OPENING A BRIEFCASE, DISCOVERING A STORY
The qualitative adjectives that filled the pages of the history of the Spanish art concerning the works and the personality of Luis Feito are numerous and are always eulogistic: pioneer, cosmopolitan, maestro, discoverer, creater, founder... and so on and so forth. And it is impossible, without a doubt, to write an essay on the central decades of the XXth century without mentioning his personality. Co-founder of the group El Paso (The Step) and a representative of the Spanish abstractionism movement, he became popular in his country and abroad in the 50-ies and 60-ies. Being a member of the generation that was marked by new artistic careers of young men who were becoming popular, Luis Feito has been and remains a model for reference.
His latest antological exposition in the National Central Museum of Arts of Queen Sofia, dedicated to his work between 1952 and 2002, proved his solid position among the Spanish artists of the twentieth century. Having exactly this presentation in mind, our offer aquires a new meaning, remembering about the fact that it reveals a mysterious period of artist’s work. We mean a historical fact that happened to a generation of young artists who had a strong wish for freedom before the situation of the socio-cultural isolation that reigned in Spain at that time. So the decade of the fifties can be considered as an artistic pillar of the Spanish culture because it was one of the periods most prolific and brilliant. Not only because the formation of numerous groups of artists took place but also because of the convergency of different stylistic movements such as social realism, experimentalism, analitical art, and informatism.
The point of departure for the majority of those artists was a “nearly obligatory” travel to get education that allowed to discover the art of Europe. In teh case of Luis Feito, his adventure began in Paris although his original traits can be observed in the preliminary studies of abstractionism that he realized when he was a student in the School of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid.
An outstanding transcendental period in the artist’s career was marked by three years: 1953, 1954, and 1955, when abundant figurative painting replaced the abstract one. We
deal here with the transition of the neocubism to the abstractionism where “the figurative subject” as an artist himself once called it, was replaced by linear compositions. In the case of this graphism, this amalgam of lines occupied the second place in order to concentrate on the matter: it is a genesis of his previous work, thus iniciating the period of the white, the black and some other.
But without a doubt, out of these three years 1954 was the most important year for his future career. From one hand, he organized his first individual expositions in the galleries of Fernando Fe, Buchholz, and New Time Circle in Madrid, which won respect of many critics, as it can be proved by the anthology of texts realized ex profeso for this catalogue. The critics defined him as one of the most promising valuable young artists in the parameters of the abstraction. His paintings were praised but he had hard times too when appeared new theories that were difficult to assimilate for the great part of the public and critics. Qualified as a painting too complex to analyze its forms, structures, even colours, it laid basis for the end of his imaginary work. In this respect the title of an article written by Jose de Castro Arines was shattering: “Feito has taken all he could from the possibilities of the realistic art”, the same as Feito himself confirmed in the preface of the catalogue of Sala Buchholz:
“My spirit has taken me to an evolution necessary from the most humble apprenticeship in the academy to my latest paintings.
I paint as I need in this moment following the expression that was discovered by my sensibility in the canvas or in myself.
To create, to give birth to absolutely plastic expressions in my paintings is a loyal and direct reflex of my soul.
No abstractions, sketchiness nor symbolism, but pure and directly spiritual feeling.
The painting has proper and clear values to generate emotions and feelings without representing nor symbolizing anything, every viewer can have a different impression than another one, even than a painter.”
From the other hand, a period of constant journeys began and it would never end, which proved his cosmopolitan character. The following year, in March of 1955, the director of the Gallery Arnaud presented his first work in Paris although he was asked to show more of his works made in Spain. This is a period of deep changes not only in the private life but also in a professional life: being captivated by the abstractionism was a serious thing; the exercises, the investigations, the experiments, the sketches... made up a fundamental base at teh time of the creation of new compostions. In the case of Feito there were moments when he cooperated with another great artist Rafael Canogar. During several days they worked in the room of a hotel in Paris and created together some nice things which were not known until today. The text in the form of a letter that Rafael Canogar has written to his friend Feito on occasion of that exhibition described architectural pieces, different spots, lattice, windows, bars and a heaps of other games of abstractions that were a result of the cooperation of these two great artists.
It was then that the intervention of the Gallery Jose de la Mano came into this story. We are firmly persuaded that it is a story which has to be told, a possibility to reveal an episode in the life of Luis Feito that was of great importance in his professional work, taking into consideration that the works presented in the exhibitions of 1954 prove his first steps in the abstractionism that was a genesis of his previous painting but also they made part of one of the examples the most vivid of those political and economic difficulties that the artist was experiencing at that time. One should also add to it the state of political vigilance that was connected with the year of 1954 and the Luis Feito’s exhibition in the Hall of Fernando Fe.
The story, according to the artist, is as follows: the above-mentioned hall recently inaugurated by a republican communist deputee who had come back from an exile not long ago was the place of dramatic action. As soon as the show was over Feito went to Paris with the major part of his works that were later sent back to Spain in different briefcases. They were examined by the French custom-house. The Spanish police thought that the briefcases contained communist documents from Paris because of the relation between Feito and the owner of the Gallery of Fernando Fe. In spite of the non-existence of the political activity, as the artist says, when everything was examined in the custom-house nobody thought it necessary to call him. So a few months later there was a public auction for his works. And as a result, all his paintings disappeared and the artist lost them forever. The rest of that “shipwreck” was a briefcase with his name on it and the address in Spain, customs-stamps and other documents – they are all exhibited today as a prove of that awful event. The recollection of everything that was greatly due to the descendants of the person who bought those things decades before to that auction.
In the end, it is an opportunity to make public a treasure that was in oblivion for more than 50 years and to drag our attention to the transcendental period that allows once again contemplation over the paintings of Feito. The exhibition also manifests his transcendental contribution to the renovation of the Spanish fine arts of the fifties.
Last but not least, I would like to thank for the cooperation and assistance all those who preferred to remain anonymous in such a fascinating project, Rafael Canogar, Antonio Cátedra, Javier Villalba and especially Luis Feito, a great protagonist of this exhibition.
Claudio Coello 6 28001 Madrid tel.
(34) 91 435 0174 firstname.lastname@example.org