García-Alix, ghostbusters at the Prado Museum

'Self-portrait as a beast' 2019. / Alberto Garcia-AliX

The legendary Leonese photographer recreates some of the art gallery's masterpieces with his camera. He brings together 35 surprising analogical and anachronistic trompe l'oeil in the exhibition that opens the 25th edition of PHotoEspaña

Michael Lorenci

In a formidable game of double and triple exposures, Alberto García-Alix (León, 66 years old) mixes the magic and poetry of painting and photography "hunting" ghosts in the Prado Museum. For four years, the legendary photographer has wandered through the empty rooms of the Madrid art gallery – from closing to midnight – to recreate with his camera and allied with chance some masterpieces that he has painted again with light.

His surprising trompe l'oeil, analogical and anachronistic, make up the 'Fantasia in the Prado' exhibition that the Botanical Garden is hosting until August 28 and with which PHotoEspaña opens, the image festival that celebrates its 25th anniversary. García-Álix was already at the birth of a contest that now recognizes his maturity and his teaching.

An enormous self-portrait in which the photographer's face merges with the lion that Elena Bonheur painted in 'El Cid', or the recreation of 'Las meninas' are emblems of this exhibition in which García-Alix claims to offer «the metaverse of the Photography and the Prado».

«I appropriate time, light and brushstrokes. I take those of Goya to repaint his half-buried dog, those of Velázquez, to remake 'Las meninas', I have veiled 'Gioconda' under a terrorist stain of white paint, I have taken over Rubens' frenzy to capture what he did not dare to paint in his time”, explains García-Alix with his cracked and barely audible voice, dressed in a motorcycle jacket and cap.

Image of the exhibition 'Fantasies in the Prado'. /

Alberto Garcia-AliX

"Nothing is comparable to the emotion I felt working with the paintings, in communication with history, politics and art," says García-Alix, faithful to his analog Hasselblad, to black and white and to the technique with which he has been working since 40 years ago. He admits that digital technology has transformed the photo but he does not get on a horse "that he did not reject". “The digital has virtues, but with my analog camera I see the light in the viewfinder and I can touch, smell and play with the film”, he justifies himself. "And behind the digital shot and its processing there is a great falsification of the photographer's emotion," he laments.

play and curiosity

The keys to not give up and continue looking at the world through the lens? «Do not lose the poetic gaze, the curiosity and the desire to play. I have and maintain a childish soul, and that's why I keep taking the camera, ”he explains with a smile.

"Each painting is a world and, as such, I have taken it to invent and build a new one," admits the photographer. With his gaze and his imagination, he plays with the overlapping of images, with focus and blur, and with a small vibrating flashlight and his camera as the only tools. Thus, he has 'repainted' Prado masterpieces with light "creating phantasmagoria and giving mystery, tension, movement to the painting and giving the sculptures flesh and breath," the organizers point out.

Alberto Garcia-AliX

In his spaced visits to the museum "sometimes I didn't get anything and it was discouraging, but I got mad and other times the happiness was immense," explains García-Alix. "Photography is looking intentionally and that's what I do," he says. "It is better for me to have learned something, because the Prado is a great school of portraits," he adds, evoking his emotion before those of Antonio Moro "one of the great portraitists of the Prado", from 'El descedimiento de la cruz', by Van der Weyden, or Goya's self-portrait with which he also merges his face.

The 35 medium and large format images that it exhibits are the trophies of the phantasmagorical "hunt" in the museum of what was the first notary "photographer" of the movement, National Photography Award in 1999 and Enaire Foundation Trajectory this year. They are all printed on silver bromide gelatin paper, "a procedure in danger of extinction that makes sense in this project."

Alberto Garcia-AliX

The trigger for this adventure arose in 2017 with the commission of two photographs by the Fundación de Amigos del Museo del Prado to commemorate the bicentennial of the art gallery. «When I finished the work I was still fascinated by the photographic dialogue that I could find in many of the works and I decided to continue my photographic hunt through the Prado on a personal basis with the permission of the museum» explains its author.

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