October 23, 2020

Putting doors to the countryside: why art leaves the city | Babelia


Several books, a lot of information and a giant zucchini freshly picked from the garden: it was my harvest after visiting the Cerezales Antonino y Cinia Foundation and chat with Alfredo Puente, his enthusiastic, conscientious and convinced curator. The zucchini spread: it gave for a ratatouille for five and a lot to think about.

For some time now, following a centrifugal trend that the pandemic has accelerated or brought to the conversation, a new landscape has been drawn: art centers that move from the city to the countryside and seek more or less articulated connections with the rural. This gives another twist to the eternal center-periphery debate, redefines the notion of “remote” or “well-connected” lives or places and the very idea of ​​a desirable connection (to what? Between whom?). Since the first avant-gardes, our art has been furiously urban for more than a hundred years. What if it ceased to be, at least exclusively? Taking it to the countryside may arise from a true interest in decentralizing and re-ruralizing, in exploring relational paradigms of sustainability, food sovereignty and new models of degrowth in the midst of global health and environmental crises. Or you can throw more at greenwashing, the bunkerization for those who can afford it and directly for themselves who can.

Dreaming of “the countryside” when it comes wrong, from the Lower Empire to the Decameron, from Marie Antoinette’s Trianon to the early morning green real estate porn searches on Idealista, can also be corny, naive, or elitist. Or to project a false light of arcadian idyll on an environment that the dominant discourse, in Spain, has systematically ignored and Freudianly attacked since our time. modernization accelerated in the fifties.

Paintings by Carlos León in a church in Pedraza de la Sierra (Segovia).
Paintings by Carlos León in a church in Pedraza de la Sierra (Segovia).

Balance is difficult and weaving threads of communication takes time. Actually, Cerezales is not new in the territory: since 2008 it has been in the old schools of Cerezales del Condado, 30 kilometers from León capital, although the clean and showy extension of 2017 by the study AZPML it has inevitably (and literally) made it much more visible. Its origin already speaks of the conflictive Spanish rural past and of the massive emigration it suffered throughout the 20th century: it was born as a donation from a son of the people, Antonino Fernández, a humble emigrant to Mexico after the war. There it grew until Model group (and its insignia, the Coronita) at the head of the world’s beer emporiums. Endowed with autonomous funds, its management since then has taken great care to avoid becoming a precious “gift from the Indian” or an alien object that urbanites visit in buses each inauguration and then desert.

On the one hand, it emphasizes his interest in ethnoeducation, and in that sense goes his intense programming of cycles, workshops and meetings (from native livestock to mycology) embedded in the environment; its commitment to the participation of the people in its governing bodies; the long-term commitment to a living environment of unregulated knowledge but of increasingly urgent preservation. On the other, the integration of contemporary culture in the environment: it is also an urban prejudice to think that you can only speak of the countryside at field or those of field, and the current photographic exhibition of Juan Baraja proposes to connect the very local with the very global.

This “glocal” approach seems de rigueur in the roadmap and declaration of intent of many of these centers. Pulled him the mighty Hauser & Wirth when he opened his brand-new Somerset center in the heart of the English countryside in 2014: first-rate gallery, garden of star-landscaper Piet Oudolf, refurbished and redecorated farmhouse to serve organic produce in his award-winning restaurant, and as a rented rural getaway (not cheap, but not Very expensive: 350 pounds during the week to accommodate up to 12 people). All accompanied by artistic residencies and an effort in the educational program and integration in the local community. It goes without saying that the historical city-country relationships in England and rich Europe are very, very different from those in Spain. But the total immersion experience agro-arty It seems to be the model for the large complex announced for 2021 in the premises of the old l’Illa del Rei hospital, on an island in the port of Mahón. An island inside from another, to each more exclusive? H&W Menorca will undoubtedly be a gravitational center for contemporary art in the Mediterranean. It remains to be seen if the physical geography of the project does not lead to another mental one: the old ideal of golden isolation and recreation for the wealthy.

Radic Pavilion, designed by Smiljan Radic, at Hauser & Wirth Somerset, the art center the gallery opened in this southwestern England county.
Radic Pavilion, designed by Smiljan Radic, at Hauser & Wirth Somerset, the art center the gallery opened in this southwestern England county.

Another gallery, Stefan Röpke, precisely on another island, La Palma, promotes the 20/21 Foundation, in the town of Tijarafe. The headquarters is built by the Enguita and Lasso de la Vega studio, and its program will emphasize above all an educational model focused on the local palm communities.

Rural locations or orientations for contemporary art are not lacking in Spain, from the initiative of Inside Field / CAR to the investigative impulse of CDAN in Huesca. And they come from ancient times: in 1976, the Vostell de Malpartida was a pioneer in this and directly in opening one of the first contemporary art centers in Spain. To its corrosive fluxus spirit owes much Morille Art Cemetery, in the Campo Charro of Salamanca, where the ashes of Klossowski lie next to an abracadabrante pantheon of spurious works, artifacts and gadgets or with the signature of Esther Ferrer or Valcárcel Medina: the “remote” location here becomes a vindication and defiant gesture performative. And another neglected classic is the small but highly estimable Picasso Museum of Buitrago: its history also says a lot about that of this rough country. Eugenio Arias, a republican exile, barber and friend of Picasso, donated in 1985, already in democracy, his personal collection to his people, as complete as he is (he could have sold it for good money).

From the personal relationship of the architect David Chipperfield with the Arosa estuary (he made his home in the 90s in Corrubedo) a growing project has also been born, the RIA Foundation, natural development of its Estudio Arousa, which since 2016 has been promoting research and sustainable and eco-social development in the surroundings of the Rías Bajas and Barbanza. And the list goes on, under different approaches: this summer, Carlos León exhibited his painting in a disaffected church in Pedraza and Stefan Laxness, resident at La Laboral, investigated the mancomunal forests of northern Spain as an alternative model of sustainable ownership and production.

Court contempt and village praise, a very own tradition on the other hand? From the serene refuge and hortus conclusus In times of overwhelming urgency to “discover” new (but very old) forms of human coexistence with a finite and almost exhausted physical environment, the relationship between the Art System and the rural has arable field ahead.

Juan Baraja. Forgotten of time. Cerezales Foundation. County Cherries. Lion. Until 22 November.

Carlos Leon. Of all that. Church of Santo Domingo. Pedraza de la Sierra. Segovia. Until September 25.

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