Rafael Canogar, master of abstraction
Born 1935 in Toledo, Spain. Lives and works in Madrid.
After the Spanish Civil War and a period of transition, Rafael Canogar and his family took up residence in Madrid in 1944. He began his training with painter Daniel Vázquez Díaz, with whom he mastered a figurative language inspired by the work of Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró. In 1954 Canogar began to experiment with abstraction and informalism, motivated by Michel Tapié’s call for a collective art phenomenon. His canvases, increasingly monochromatic, sought to achieve a balance between form and matter, between formal and informal painting. Within this trajectory he formed the group El Paso (1957–1960) alongside Luis Feito, Manolo Millares, Manuel Rivera and Antonio Saura among others, which ushered in a key phase in the modernisation of the Spanish avant-garde. Following a trip to the USA in the early 1960s, and a peak in his international recognition in 1964, Canogar abandoned informalism, which had become assimilated by Francisco Franco’s regime as ‘official’ art.
The Punishment 1969 typifies a key aspect of Rafael Canogar’s practice from the 1960s. Owning the vocabulary of narrative figuration, which had begun to spread among the Spanish avant-garde of the time, his work invoked the aesthetics of commercial culture and of the mass media. Yet, in contrast with his contemporaries (including Equipo Crónica and Equipo Realidad), his subjects did not exist within an iconographic superstructure, but were deeply rooted in social realities. Using wood and polyester reinforced fibreglass, Canogar escaped the boundaries of the canvas adding three-dimensionality, volume and flesh to his figures. The Punishment represents a man being beaten by a policeman, which would not have been an unfamiliar scene in the late 1960s. The disturbing vignette, which physically invades the viewer’s domain, was interpreted as a wakeup call to engage with the social unrest that defined those turbulent years in Francoist Spain.
“It’s part of my landscape, the earth ploughed by the worker, who ploughs, leaving his mark on the earth.”
Canogar began his training as a young man with painter Daniel Vázquez Díaz inspired by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. In 1954 Canogar began to experiment with abstraction and informalism, looking at the material itself as a form of expression. Canogar applied paint directly on to the canvas then filling the scratches and furrows he made with his hands with liquid paint.
His canvases, increasingly monochromatic, sought to achieve a balance between form and matter, between formal and informal painting. Canogar formed the El Paso group (1957–1960) alongside Manuel Rivera and Antonio Saura among others. Influenced by Action painting the Spanish artists sought an informal aesthetic produced with a sense of passion and urgency which celebrated the freedom of the opening of Franco’s Spain to the international scene.
Following a trip to the USA in the early 1960s Canogar begun a second figurative period. Using a vocabulary of narrative, socio-political mass media imagery such as police brutality and the assassination of JFK, his paintings were visually comparable with Rauschenberg’s iconic photo collage screen-prints but with an added ethical and critical dimension that Canogar describes as ‘Realism’ rather than classic American Pop.
In 1967 his work evolved further; using wood, polyester and fiberglass he broke down the barriers of painting and sculpture pushing into 3 dimensions disturbing the physical space of the viewer.
Retrospectives were held at the National Museum of Fine Arts, Buenos Aires, 2003, the Valencian Institute of Modern Art (IVAM), Valencia, 2013 and Reina Sofía National Museum, Madrid in 2001. More recently his work was included in the
2014 Tate Modern exhibition ‘The World Goes Pop’. Rafael Canogar currently lives and works in Madrid.
Moves frorm Toledo to Madrid to study Art.
Begins his abstract period.
Takes part in Grupo el Paso with Feito, Millares and Saura among others.
Leaves abstract period for Pop art.
Begins his geometrical period.
Galería 3punts “Recuperar la memoria”, Barcelona
Galería Antonio Prates, Lisboa. Atlántica. Centro de Arte. La Coruña
Sala García Castañón de la Caja Pamplona. “Canogar, la pasión de pintar, 1956-1997”. Centro cultural Casa del Cordon, Caja de Burgos, Burgos. Galería Regarde Sur L´lmage, Burdeos
Galería Pelaires, Palma de Mallorca. Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Unión Fenosa, La Coruna
Galería Barcelona, Barcelona. “Art Colgne 95”, (individual en la Galería Barcelona). Sala Robayera, Miengo, Cantabria
“O Novo Canogar”, Salas del Auditorio de Galicia en el museo del “Pobo Galego”. Galería Punto, Valencia. Sala de exposiciones del Banco Zaragozano, Zaragoza
Galerie Scheffel, Bad Homburg, Alemania. Galería Italia, Alicante.
Caja Provincial de Ahorros de Córdoba, Córdoba
“Obra Gráfica 1959-1990”, Antigua Universidad de Salamanca, Salamanca. “Obra Gráfica 1959-1990”, Diputación Provincial de Málaga, Málaga. Galleria Arte 92 ( 1957-1964). Milan
Galería Barcelona, Barcelona. Studio Benniamino, San Remo, Italia. Galería Bat, Madrid. “Obra Gráfica 1959-1990”. Auditorio de Galicia, Santiago de Compostela. Galería Cadaqués, Gerona
Galerie TH, Lyon, Francia. “Obra Gráfica 1959-1990”. Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao (exp retrospectiva). Galería Afinsa-Trindade, Oporto. Galleria Civica d´Arte Moderna, Palazzo Dei. Diamanti, Ferrara, Italia (exposición retrospectiva). Galerie lina Davidov, Paris
Galería Tretze, Castellón. Galería Italia, Alicante
“Contraparada”, Palacio de Almudi, Murcia (exposición retrospectiva). Galería Punto, Valencia
“Paris Art Center”, París (exposición retrospectiva 1949-87). Bochun Museum, Alemania (exposición retrospectiva 1949-87).
Centro Municipal de Cultura de Alcoi, Alicante (exposición antológica).
Galería Bronda, Helsinki. Galería Gaspar, Barcelona. Galerie Poli, Berlin
Originally published at https://artmiamimagazine.com/rafael-canogar-master-of-abstraction/