he can paint a simple object like a vase, a quince, a branch, a building or a cityscape and spend hours of contemplation, negotiating exactly how the subject is influence and molded by light and buy the atmosphere around it. His works would never be considered controversial, a trait that perhaps keeps him from becoming a household word in the art world. That is except for artists: no matter the individual style of his admiring painter colleagues, his attention to subtle detail making the most ordinary object a moment of beauty is a source of inspiration for all.
This rather small booklet shares many of his works in every form that he creates. The reproductions are of excellent quality and the essay by Jose M. Faerna adds to the appreciation of the painter's artistry. While this is by no means the definitive volume on this great man of the arts, it is an affordable introduction to the mysteries Antonio López García creates. Grady Harp, December 10
Antonio López is profoundly respected in Spain and occupies rooms in the museums in Madrid. Known primarily to artists and art historians in this country, Antonio López is a painter who deserves world acclaim. His style is representational with patience of observation of an object over long periods of time that imbues his work with an honesty that places him among the masters. So true is his perception that a fine film - 'The Quince Tree of the Sun' - has been made of his prolonged painting of a Quince, propping up the branch of the selected fruit as its weight increases with maturity solely for the purpose of completing his thoughts and painting without resorting to in-studio alterations.
Any book obtainable about this artist would be a must for every sensitive artist and collector. The finest collection of his work is found in the catalogue of his exhibition in Madrid in 1993 at the Reina Sofia and the elements of writing and reproduction are well introduced by this volume by Guillermo Solana and Aurelio Martínez Estévez. Antonio López paints cityscapes, landscapes, protraits, still lifes, and large canvases that include some surreal elements. His palette is subtle, and his degree of observation is uncanny. Gather a group of artists who create in any category of the visual arts, pose the question 'Who is an icon among you' and likely the answer would be 'Antonio López García'. This elaborately created new volume contains some of his most recent and significant work and allows us to appreciate an aspect of his work that is not as well known as his inimitable paintings and drawings - his sculpture. But that is not the primary reason for investing n this book. Quite simply, this volume of the artist's works honors the artist on every page. The bulk of the book is devoted to reproductions of his art - and that is not always an easy task to accomplish: López García's palette is so delicate, at times only a slight variation of white, and his brush strokes are so important to appreciate that it takes a highly skilled photographer and the finest of cameras to capture the magic López García creates. Fortunately, without exception, whether sharing tiny paintings of ordinary objects, vast panoramas of the city, portraits, or standing back and capturing the atmosphere of his studio with sculptures in progress - all of the imagery is as sophisticated as possible. The paintings are from 1953 to 2011 and range from the huge painting 'View of Madrid from Torres Blancas, 1974-1982' to the studies and gradual development of his small jars and vases of roses, portraits of families at dinner, windows with and without views, city streets, lamp posts, common items like washing tubs soaking clothes or a sink and mirror or a skinned rabbit or babies' heads.
The paintings at the end of this book are his most recent and are often shared as 'state 1' as in 'work in progress', and yet even these in progress works teach us much about the genius of this man's talent. He is a patient man, an artist who will accept nothing less than the ideal i his mind. In the words of Antonio López García, 'It is very difficult to know why we paint, yet this is not something I need to know, nor does it really concern me. There is something basic for everyone to know: what compels us to paint is emotion. And that emotion must come out in one way or another, even if the painting is only half finished. It s entirely possible that it will never be finished, but once you approach that point of expressing that which moved you to paint, the work is not futile anymore. It has an emotion that is indistinct. It's all the same whether it is expressed with figurative or with abstract forms: I do not see any difference.' Grady Harp, January 12