On Thursday 27th October, Juan González’s exhibition, ‘Being an Artist’ opened at ‘El Institut Valencià d’Art Modern (IVAM)’. The exhibition is based on 250 pieces that demonstrate the work of a sculptor who “conquered craft with craft and iron with iron”. It reveals a struggle between a destiny as a craftsman and a desire to be an artist.
The director of IVAM, Nuria Enguita explains, “I would dare to say that the exhibition, ‘Being an Artist’ will become a milestone in the historiography and critical fortune of Julio González as it revisits his life and work from premises not previously contemplated and, above all, it will allow us to see González’s work beyond myths and clichés, in all its complex plenitude and in its changing contexts”.
Curated by Juan José Lahuerta, the exhibition brings together sculptures, paintings, drawings, photographs and pieces of jewellery, but also a large number of manuscripts, postcards, letters and period magazines “that bring us closer to Julio González in a more intimate way and help us to better understand the difficult balance between the work and life of an artist”, in Enguita’s words.
The exhibition does not follow a chronological order, nor is it organised by stages or styles, but, “proposes a continuous vision of Julio González’s work through his inscription in the Academy, with a series of themes or motifs that run through his entire career, such as the female nude or maternity, and which are manifested both in figurative works and in works that are close to abstraction“, Enguita emphasised.
For the curator Juan José Lahuerta, the work of this sculptor has until now been understood “as a long search in the dark that suddenly culminates in a kind of ‘vision’ in which González discovers his true destiny as an iron sculptor”. However, Julio González lived in a struggle against his double destiny as a craftsman and an artist, so that in it, instead of evolution, there is simultaneity. “His will to be an artist meant overcoming craft with craft and iron with iron”, said Lahuerta.
The first room presents Julio González through the self-portraits in which the artist shows his public personality associated with his craft (the palette, the paintbrush) and the first more academic works with themes that will constantly run through his entire career.
The exhibition continues with the goldsmith’s pieces, an aspect of his work that González himself considered an obligation that prevented him from developing his true vocation as an artist. Room 3 deals with the theme of metamorphosis with pieces such as Daphné (1937) or Cactus Man I (1939) until reaching the space occupied by radical and revolutionary sculptures such as Woman before the Mirror (ca. 1936-1937) or the Monserrat from the Spanish Republic Pavilion of 1937. “Julio González presents himself to us with all his lights and shadows, in the complexity of changing contexts, in the contradictions of projects that are not always happily resolved,” said Juan José Lahuerta.
Another myth about Julio González is the one that situates him as a marginal artist, practically unknown, who worked modestly in his studio waiting for recognition that was only going to do him justice after his death. “In reality, he was quite the opposite: a character who lived through the avant-garde period perfectly anchored in his time and as one of its major protagonists”, Lahuerta stated.
Nuria Enguita, the director of IVAM, highlighted the importance of Julio González for the museum, which has the most complete collection of the Spanish sculptor, begun in 1986 as a result of acquisitions and donations from the artist’s heirs, Carmen Martínez and Viviane Grimminger. “In the case of Julio González, like all great artists, it is essential to propose critical and radical visions that show his complexity,” he concluded.
‘Being an Artist’ will be exhibited at IVAM until 15th October 2023.
IVAM Centre Julio González
Carrer Guillem de Castro, 118.
Tuesday to Sunday: 10:00 am to 7:00 pm
Friday: 10:00 am to 9:00 pm
Closed on Mondays
Report by Shemaiah Rose
Article copyright 24/7 Valencia
Photo copyright Miguel Lorenzo