While on the placid morning of this Saturday vibrated in the ether of Villimer (León) the poplars and the sharp sounds of the Leon dances in honor of the Azcárate, Don Juan Entrecanales told me the delicate moment he was going through Eduardo Arroyo, employer that was the Sierra-Pambley Foundation and common friend. Today, the delicate thread of silk that united him to life has been broken, but "He left us so much comfort / his memory". It is just that we relive some of the most important landmarks of his life.
Eduardo Arroyo was born on February 26, 1937 in Madrid. Here he studied primary and secondary, before entering the School of Journalism, center where he would graduate in 1957. In order to seek an atmosphere different from the dictatorship, in 1958 he went into exile in Paris. He did it with the intention of living dedicated to journalism. However, an intense immersion in cultural life and in the new Parisian and Italian avant-garde (a country to which he travels on frequent trips) awaken in him an old vocation for the plastic arts.
At the time of his arrival, he triumphed in Paris (as in much of Europe) informalism, pictorial movement linked to American abstract expressionism (Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline and others). The French vanguard was also outside the social, cultural and political reality of the environment. Faced with this abstract and complacent trend, a group of young artists, among which Eduardo Arroyo stands out, is grouped in a new movement that defends a committed art, which is embodied in a figurative vision and is related to the pop art. A famous critic gives them the name with which they are known since then: Figuration Narrative. In 1960, he participates in the Salon de la jeune peinture. In the first collective exhibitions of 1961 and 1962, he does it together with firms that are now a world reference: Francis Bacon, Roberto Matta or Jean Dubuffet.
The most controversial exhibition of the group took place in the Third Biennial of Paris, held at the Museum of Modern Art, in 1963. The title of the collective exhibition was L'Abattoir (The slaughterhouse). The artists exhibited their position against totalitarianism, torture and all forms of repression. Arroyo hangs there The four dictators, a succession of four characters with clear allusion to Franco, Salazar, Hitler and Mussolini. The fact had strong consequences. The Spanish government pressed to remove the painting, banned its first exhibition in our country (which was to take place in the Biosca gallery) and its passport was withdrawn (which lengthened its exile by 15 years).
In 1965 and 1967, he participated in two controversial exhibitions, in which he confronted two cultural icons of the moment: Marcel Duchamp and Joan Miró. In those years, a reputation in the international arena was forged. As one well-known critic has stated, "Arroyo was Arroyo in Italy and France before he was in Spain."
His work technique is based above all on the alchemy of collage"It is precisely this serial, fragmentary, divided aspect, these stylistic differences, these mixtures, all this incoherence that ultimately constitutes the coherence of my work", in the words of the painter. A deliberate eclecticism will lead him to work with all the materials that allow him to express his universe, resorting to the techniques of print, ceramics, sculpture or collage of diverse materials, to then return to oil and canvas with renewed energy. His pictorial language will be constructed on the basis of a literary and autobiographical painting, often articulated in series where they rival auto-irony, tragicomics and pastiche. For years, reinterprets Hispanic topics with critical and surrealist brushstrokes.
After Franco's death, he recovered his passport and returned to Spain. Exhibits at the Maegth gallery in Barcelona and, from then on, in multiple exhibition halls.
In 1993, the Museum of Fine Arts of Bilbao organized the exhibition Natural size, in which only large-format canvases were exhibited. In 1995, together with the sculptor Andreu Alfaro, Arroyo represented Spain at the 46th Venice Biennial. In 1997, the Olympic Museum of Lausanne exhibited, together with the works devoted to boxing, its Suite Senefelder and Co, consisting of 102 prints, made in tribute to the German inventor Aloys Senefelder. In 1998, the Reina Sofia Art Center of Madrid presented the first retrospective exhibition of his work in Spain.
In 1999, the gallery Louis Carré & Cie presented, for the first time, on the avenue de Messine in Paris, the work of Eduardo Arroyo, with an exhibition titled Chapters, which included two large-format canvases: The martyrdom of San Sebastian Y Le jour that Richard Lindner est mort, in honor of the great figure of pop art. In 2003, a second exhibition in this same gallery presented other more recent works of the painter, while the itinerant exhibition of the cycle began Spanish art abroad, who made his works travel to Hungary, Romania, Russia and Luxembourg and that lasted until 2004.
In 2005, the same gallery, Louis Carré & Cie, showed a selection of drawings, the result of 45 years of work, which allowed once again to verify the effectiveness and safety of its design. That same year, the Instituto Cervantes organized an itinerant exhibition of more than 50 portraits of writers, made with different techniques, which lasted until 2006 in four of its European centers. The IVAM of Valencia exhibited, from February to April 2008, large-format canvases and sculptures, essentially made of iron and stone, made in the previous ten years. Nine of his canvases of the sixties were also presented in 2008 as part of the exhibition Figuration narrative, Paris 1960-1972; These canvases were then exposed in the IVAM.
The voluminous ceramic "tattooed" sculptures started in 2010 were presented, from February to June 2013, at the Juan March Foundation in Palma de Mallorca and at the Spanish Abstract Art Museum in Cuenca, at the same time as oil portraits and some collages photographic, result of a long confrontation of Eduardo Arroyo with this medium. In November 2013, the Álvaro Alcázar gallery in Madrid presented an anthological exhibition of pencil on paper, proof of Arroyo's never denied interest in drawing.
