The Origin of Forms

Solo exhibition
Museo Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo (CA2M)
June, 2023 – January, 2024, Móstoles, Spain 
Curator: Tania Pardo

In The Best Job in the World (2021), I performed a series of interviews to Spanish artists who had abandoned art, either by their own decision, or forced by their circumstances. These conversations led me to wonder why I am still active as an artist. I also asked myself: what conditions and events occurred in the lives of the artists of the History of Art that could have awakened their vocation and that they could help to develop it along with their talent?

The exhibition The Origin of Forms traces these questions by relating them to the three forms of capital designated by the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu – social capital; economic capital and cultural capital – as the main resources that an individual has when he or she arrives in the world. The project entails a simultaneous presentation of an ultra-intimate and personal story – in which I propose myself as the main object of study, tracing the possible causes of my vocation from the field of the psychological, the social and also the innate –, coexisting with a more objective examination of the History of Art, questioning and using the artist’s biography as a tool aiming to trace Western artistic genius in a critical way.

The latter is addressed in the large-scale installation Masters of Western Painting (2023), presenting a search I performed in the early biographies of one hundred Western dead painters – from Giotto to Paula Rego –, in official biographical sources –such as Encyclopedia Britannica –, paying special attention to the social and psychological environment in which these artists grew up. This led me to observe existing patterns such as, for example, the connections of their family members with circles of influence and power; the transmission of sensitivity; the family’s frequent opposition to the artist pursuing a career in art; their horoscope – a big majority of them being Aries or Libra –, or the encouragement of their talent by their belonging to a lineage of artists. The purpose of this work is to examine how the story of what Linda Nochlin called the “Great Artist” and of “natural talent” has been historically constructed, through the elaboration of very fertile myths that built the idea of artistic creation as free and autonomous activity, external to social forces that may condition it.

A wallpaper presents this biographical information in a manner of an Old Masters’ museum. However, the often existing chronological order of presenting Art History to a general public is disrupted, permitting uncommon associations between artists from different centuries and countries. Overlapping the wallpaper, a series of intervened museum posters showing very famous works by the selected painters hide some of the information behind them. A text in their biography has been outlined with acrylic paint in negative, encouraging the viewers to see the images through this prism.

Installed in the opposite wall of the room, there is a display of several objects related to my family that seek to trace possible origins of my artistic vocation and aptitudes, adressing the forms of capital available during my upbringing, including two reproductions of paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted by my parents, some artworks belonging to my auntie’s small art collection that was a visual input in my childhood, a drawing I made at 7, a series of photographs, or a 1:1 floor-plan of a basement in Madrid that was bought by my father and that was my studio for seventeen years.

Installation views and details of The Origin of Forms (solo exhibition), CA2M (Móstoles, Spain, 2023)

Images © Roberto Ruiz