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Luis Gordillo (Seville, 1934)




Oil on canvas, 160 x 111 cm

In the late 1950s, the young painter Luis Gordillo travelled from Seville to Paris to discover the modern trends of Art Informel and European Expressionism being practised there by various artists, including Michaux, Fautrier and several prominent compatriots like Tàpies and Millares. In the years that followed, Gordillo's works tested the sombre existential field of Art Informel, and his painting embraced the gestural freedom of automatism. However, this aesthetic affinity soon weakened and the artist shifted towards the almost antithetical tendency of British and American Pop Art, infusing his palette with a refreshingly festive spirit and anchoring his personal figuration in the new realism of modern life in the technified city.

Developing his personal brand of Pop under Franco's reactionary dictatorship, this line continued through the 1960s, guided in part by the psychoanalysis the painter began undergoing in 1963. This method allowed him to organise his creative frenzy and would eventually cement the orderly obsession of his own mind with elements of the constructive abstraction being practised by some of his fellow artists. This geometric rationalism which Gordillo embraced, both aesthetically and ethically, around 1966, influenced by his Marxist friends who firmly believed in the power of art to effect moral regeneration, mitigated the strong sense of expressionist guilt attendant on the freedom carried over from his "informalist" days. It was during this transitional moment of his career that Gordillo painted Gran bombo dúplex [Large Duplex Drum] and Choque [Crash].

The flat, bold colouring is symptomatic of the Pop influence that pervaded his series Los peatones [The Pedestrians] and Los hombres vespa [The Vespa Men], and also Los bombos [The Drums] and Los automovilistas [The Motorists], the series to which the two works in the Banco Santander Collection pertain. In these works, traditional painting gazes at its reflection in technified advertising media, aiming to bring high culture down to the level of the technological surroundings of the modern individual, whose shape is confused with that of the machine or trapped inside the cylinder of the soup can-like "drum". The schematic bodies repeated in these paintings are presented as anonymous citizens, reflecting the contradictions that exist in Gordillo himself, like the two faces of Janus which they rather resemble. The works form a double sequence which the Sevillian artist calls a duplex (not a diptych). This term is not just a reference to the housing units that were starting to be advertised as "duplexes" at the time; it also alludes to the juxtaposition of complementary binomials—for instance, the chromatic compensation in Large Duplex Drum—that occasionally explode when they approach each other, like the geometric control and organic figuration in Crash.

In this respect, the method Gordillo uses to create these works processes the spontaneous gesture of the preliminary sketch, geometrises it and transforms it into a deliberately conceived structure, a labour of rationalisation that would ultimately prove to be too controlled for him to tolerate. After Crash, the last painting from this period, his body could not stand the drama any longer. He had ethically maintained a constructive position for too long, and its volcanic eruption marked the end of this prolific phase. [Almudena Cruz Yabar]