The recognition of Eduardo Arroyo as an influential personality in the artistic scene for more than fifty years is general. Proof of this is that his works are represented in private and official collections of great renown. The Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid exhibits several canvases, among which stand out Carmen Amaya fry sardines at the Waldorf Astoria, The four dictators, of 1963, and Live and Let Die, 1965. The Museum of Fine Arts of Bilbao has The cabin of the Marxist brothers, which mixes cinema and communism, two of its recurring themes. Works by Arroyo can also be found at the IVAM in Valencia, the MACBA in Barcelona, the Municipal Museum in Madrid, the Berardo Collection Museum in Lisbon, the Cantonal Museum of Fine Arts in Lausanne or the New National Gallery in Berlin, with the three canvases General Cold N ° 1 to N ° 3, 1962. In the collection of the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris there are 13 works, as well as in the MOMA in New York.
In 2000, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports awarded him the Gold Medal for Merit in the Fine Arts.
Arroyo has always confessed to two great passions: reading and writing. From a very early age he learned to fill the loneliness of the afternoons of a childhood of a child without a father locked in the island of Robinson Crusoe. On several occasions he referred to the magnetism he experienced before the works of Tolstoy, Stendhal, Balzac, Cervantes, Quevedo, Calderón … He always said: "Books help you live, paint to die". Recall another lapidary phrase: the literature "is oxygen at times of nitrogen." With this he referred to the tranquility and beatitude in which reading immerses us, in the face of the hard tension of contradictory feelings that the painter experiences before the painting: love and suffering (passion, in its two antagonistic senses). He exemplified this paradox of feelings of the painter before the painting with an anecdote of boxer Garbelli, who before the fight embraced his opponent and said: "I am your opponent and I love you very much".
Arroyo also devoted himself to writing with passion. He is the author of a large work: the biography Panama Al Brown (1982), the book of re fl ections Sardines in oil (1989), The Calaveras trio; Goya, Benjamin, Byron-boxer (2003), One day and another also (2004), The living and medicinal book (2008), Minute of a testament. Memoirs (2009). Boxing and literature, of that same year; At the foot of the canyon. A guide of the Prado Museum (2011). In January 2016, Galaxia Gutenberg published his book: Bambalinas.
Frequently, his readings have been transformed into images, which is why he often accompanied with drawings those texts for which he felt a special interest. So it was with the Funeral prayers, by André Malraux; with works by Juan Goytisolo, with the Ulises. They came to join the 200 drawings of the Bible in two volumes.
Since 1969, Arroyo has also been working as a set designer, particularly with Klaus Michael Grüber. It should be noted the replacement of The house of the dead, of Leos Janácek that took place in the Opéra Bastille, of Paris, in 2005 and then in the Real Theater of Madrid; the representation of Doktor Faust, of Busoni, at the Zurich Opernhaus in 2006 and, finally, the staging of Boris Godunov, from Musorgski, which was created for the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels in 2006 and could be seen in Strasbourg, Mulhouse and Madrid the following year.
The polyptych of the Cathedral of San Bavón, of Ghent, painted by the Van Eyck brothers in the first half of the 15th century, overwhelms Eduardo Arroyo so powerfully that he undertook the interpretation of the altarpiece The adoration of the Mystic Lamb with graphite pencil on sheets of paper of dimensions identical to those of the ten original wood panels. This transposition in black and white, made between 2008 and 2009, after its exhibition in Barcelona and Besançon (France), it was shown, from July to September 2012, in the Prado Museum, recreating the atmosphere of a chapel next to The Source of Grace, from the Van Eyck school, as a contemporary counterpoint to the polyptych. This unique work has given rise to three volumes: the catalog of the exhibition of the Madrid art gallery (Eduardo Arroyo. The Mystic Lamb) and the French versions (Eduardo Arroyo. L'Agneau Mystique) and Spanish (Eduardo Arroyo. Mystic Lamb) of a work from the Entretien collection, co-published by Maeght éditeur and the Prado.
From the qualities and qualities as a person of Eduardo Arroyo I can offer my personal testimony. I had known him for more than 15 years, when both of us were elected patrons of the Sierra-Pambley Foundation, so linked from its origins to the pedagogical and cultural ideals of the Institución Libre de Enseñanza. His sparkling imagination illuminated with humor the meetings of the patronages and created an atmosphere of unique cohesion. Although an artist, he knew how to descend to the problems of economic prose and practical proposals to adapt the principles and ideals of the foundation to modern times. He was always an excellent and generous companion.
Arroyo was a total artist. In the village of their ancestors, Robles de Laciana, where their remains will rest, Eduardo and Isabel financed and organized for two decades excellent music concerts open to the entire population. In the middle of an exceptional landscape, with the pass of the watchful Death, in the last week of July, the scores of the classics, played on a grand piano by Rosa Torres-Pardo, accompanied by other instruments or privileged voices. The ether reverberated, the notes fell down the slopes full of lyricism and the town was transformed. So much so that every year, at the end of autumn, a great bear descended from the mountain to be inspired and walked harmlessly through the town. This is what the provincial press and even the national press have been collecting. I am sure he will return in a few days, stop a few moments under the huge tree in front of the house of Eduardo and Isabel, there fill his lungs with magic and then retire with Eduardo to hibernate. Until the dawn of a new spring.
Salvador Gutiérrez Ordóñez is an academic of the Language and president of the Sierra-Pambley Foundation