The sculptor Martín Chirino that last Friday he celebrated his 94 years in the company of his family and friends, at his home in Morata de Tajuña, southeast of Madrid, he died yesterday, about18 hours, in the Madrid office of the University Clinic of Navarra, where he had entered. Their remains will be incinerated in the Tanatario de la Paz, tomorrow, at 12 noon.
Martín Chirino López, was born in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on March 1, 1925, during the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, in the family home next to the Playa de las Canteras, at number 57. It was the eleventh of twelve brothers of a middle class family. His father was the workshop manager of the shipyards of the Blandy Brothers Company, Port of La Luz, and also shipowner, activities that would allow him during his childhood to contact the forge of iron and discover his early fascination with metal, the world of the old and rusty ships that were repaired in the estingas of the port and those that, in passing, they sailed to different parts of the world. He lived his childhood also in permanent contact with the sand and sea of the beach of the Peña de la Vieja, elements that marked his early artistic vocation. "It still seems that I am hearing the echo of a wonderfully quiet city, surrounded by dunes and golden sands, with the sea always present," he recalled a few years ago. The first studies he attended in an English school, very close to his house, then he went to the Franciscans of the Port. "It was unthinkable to have to go to Las Palmas, it was a great excursion, we were off the cover".
In his adolescence he would know in that framework of experiences by the sea and the urban beach Manolo Millares Y Manuel Padorno, other two great references of art and Canarian culture of the 20th century, with whom he became friends and soon they would form a first local group with intellectual concerns.
At the age of eleven, coinciding with the Franco uprising and the beginning of the Civil War, he fell ill with tuberculosis and went to live in San José de Santa Brígida, where his father rented a house on medical advice. "It was an important episode in my life, because they keep me at home very carefully, very far from everything, it was in these two years that I started to create the world of fabulation."
With the mud collected from the ravine next to the house he sat in the window of his house to mold trees, fruits, objects, an initiatory game that soon became passion and need for expression but with less malleable material. In his first youth he sailed to various countries of the African coast (Morocco, Sahara, Senegal …), and this contact with the neighboring continent also leaves a deep mark on his artistic sensibility and aesthetic line of his work.
In 1944 he began his artistic studies in Sculptor Manuel Ramos Academy, in the Gran Canaria capital itself, and already participated in its first collective exhibition within the framework of VI Contest-Exhibition of Crafts of the Canary Islands. At the age of 23, he travels to Madrid for the first time to enroll in the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters with the aim of pursuing a degree in English Philology, but will soon abandon the script planned to enter the School of Fine Arts of San Fernando.
He completes his training by working as an assistant to Manuel Ramos, who had moved to Madrid, and then participates with other Canarian artists in the IV Regional Exhibition of Fine Arts in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. As he himself confessed, during the 1940s, he survived thanks to the works commissioned by the minister palmero Blas Pérez to different Canarian artists for the friezes of the Valley of the Fallen.
In 1951, coinciding with the I Hispano-American Biennial of Art in Madrid, takes the first serious contact with the artistic avant-garde and frequents the centers of expression of the new tendencies of contemporary art in the capital. A year later he concludes his studies of Fine Arts with the title of professor and starts a series of trips around Paris, London, where he takes classes in the School Fine Arts, and various cities in Italy that allow you to study in depth classical sculpture and the works of the great masters of modern sculpture such as Julio González, Henry Moore, Brancusi Y Barbara Hepworth. He completes his training as a sculptor in private forge workshops before returning to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in 1953.
Back in his hometown, which is still very attached, Chirino installs his first sculpture workshop and begins an intense period of work with his friend Manolo Millares, which comes from forming the LADAC group (The Archers of Contemporary Art), and both combine a European vision and their avant-garde eagerness with the roots of Canarian aboriginal culture.
With 28 years and with the production of a series of pieces called "Reinas Negras" and some collective exhibition in the Canary Museum, Martín Chirino begins to find his own stylistic way with works created with wrought iron, stones, wood and lead. It is still about pieces where a certain abstraction is perceived within a still figurative and surrealist frame.
After just over a year in the capital of Gran Canaria, Chirino travels back to Madrid in what will be his definitive leap to the stage of the avant-garde and reside outside the Canary Islands, land to which he will return frequently throughout his life but in which it does not return to reside continuously.
The trip of 1955 to the Peninsula, with 30 years, does it already under other vital and professional coordinates and this has a lot to do with that he gave the jump with his friends Thousands Y Padorno, Alejandro Reino Y Elvireta Escobio. It is a group trip that seeks the definitive extension of vital and artistic horizons for the sculptor but for which he will have to pay a price. It will be a hard period in which you can dedicate yourself to sculpture thanks to the income you receive for your work as a teacher of English and drawing at the College of Our Lady of Santa María in Madrid. It is the time when he meets Ángel Ferrant, who served as a link between the vanguard before the Civil War and the artists of his generation.
