– Spring 2011

The Everyday Fact as Peripety

José Díaz Cuyás

Tags: Isidoro Valcarcel Medina

Isidoro Valcárcel Medina, La chuleta (The Student's Crib Sheet), 1991, ink on paper, 5 × 5cm. Courtesy the artist

Isidoro Valcárcel Medina, La chuleta (The Student's Crib Sheet), 1991, ink on paper, 5 × 5cm. Courtesy the artist

The title of this essay - a phrase taken from his book Rendición de la hora (Surrendering of the Hour, 1996) - points to what I find most distinctive and fundamental in the work of Isidoro Valcárcel Medina. A first reading of the phrase would probably situate it alongside the poetics of the everyday and the currents of art and life that thrived in the 1960s and the early 70s. Indeed, that is the time and context from which his practice emerges, and it is there that we find the knot of problems that runs through his subsequent trajectory as an artist; a trajectory that - in keeping with his original stance - has been characterised by a protean will for a constant shifting of positions. His mature work developed in a conjuncture that would prove extremely fertile in the artistic arena of the late 1960s: the fusion between a formal literalism - associated with Neo-Concretist and Minimalist practices - and what we might call a 'situational literalism', referring to a variety of intermedia practices in which the meaning of a work was no longer contained in the individual pieces, but had to be sought in their function, in their ability to activate an event that exceeded them. This polarity between the extreme literal nature of forms and an equally literal character of the situation, between concrete figures (from geometry to media reification) and the traces of the event (from process to action) generates in its tension the set of questions that the most significant works of the period were grappling with. This was apparent in the international scene, just at that moment when for

  1. See Simón Marchán Fiz, Del arte objetual al arte del concepto (1972), Madrid: Akal, 1986, p.271.

  2. Isidoro Valcárcel Medina et al., Rendición de la hora (1996), Barcelona: Fundació Antoni Tàpies, 2006,p.57.

  3. See Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time-Image (trans. Hugh Tomlinson), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989.

  4. I. Valcárcel Medina, 'La memoria propia es la mejor fuente de documentación: Entrevista a Valcárcel Medina', Sin título, issue 1, 1994, p.35.

  5. I. Valcárcel Medina, quoted in Ir y venir de Valcárcel Medina (exh. cat.), Barcelona, Granada and Murcia: Fundació Antoni Tàpies, p.118.

  6. I. Valcárcel Medina, quoted in ibid., p.96.

  7. I. Valcárcel Medina, quoted in ibid., p.124.

  8. I. Valcárcel Medina, 'La memoria propia', op. cit., p.35. Fefa Seiquer ran the Galería Seiquer in Madrid, where the exhibition took place.

  9. See José Díaz Cuyás (ed.), Encuentros de Pamplona 1972: Fin de fiesta del arte experimental (exh. cat.), Madrid: Museo de Arte Nacional Reina Sofía, 2009.

  10. I. Valcárcel Medina, 'La memoria propia', op. cit., p.36.

  11. See I. Valcárcel Medina et al., Rendición de la hora, op. cit., p.2.

  12. A complete list of his works until the year 2009 can be found in J. Díaz Cuyás (ed.), Ir y venir de Valcárcel Medina, op. cit.

  13. Perogrullo is a character who makes such obvious pronouncements that uttering them seems pointless or silly. In Spanish such truisms are called 'verdades de Perogrullo' (Perogrullos's truths) or even 'perogrulladas'. The adjective 'perogrullesco' has also been coined.

  14. I. Valcárcel Medina, 'Arquitectura prematura', Fisuras, vol.8, January 2000, n.p.

  15. See Lynn Zelevansky (ed.), Beyond Geometry: Experiments in Form 1940-1970s, Cambridge, MA and London: The MIT Press, 2004, p.10ff.

  16. Alain Badiou, The Century (trans. Alberto Toscano), Cambridge, MA: Polity Press, 2007, p.50.

  17. The potency of the actual alludes to the historical will that attempts to evade artistic mediation in order to capture the immediate - the literal, the 'here and now' - in the artwork. It is a paradoxical will which, carried to the extreme, invokes an experience of the self as mere facticity: that of someone who knows that one is nothing but his or her ways of being, someone who accepts being made up of 'now', or whose potency cannot be restricted to his or her individual will or personal time schedules.

  18. I. Valcárcel Medina, 'El seguro azar', in Sergio Rubira and Beatriz Herráez (ed.), Una tirada de dados: Sobre el azar en el arte contemporáneo, Madrid: Comunidad de Madrid, 2008, p.28.

  19. Ibid., p.48.

  20. I. Valcárcel Medina, La chuleta, 1991. La chuleta was a work in the form of a school crib sheet that contained a text on the creative act.

  21. I. Valcárcel Medina, Rendición de la hora, op. cit., p.30.