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Virtual Exhibition

Carlos Mensa


Carlos Mensa
Start 07/10/2016
Exhibited from September 27th, 2008 to April 15th, 2009 in Fundació Privada Vila Casas

Mutual Contemplation. Carlos Mensa

 

De-concealments of a Mutual Contemplation

 

I fear no class of being except humans

Goya, letter to Zapater

They are their portraits they are viewing, and their lives which are being recreated in the discourse; the monsters correspond to everyday images which, being so common, they cannot be identified; everybody, me and all of us, pay the requisite tribute to those who have been able to find the key to the door and we are shocked to discover that transcendence, the beyond, is a chicken coop.[1]

 

The title of the exhibition is taken from a painting from 1981, Contemplació mutual (Mutual Contemplation), which brings about an...


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EXHIBITION PAINTINGS: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
Pintor en el estudio
1980
Painting
Acrylic on canvas

This work speaks of sex and sex drive. Mensa eludes boundaries and definitions and portrays part of his being in each picture. He expresses the contradictions of human existence and reminds us of the precariousness of our condition. He is not afraid to be provocative, to reveal himself and put himself on show, although he often does so from behind a mask or helmet. Even his female figures appear without faces, being merely sexualised bodies in ecstasy. He, rather than a spectator, is the guardian of the scene, putting himself between it and the viewer. Perhaps he sees himself as a champion of the sex impulse, of swimming against the tide, of the occult or, in short, of any type of thought regardless of whether it is correct or not.
Gorda con Yelmo
1974
Painting
Acrylic on canvas

Gorda con yelmo is a classically executed painting. It reminds us of depictions of noblemen or royalty and of portraits from a time when only people from the highest reaches of society (or power) could have their portrait painted. We may discern certain parallels with Portrait of Sebastián de Morra by Velázquez. In Mensa’s painting there is also the dignification of the grotesque. The biggest difference between the paintings is that Velázquez conceals the deformities of his figure, showing him seated so that we cannot see his short legs and with his fists closed so we cannot see his hands. Mensa, however, extols the anomalous. In Mensa’s painting the identity of his sitter is not important, whereas Velázquez sought to specifically portray the court jester Don Sebastián de Morra.
La domadora
1972
Painting
Acrylic on canvas

Using surreal iconography and clearly referencing the metaphysical painting of De Chirico with the mannequin in the background, Mensa gives us his tamer. Who is this enigmatic person behind a mask? She appears to us as somewhat shy but also coquettish, although her hands may be trying to hide her face in an ambiguous gesture. Two large animals, seemingly broken and stripped of self-will, flank the central figure. The picture suggests the aftermath of a bitter battle which the woman has won and is now trying to play down with a gesture of innocent guile.
Contamos contigo
1972
Painting
Acrylic on canvas

Contamos contigo is a provocative work. It has surrealist look, with a person on a red sofa and seated in a wheel chair looking at the viewer. With an air of power and clearly mutilated, he has the poise of a leader. He seems to be saying directly to us “We are relying on you,” as if we were his last remaining hope. We feel obliged to accept; we are the only ones able to undertake what has been asked of us, since we cannot but empathize the protagonist; we also feel overwhelmed and mutilated. The title of the work is a clear message to the viewer, a reminder of how we are a part of Mensa’s world and that he is relying on us.
Sense títol
1982
Painting
Acrylic on canvas

Untitled is one of the unfinished pieces on show in this exhibition which were left incomplete after the artist’s sudden death in 1982. Here we have a recurring motif in Mensa’s work; the personification of animals. Perhaps these animals represent human urges that go beyond the bounds of humanity society, since his work of this type is a reminder of the impulses humans attempt to hide or a nature we try to deny. The background of the picture is filled with architecture reminiscent of metaphysical painting.
Hombre con Yelmo
Painting
Oil on canvas

One of the artist’s works which really discomforts the viewer, due not only to the subject’s deformities, but also to the artistic treatment of them. The man has been dignified, his identity hidden by a helmet which is however decorated with a golden figure seemingly taken from mythology. Even the leaves are reminiscent of the red and gold feathers of a phoenix. We are looking at a glorification of deformity. What is ugly, dark, and amorphous is set on a pedestal. We are faced by the antithesis of classical sculptural beauty and yet we are unable to look away. Perhaps the artist is trying to underscore the notion that human nature is not only that which we make an effort to show, but also the dark, hidden side, a deformity of the spirit and morality which also defines us and, as such, should also be presented in the same way.
Contemplació mutua
1981
Painting
Acrylic on canvas

Carlos Mensa rails against injustice. To do so he uses black humour, satire and an acidic sense of irony. He demystifies power and partakes of destructive sarcasm to talk about human stupidity. In Contemplació mútua the viewer is part of the audience shown on the canvas. We are seated and waiting for the utterances of an ape who watches us with insolence. Its gaze challenges us from a position of power. Here we have a poetically constructed image that highlights the absurdity of power. We are forced into an interplay of meaningless looks.
Pintor en el estudio I
1979
Painting
Acrylic on canvas

Carlos Mensa lived for a spell in exile because of the Spanish Civil War, which influenced the subject matter of some of his output. He produced critiques of both Francoist power structures and the new consumerist society he lived in. Some of his pieces display, as well as his finely-honed and detailed technique bordering on hyperrealism, the light of tenebrism. His chiaroscuro emphasises the cloaked undercurrents of a scene that is disturbing, subversive and uncomfortable. We can assume that the artist shows himself as a cardinal here, since Mensa often uses biting humour to convey his message and does not take himself seriously. In fact there is a vein of dark humour running through many of his more contentious ideas.
El coleccionista
1979
Painting
Acrylic on canvas

A humanised animal, hidden under a jacket pulled over its head. We can almost discern its bird-like silhouette slinking off into the shadows. The Collector, as the artist calls the central figure, seems to be caught in the act of robbery. It has managed to grab a sculpture or shop-window dummy and what appears to be a car door. This kind of behaviour is often associated with magpies and the idea of them hoarding valuable objects, rather like a collector. The painting is tinged with heavy irony regarding the consumerism that Mensa so often critiques in his works. The collector is portrayed as a thief who accumulates simply for the sake of owning, without any appreciation for what he takes.
Caps amb una gran bola al damunt
1964
Painting
Oil on canvas

It would seem that Mensa exaggerates the least noble qualities of the human condition. He avoids stereotypes of beauty and centres on the darker side of the concept. Falsehoods, domination, fears and insecurities are ideas he depicts with a certain rawness. This may spring from the artist’s own struggle, not only with society but with himself. He wrestles to accept all that is ugly and dark in his being. This is why his paintings are unsettling and we instantly see ourselves in them because his concepts are timeless. Each viewer sees their most despicable side portrayed in them. We catch sight of ourselves in the mirror which the artist has painted and reluctantly accept what we see.
Vellard amb turbant
1981
Painting
Acrylic on canvas

Caballero de la mano en el pecho
Painting
Acrylic on canvas

Inquisidor
1981
Painting
Acrylic on canvas

La salida
1964
Painting
Acrylic on canvas

Paletes
1964
Painting
Acrylic on canvas

Sense títol
1964
Painting
Acrylic on canvas

Dona amb cotilla vermella
1964
Painting
Acrylic on canvas

Sèrie Locas I
1982
Painting
Acrylic on canvas

Sèrie Locas II
1982
Painting
Acrylic on canvas

Gorda con yelmo
1981
Sculpture
Bronze

Home-Au
1982
Painting
Acrylic on canvas





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