The awake dream of Csar Manrique (Arrecife, 1919 – Teguise, 1992), the total artist who interweaves multiple creative disciplines projected in the natural landscapes of his native island, Lanzarote, flies over the next year on the back of an extensive program of commemorations with motive of the centenary of his birth. The Lanzarote institutions, as well as the CAAM in the Gran Canaria capital, pay tribute to its immortal stamp.
The living memory of César Manrique cuts the volcanic relief of the island of Lanzarote as a metonymy, where where he reads landscape reveals art, and where he creates art generates commitment, and that commitment encourages movement, and the movement generates consciousness and consciousness, when he wakes up It bothers. This trajectory of revolutions and antagonisms presides next year in the Canary Islands, which pays homage to the centenary of the birth of César Manrique (Arrecife, 1919 – Teguise, 1992), the total artist. His immense artistic, architectural and sustainable legacy, imbued with the colors and beauty of his land, culminated the mimesis of art and nature shaking the foundations of speculation and massive construction on the island of ash and lava.
Once the threshold of 2019 is crossed with a double-headed celebration at the Puerta del Sol, which delays its emblematic clock to coincide with the needles of the Jameos del Agua, one of the natural paradises of the artist, the calendar awakens César's dream. His native island arbitrates an ambitious commemorative program that starts on April 24, 2019, the exact date of the centenary, but which splits into two parallel agendas sponsored separately by the César Manrique Foundation (FCM), a cultural institution that guards, preserves and disseminates the legacy of the artist, and the Cabildo of Lanzarote, owner of his great architectural works on the island. In addition, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the Atlantic Center for Modern Art (CAAM) will open on March 28 the extensive retrospective exhibition Universe Manrique, whose details will reveal in the opening prolegomena.
The hundred cultural events that will gravitate on the unique imprint of César Manrique in the mirror of his island will last for a year until April 24, 2020, since, for each month of this centenary, his multiple prisms they are shelled next in a dozen faces of the same dream.
Lanzarote is César Manrique and vice versa, as his hand transformed the island of volcanoes into a work of art under the conviction that "Lanzarote was the most beautiful place on Earth". "And I realized that if they were able to see the island through my eyes, they would think the same way as I. Since then, I set out to show the beauty of Lanzarote to the world," he wrote.
The landscapes of his childhood in La Caleta and Famara beach framed the eyes of a visionary creator, preclear and disillusioned, who led a quixotic struggle against the mills of speculation, the excessive growth and the lack of protection of the natural heritage as an aesthetic curator of your island. Their effort to create "an authentic insular conscience" based on a model of sustainable tourism development and integration with the landscape placed the beauty of Lanzarote, Biosphere Reserve by Unesco in 1993, on the international map.
2. Art / Nature
The totalizing vocation of Manrique, who interwove different disciplines such as painting, sculpture, architecture, design or gardening, was based on the creative harmonization of his works with the natural environment, which I regrouped under the heading Art-Nature / Nature-Art. "I had the feeling of belonging, of being absolutely integrated into nature (…) That feeling marked the rest of my life," he once said.
Despite his multifaceted and multidisciplinary nature, Manrique himself stated that: "First of all, I consider myself a painter". His pictorial beginnings in the 40s were figurative, inspired by the detonation of colors of Lanzarote. However, from 1954, Manrique went into the paths of abstract art and his material research, based on abstractions from the volcanic landscapes of Lanzarote, integrated him into the informalist movement of the 50s, 60s and 70s, in the one that paraded names like Antoni Tàpies, Lucio Muñoz or Manuel Millares. In the Canary Islands, the recovery of his name as one of the renovators of Spanish abstraction is still pending.
4. New York
In the fall of 1964, Manrique settled in New York, where he exhibited his paintings in three individual exhibitions at the prestigious Catherine Viviano Gallery, in 1966, 1967 and 1969. His contact with artists such as Frank Stella, Andy Warhol or Mark Rothko and influences of abstract expressionism, pop art, new sculpture and kinetic art expanded the horizons of their visual imaginary. However, Manrique sealed his nostalgia in his letters to his friend Pepe Damaso: (…) More than ever I feel true nostalgia for the true things. For the purity of the people. For the nakedness of my landscape and for my friends (…) My last conclusion is that the man in New York is like a rat. Man was not created for this artificiality. There is an urgent need to return to the earth. Feel it, smell it. This is what I feel."