In 1956 the Museum of Contemporary Art of Madrid bought two of his first sculptures, "Cuenca Composition" (1955), of iron, and "Pueblo", made of wood in 1952, and during the summer of 1957 he worked in a Cuenca forge whose owner allows him to use for his artistic work in exchange for his help to shoe horses. Most of the works of his first solo exhibition will be exhibited in this forge, at the Ateneo de Madrid in 1958, coinciding with its integration into the Group 'El Paso', created in February of the 57 by artists like Antonio Saura, Thousands, Manuel Rivera, Rafael Canogar, Luis Feito, Manuel Viola, Antonio Suárez, Pablo Serrano, French Juana and the critics José Ayllón Y Manuel Conde. It is a collective of young sculptors and painters who try to give body and promote the art of avant-garde Spanish post-war very dislocated and without projection in that era of Francoist obscurantism also in the world of the arts.
The individual exhibition at the Ateneo, where he first presented his 'Composiciones' and his 'Poetic tools useless', works of an abstract radicalism, wrought iron and very attached to the trade of blacksmith and its Canarian origin, is accompanied with the writing of a text in which he defines the characteristics of his work. 'La reja y el prado' is his title, published in an extra issue of the magazine 'Papeles de Son Armadans. Thanks to this exhibition, he won the Ateneo de Crítica de Madrid Prize, and shortly afterwards, the Bienal de Sao Pulo of 1959 dedicated a special room to him in the Spanish pavilion, where his sculptures are exhibited.
In 1960 one of the great landmarks in the artistic life takes place since his work enters for the first time in the mecca of contemporary world art, MOMA of New York. It is a collective exhibition of Spanish art, selected and prefaced by the poet Franck O'Hara, at the time the museum's director, it accommodates four pieces by Chirino. One of them, 'Wind', already indicates the idea of the spiral as one of the expressive and aesthetic research lines of the sculptor.
This positive artistic streak has its vital counterpoint in 1961, when it contracted a serious illness and has to be admitted to a sanatorium in Madrid, leaving for a time the work in the forge. In 1962 he made his first exhibition in the New York galeria that has acquired the rights of his work for the United States, a set of pieces made since 1959 of figurative inflection, which is known as the series of the "Inquisitors", a consequence of the stage of distance from the workshop and that induces him to reflect a hidden vision of the hardness of the political moment that he has to live.
Chirino had already married by then Margarita Argenta, daughter of the musician Ataulfo Argenta, and fruit of this marriage is born his first daughter, Marta. The artist told at the time that "that marriage was canceled because the artistic concern, the goal was still there." "I had fallen in love with her, but the problem is that Margarita belonged at that time to another social class, to a more bourgeois model and to the poor artist's wife, whom she has to follow, it is difficult and hard," he said. sculptor. In addition, Chirino fell ill again in 1962 and was detained for six months in the sanatorium of Dr. Partearroyo by the architect Antonio Fernández Alba and the painter Antonio Saura, who had also had a history of tuberculosis. The appearance of terramycin allows an early cure. Meanwhile, he reads a lot and maintains his connections with the United States. With the resources obtained from his latest sales and commissions and after returning to Spain after his stay in the US, Chirino set up a house-workshop in San Sebastian de los Reyes, which he orders Fernández Alba. It becomes a meeting place for a group of artists and intellectuals: Thousands, Alberto Portera, José Luis Aranguren, Laín Entralgo…
In 1963 he made an important exhibition at the Ateneo de Madrid, and a year later traveled two months to Greece, where he started a new line of work inspired by the classical world. Although iron continues to work, it does not use bars that twist to create figures, but steel plates that weld to create shapes and give them volume. These sculptures take the name of 'Mediterranean' and constitute a differentiating element and very accepted within the set of his work. In addition, this same line will have continuity in its later famous "Ladies".
In 1966 he participated with two works at the opening of the Museum of Abstract Art in Cuenca and in 1967 he made his first trip to New York with Carlos Saura, who just filmed "La Caza" and performed at the Festival of Movie theater of the Lincoln Center. Chirino already had contacts with American patrons he had known in Madrid, as the millionaire Nelson Rockefeller, that offers its influence and thanks to it knows a person that works in the MOMA and that puts him in contact with the gallerist Grace Borgenicht. This one takes note of the expressive strength and originality of Chirino's work and offers him an exclusive representation contract in the USA, which remains until the gallerist's death in 1994.
"I was 30 years old and was open to the rattle of all influences, but when I arrived in New York my iron work is very mature, with a great personality, which is why it sells very well. integrated by Chillida, and other powerful names like Oteiza or Pablo Serrano, but the heir of the Julio González forge was me. Of course, with (the support of) Rockefeller, as I said, I get this gallery and I immediately set up in New York. This was the great luck, and the one that allows me to be more settled in the United States, although I was still teaching English in Madrid, "the sculptor explained.
