RESEARCH: Artur Heras in Phantoms of a Utopian Will / Like Most Follies, More Than a Joke and More Than a Whim
Jordan Lemoine | December 10, 2015
Artur Heras was born in València in 1945 and studied at the School of Fine Arts San Carlos, Valencia. In the 1960s Heras became associated with two other artists working in Valencia at the time–Manuel Boix and Rafael Armengol–and with the Spanish Narrative Figuration movement, which was in many ways the European equivalent of America’s Pop Art movement. The two movements shared a similar aesthetic, as well as a mutual subject–the pop culture of contemporary society. Items, images and motifs of contemporary society were taken and used in new and often shocking contexts in order to criticize the beliefs, pleasures and the general conditions of the times. For Heras, this meant the Franco regime governing Spain at the time. With the rampant propaganda and censorship the regime utilized to control Franco’s public image in the media, Narrative Figuration made for an appropriate form to subvert the propaganda dominating the country’s media. The new connotations, or new “narratives” given to these pop cultural items would hopefully serve to propagate change in society through ironic commentary.
This is almost the reverse of what Alex Morrison is suggesting in his exhibition. Morrison is concerned with the ways in which counter-cultural movements are subsumed into the mainstream culture they revolt against. For example, the hippie caricature statuettes: the hippie was, in its time, a figure of social progression and cultural revolution, whereas now it is a pop-cultural artifact belonging to the mainstream culture as a gag, a joke, a Halloween costume (as is also suggested in Morrison’s video piece “We Dance On Your Grave”).
For Morrison, counter-culture becomes pop culture, and for Heras, pop culture becomes counter-culture. Morrison documents the tranquilization of revolt, Heras utilizes the tranquilizing entertainments of pop culture as tools for revolt.
The piece by Heras that Morrison has chosen to include within his exhibition is from a later period, which marked a change in both style and theme. It’s entitled Taller and was produced in 1980, post-dating both Franco and Narrive Figuration. The piece bears none of the attributes of either Pop Art or Narrative Figuration. It does away with mainstream forms and instead blends a variety of disparate elements and qualities. Bearing a relationship perhaps to Morrison’s architectural drawings, Taller depicts an isometric drawing of table and chairs, an elongated grid with measurements lightly marked, and the word “taller” written in coloured pencil and rather curiously, a thick wooden capital “T.” It seems to be more self-reflexive than Narrative Figuration, in that it deals with the questions of its own form as an art piece, and less with political and pop-cultural criticism.