4. Taro de Tahíche
On his return from the city that never sleeps in 1968, the year of the planetary cultural effervescence, Manrique sets his heart on an esplanade located in the middle of a volcanic lava forged in the great eruptions of lava on the island between 1730 and 1736, located in Taro de Tahíche. The artist himself projected this spectacular house around five volcanic bubbles through a respectful dialogue between nature and architecture, where he established his home for two decades. This house, the penultimate inhabited by the artist, was converted into an acclaimed private non-profit cultural center, which opened its doors on March 27, 1992, six months before the death of Manrique, under the direction of José Juan Ramírez and Fernando Gómez Aguilera.
The socio-political vocation of Manrique's projects was based on the defense of the environment and the protection of the natural heritage of Lanzarote, based on the fight against the standardization of mass culture and the consequences derived from the massification of large cities. "I feel a little afraid of the tourist avalanche that is approaching Lanzarote," said the artist on his return to the island, which coincided with the development of the tourism industry in the Canary Islands. For this reason, Manrique raised the significance of art and education as the only tools of social transformation.
A few escape that Manrique opened his creative work towards other artistic manifestations, which, to a certain extent, overshadowed the projection of his pictorial art on the map of Spanish painting of the half century. His interest for architecture germinated in the 50s as a result of his collaborations with the public institutions of Lanzarote in the design of urban spaces, when he convinced neighbors and politicians to preserve the vernacular architecture of their white houses. But it was in the decade of the 60s when he concretized his aesthetic imaginary in a series of spatial interventions based on the conjugation of local tradition and modern culture; the conditioning of architectural forms in natural landscapes, and the development of different artistic expressions in their spatial projects.
8. Public Work
This interest in architecture was reflected in an outstanding list of public interventions that constitute an exceptional example of sustainable public art in Spain, among which the projects of the Jameos del Agua and its spectacular Auditorium (1966), Mountains of Fire (1970), Mirador del Río (1973), the old Castle of San José, which conditions as a museum of contemporary art (1976), the restaurant The Aljibes (1976) or Cactus Garden (1990), whose common denominator lies in the respectful dialogue with the natural environment that, in many cases, allowed to recover degraded landscapes of the island.
The sculptural work of César Manrique can not be isolated from his spatial projects, which he crowned with sculptures of different materials, techniques and forms, but which coincide in his playful component and his attraction for movement, as reflected in the pieces Energy of the pyramid, in the gardens of his Foundation, within his renowned series Wind toys; as well as Phobos or Fertility. Monument to the peasant (1968).
Despite his educational, ethical, aesthetic and environmental intentions, Manrique admitted that "my worries in this sense and my fight against speculation have generated great enmities". His direct confrontation with authorities and promoters sheltered from his commitment to the cultural and landscape values of the island made him an uncomfortable person for many politicians, businessmen and urban planners in the Canary Islands. Above all, between the 70s and the 80s, when housing construction intensified, Manrique participated in multiple acts of protest for the construction of tourist complexes and warned of the risks of an indiscriminate growth of the hotel offer in Lanzarote. "The only valid thing for them is the success of selling mass and winning millions, without taking into account everything that was done in the beginning." It is unworthy that this awkward wholesale sales facility is based on all the great attractions we have created in Lanzarote. , since, in the absence of these, they would not sell a small bitch, "Manrique wrote in 1986.
11. I would do
Once his foundation in Tahíche was underway, César began the search for a more intimate refuge away from the noise and fury that besieged his last years. In 1988, he settled in the picturesque town of Haría, in the north of Lanzarote, where he built a house among palm trees that combined the traditional concept of island architecture with an avant-garde vision. This house was the last home of César Manrique until his death in 1992, and remained intact until its opening to the public as a House-Museum in 2013, where more than 1,500 everyday objects, books, photographs and reminiscences of the artist are exhibited.
This enumeration culminates as it begins, with the living memory of César Manrique, who died on the morning of September 25, 1992, at the age of 73, due to a traffic accident near the headquarters of his Foundation. But Manrique's work is more alive than ever in the deep imprint of Lanzarote. Although its analyzes, diagnoses and orientations on the tourism, the territory and art remain distant from the current reality, as Gómez Aguilera pointed out, his invitation to dream is now more necessary than ever. And perhaps the awakening of his legacy in this year of commemorations shakes the lethargy in which the countercultural ideas that, under the prism of manriqueño, turned the island of Lanzarote into one of the most beautiful enclaves of the world remain.