In 1972 participates in Tenerife in the emblematic I Exhibition of Sculpture in the Street with the work 'My Lady'. In 1973 he exhibited his first 'Aeróvoros', pieces again in wrought iron in the forge that, starting from the genesis of the spiral, develop weightless horizontally. They are very present in all his later work and Chirino himself says of them that "it is my sculpture, the most subtle and the most winged form, which represents the flight of man in search of his identity". The Guggenheim in New York acquires one of these sculptures. This year he received the First International Prize of X Concorso de Padova. From 1974, Chirino spends long periods in New York working in the studio of the sculptor Beatrice Perry, and in 1976 he participated in the writing of Manfiesto del Hierro, in which he reflects the attraction and interest that Africanness awakens in the Canarian cultural environment and point from which the creation of his 'Afrocanes', massive and enigmatic sculptures that evoke the African masks and delve into the roots of the aboriginal culture of the Canary Islands. The sample of these pieces in the gallery of Juana Mordó in Madrid, it gives rise to the drafting of a new document, signed by a large number of Canarian artists and intellectuals, who vindicate the differentiating identity of their culture in their relationship with the African continent and look to the Guanche culture for their identity. In 1977, with the recently released Spanish democracy, the magazine 'Gualimar' published its text "Pintadera de 7 puntos" in which he advocates a Canarian cultural revolution based on the study and knowledge of aboriginal art, but taking into account the universality of art.
In 1978, he received the First Prize at the Budapest Sculpture Biennial and in 79 his gallerist in New York presented his "Afrocanes", in which he received great international recognition of his work upon receiving the endorsement and recognition of the most prestigious critics. . A year later, he received the first of his great recognition awards from the institutional field when he received the National Prize of Plastic Arts for all his work. In 1981 and committed to the political and socio-cultural change that is being lived accept to preside over the Fine Circle of Madrid, heading the first progressive Board of the institution, assuming the commitment to convert the center is a new space for promotion and dissemination of culture and art in terms of democratic and transparent management and connection with the social scene of the capital. He remained in office until 1992. In 1985, he collected the legacy of Juana Mordó on behalf of the Círculo de Bellas Artes and the heirs of the gallerist gave him this institution.
In 1986 he received the Canary Islands Prize for Plastic Arts for the whole of his work granted by the Government of the Canary Islands, and in 1987 he was appointed member of the Advisory Commission of the Reina Sofia Art Center. Although not looking, Chirino is assuming responsibility for the management of art spaces and assumes in 1991 the direction of the Atlantic Center of Modern Art (CAAM) of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, which opens its doors on December 4, 1989 with the aim of boosting the visual arts, critical thinking and artistic culture in a framework of Atlantic geo-strategy and intercultural dialogue and a determined vocation for action around Africa, America and Europe. Chirino is the main inspiration of the center next to Francisco Ramos Camejo, then Minister of Culture of the Cabildo of Gran Canaria and will remain at the head of the center until 2002, the year in which he resigned for not sharing the criteria for restructuring the museum.
The artist continues his search for new forms of expression and work and commissioned the construction of a house-workshop in Morata de Tajuña, near Madrid. Starts here the stage of the Alfaguaras, Homage to Marinetti, Trees and Sabine. In 96 the monumental sculpture is inaugurated 'Lady Harimaguada' located on the Maritime Avenue of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, and in 2000 'The dream of the Canary Islands', installed in the regional Parliament.
In 2008, he was awarded the Plastic Arts Prize of the Gabarrón Foundation, which for the first time selected a Spanish artist together with those already granted to Richard Serra, Anthony Caro or Markus Lüpertz. In 2011, on the occasion of the candidacy of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to the European City of Culture 2016, an exhibition of monumental sculptures by Martín Chirino is held at the Triana street, in which the 'Wind Spiral' still remains. In October 2013, overcoming an earlier announcement that he would not hold temporary exhibitions again, the sculptor prepared a large exhibition at the Círculo de Bellas, responding to a request from the institution as a tribute to his years at the head of it twenty years ago. It will also serve as an advancement of the collection that would be moved to the Canary Islands after negotiations between the artist and his family with the Las Palmas de Gran Canaria City Council for the creation of a foundation. After various avatars, the Martín Chirino Foundation of Art and Thought It opens in the Gran Canaria capital on March 27, 2015 and fixes its headquarters in Castle of Light, where 25 sculptures of the author are permanently exhibited and become the funds of the institution. In 2014 he entered as an Honorary member at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando.
And in 2018 Martín Chirino reaches his 'Finisterre' with the exhibition thus titled in the Marlborough gallery, at 93 years old and seventy after arriving in Madrid. In the words of Francisco Calvo Serraller, "unique case in the history of art".