Spanish Artist José Luis Alexanco Dies At 79

This Sunday night the plastic artist José Luis Alexanco (Madrid, 1942-2021) died at his home in Madrid, at the age of 79, due to an abrupt cardiorespiratory arrest, as confirmed by the Maisterra Valbuena gallery. Alexanco, one of the most rigorous and original avant-garde Spanish creators of his generation, was not so interested in the result, the things themselves, as in the process of making them. Perhaps for that reason, few careers like hers reflect the process, capture the movement. His entire career is marked by that determined and somewhat chimerical will, not of representing the movement in the way that Giacomo Balla or Muybridge had done before, but of being it

And that in the beginning, just out of the Faculty of Fine Arts, he got a precocious National Prize for Engraving (1965), a discipline to which a certain vocation of statism and permanence is supposed. Only a year later he would triumph again at the first Krakow Engraving Biennial, where he was distinguished alongside heavyweights such as Alechinsky or Vasarely. In 1966 he was in charge of coordinating a pioneering project, the one that the University of Madrid and the IBM company had set up to give a state-of-the-art computer to a group of artists with no other purpose than to take advantage of the hours when it was not being used for Strictly scientific purposes and no more expectations than to see what came out of it.

He was in charge of recruiting the creators who participated in the experiment, a small battalion of young Turks to the Spanish style that included Elena Asins, Eusebio Sempere or Soledad Sevilla. Possibly none was as involved as he, who came to learn the Fortran programming language with which he developed software called MOUVNT (by movement, of course). That from there sculptures were generated in different formats and materials seemed to him the least: it was the novelty and fruitfulness of the experience that always stood out.

Perhaps the work that best accounts for this search is Soledad Interrupted, made in collaboration with the avant-garde musician Luis de Pablo, a total work between sculpture and which 140 anthropomorphs (“dolls”, he called them with less pomp) moved thanks to a compressed air system and which premiered in Buenos Aires in 1971. This project had an international journey during which all kinds of interpretations arose political for their possible parallels with the victims of the Franco regime, which he always denied. Also, together with De Pablo, he organized the first – and only – Encuentros de Pamplona of 1972, an avant-garde art festival conceived by the Huarte family and their patronage work to follow in the wake of the Documenta de Kassel, and which ended amidst various scandals. , as it was foreseeable that it would happen with that UFO landed in the middle of a conservative city of the late Francoism.

José Luis Alexanco
‘Bat’ (1977), mixed technique on canvas, by Alexanco. COURTESY MAISTERRAVALBUENA GALLERY AND JOSÉ LUIS ALEXANCO

The arrival of a democracy caught him living in New York, and due to the movement, he tiptoed, more due to personal proximity to some of his key pieces than due to artistic affinity, although he was part of the select squad of the gallery owner Fernando Vijande, for whom he designed the iconic staircase that gave access to his premises in a garage on Núñez de Balboa street. When another job as a designer was commissioned, that of the princely edition of the Spanish Constitution, the result was filled with so many details – such as the mandatory red-and-yellow flag being hidden and fuzzy in the threads of the binding, or to remove the book From its case, you would have to press the shield, which ended up inevitably dirty and worn – that it is hard to think that they were a coincidence.

Last year, Madrid’s Sala Alcalá 31 dedicated its last major exhibition to him, a retrospective that included his film Percusum, where he condensed more than half a century of career and was proud of not having included in it “not a single painting, nor a complete work ”. He also planned to exhibit it in the exhibition he was preparing for the end of next year at the University of Navarra Museum. It is, perhaps, his piece that best sums up his modest utopia.

Amelia Warner– After graduating from NYU with a master's degree in history, She was also a columnist for many local newspapers. Amelia Warner mostly covers Entertainment topics, but at times loves to write about movie reviews as well.

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