VALDÉS, Manolo

VALDÉS BLASCO, Manolo (Valencia 1942)

Valdés Blasco is a spanish sculptor and painter who studied secondary education at the Dominican college in his hometown (Valencia). In 1957, he finished his studies and entered into the School of Fine Arts of San Carlos. The excessive academic training that was provided would not satisfy him, as only two years later he would leave this institute to devote himself entirely to painting.

He executed his first works shortly after leaving school (a formal debt to the dying art style of abstract expressionism). The young Valdes displayed a creative capacity and a formal technical ability out of the ordinary. In 1962, he exhibited a set of works in this style at the Galería Neblí (Madrid) believed his first individual exhibition.

In addition, at the beginning of the sixties, Valdés and the artists Gorris, Juan Antonio Toledo and Rafael Solbes amongst others, together with the Art Historian Tomás Llorens, formed the group ‘Estampa Popular de Valencia’.

At a time when the country opened to the market economy – albeit in a timid way – the group called for the role of the artist and its framework to be redefined in context with the country’s transformation. For them, the language of the new artistic expression echoed the rising socio-economic situation.

Equipo Crónica

In 1964 Manolo Valdés, Rafael Solbes and Juan Antonio Toledo broke away from Estampa Popular and formed the group Equipo Crónica. A year later Toledo abandoned this project but the group continued with Solbes and Valdes, until Solbes’ death in 1981.

Equipo Crónica, influenced by the discussions at the heart of Estampa Popular, emerged as critics of individualism and the romantic image of the artist’s genius. They deliberately reduced the artist’s celebrity by using the relative anonymity of the group’s name.

Following the first exhibition, there was critical scepticism regarding this collective way of working (it was implied that Solbes was the theorist and Valdes the painter). The truth was that from the beginning of their journey, both men thought and painted alike.

Valeriano Bozal, expert of Equipo Crónica and Manolo Valdés, corroborated this: “…Their work was collective in all features, both participated in the debate and in producing work on an equal footing, and that was precisely the main reason why his language acquired unique fortune… “.

From the start, and in a similar way to the English and American ‘pop art’ movement, Equipo Crónica examined popular culture. For both artists, a film, comic or pictorial images had the same value as a graphic reproduction of a painting by Velázquez, Van Gogh or Picasso.

This is not the definite conception of the visual image, it is the final application and combined juxtaposition that produces a significant distinct style and meaning to those they had originally only decontextualized.

This compositional pairing was the strategy through which the Equipo Crónica presented their ironic look on the era. However, this ‘critical realism’ which defined their work would not be the only field of interest for scholars – they were reviewed and their own pictorial practice ruling interpreted in exhibited series such as Autopsia de un Oficio (1969-1970), La Subversión de los Signos (1974), El Billar (1977) and Crónica de la Transición (1981-1982).