February 9, Madrid: Fundación MAPFRE has today presented two new exhibitions: Jawlensky. The Landscape of the Face and Tomoko Yoneda, on the eponymous Japanese photographer, which can be visited from February 11 until May 9 at the Recoletos exhibition rooms at Paseo de Recoletos, 23, Madrid.
JAWLENSKY. THE LANDSCAPE OF THE FACE
Though not as widely recognized by critics as many of his contemporaries, Alexéi von Jawlensky (Torzhok, Russia, 1864 – Wiesbaden,1941) is undoubtedly one of the key figures in understanding the evolution of a form of painting which, in the early twentieth century, led to abstraction. Regarded today as one of the fathers of German Expressionism along with his friend and colleague Vasili Kandinski, he developed a freeform language in which he used color and shape to express intimate feelings. Still lifes and landscapes, but predominantly portraits and heads, were the focus of his production. He returned again and again to these motifs, blurring the outlines of the heads and depersonalizing them, including the faces, which in his final works, Meditations, suggest icons formed of thick lines and powerful color blocks.
Two events in his life seem to have marked the spiritual and almost religious search he undertook through his work, which he related in the memoirs he dictated four years before his death. In the first, he recounts the impression made on him as a child by the sight of an icon of the Virgin in a Polish church of Kostjol. In the second, he refers to his visit to the Moscow World Fair in 1880: “At the end, I discovered the section dedicated to art. There were only pictures, and I was touched by grace, like the apostle Paul at the time of his conversion. My life was thus completely transformed. Since that day, art has been my only passion, my inner sanctum, and I have devoted myself to it body and soul.”
This exhibition presented by Fundación MAPFRE traces the painter’s career through to his final years in Wiesbaden with a selection of more than one hundred works, offering a chronological journey through six sections while at the same time establishing a timely dialogue with pieces by other artists with whom he shared concerns and interests.
These included, among others, the French artists Henri Edmond Cross, André Derain, Henri Matisse and Maurice de Vlaminck, fellow travelers during the Post-Impressionist and Fauvist periods; the painter Marianne von Werefkin, Jawlensky’s companion until 1921; Gabriele Münter, one of the few women associated with German Expressionism, and Sonia Delaunay, with whom he shared a love of vibrant color.
The exhibition, organized by Fundación MAPFRE, the Cantini Museum in Marseilles, and La Piscine, the André Diligent museum of art and industry in Roubaix, has benefited from generous loans from some important private collections and prominent international institutions such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Pompidou Centre (Paris), the Kunstmuseum Basel, the Modern Art Museum of Paris, the Albertina (Vienna), the Kunsthalle Emden, Zentrum Paul Klee (Bern) and the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz – Museum Gunzenhauser (Chemnitz), among others.
According to Nadia Arroyo, the Director of Culture at Fundación MAPFRE, “this exhibition offers a unique opportunity to see Jawlensky’s work, not just because of the quality of the prices but also because of the large number of international loans received in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic”.
“We are hugely indebted to the support of the loaners to make this exhibition possible, I cannot thank them enough”, said Arroyo.
Tomoko Yoneda (Akasi, Japan, 1965) studied photography in Chicago and later in London, where she currently lives. Driven from an early age by her journalistic vocation, her work often refers to contemporary historical events: landscapes and interiors associated with armed conflicts with which she aims to record the intangible presence of history in the daily course of life and not just in the monuments that evoke it or the remains that bear witness to it.
The geographical scope of her work ranges from Europe to South America, embracing Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China. For all her projects, Yoneda conducts extensive research before deciding on the exact location to photograph. Arguably, her approach resembles that of an anthropologist digging for remnants of the past and revealing issues related to the human conditions such as pain, violence, war, injustice, etc. In her portraits of landscapes and the interiors of empty buildings, the photographer evokes the spirit of past events. Her main themes are memory and how history, both personal and political, defines the present.
The exhibition offers a broad overview of the author’s work which has not, until now, been the subject of such an extensive solo exhibition in Europe, although she has held monographic exhibitions in Japan and South Korea.
The exhibition, comprising more than one hundred images, includes her latest work such as Correspondence. Letter to a Friend and Dialogue with Albert Camus, images in which she identifies the different locations, whether in Algeria and France, where the Nobel Prize winner lived and wrote, as well as the place where the writer’s father died in the Battle of the Marne during the First World War.
The Crystals series, which includes the black and white photographs taken by Yoneda in Finland, shows the ice crystals that form at low temperatures. These images combine the aesthetics of Bauhaus photography, which can border on the abstract, with the Japanese sensitivity towards the physical world, which in a fleeting moment can reveal something more profound about the nature of existence.
Last year, as a continuation of other projects by Yoneda, she was specially commissioned by Fundación MAPFRE to photograph the locations where some of the bloodiest battles of the Spanish Civil War took place (Brunete and Jarama), as well as some of the personal effects of Federico García Lorca which are kept at his foundation in Granada.
Here Yoneda photographed various objects, including the blue overalls that the poet wore on his travels around various provinces with the La Barraca theater group performing works from the Spanish classical repertoire. With his mix of popular and experimental theatrical forms and references to Andalusian culture and myths, García Lorca challenged the orthodoxy of theatrical performance to create the theatre of the impossible.
According to Carlos Gollonet, the senior curator of photography at Fundación MAPFRE, “in these photographs nothing is evident; nothing suggests the horror and brutality of those battles, or the senselessness of García Lorca’s murder, but when you look at these images, memories and emotions emerge in our consciousness, allowing us to sense what the eye cannot see”.
The exhibition also includes documentary material belonging to the artist herself: books, postcards, cameras and a video, among other objects.