Xavier Grau
Spain, 1951
Xavier Grau began his artistic training specialising in sculpture at the Escola de Belles Arts in Barcelona University. In 1976 he had an exhibition at the Maeght Gallery in Barcelona with José Manuel Broto, Gonzalo Tena and Javier Rubio, artists from Aragón with whom, at the height of conceptual euphoria, he advanced one of the strong points of the Spanish art debate in the seventies. In the framework of that exhibition, entitled "Per una crítica de la pintura", the artists presented the zero number of the magazine Trama, which became the programme manifesto of a new conception of art which leaned towards pictorial practice as an autonomous exercise. At a moment when it was being claimed that art was in the throes of a process of dematerialization, the group adopted a defensive attitude towards pure painting, marked by a strict primacy of theoretical aspects. In the seventies, Grau's first works take up the late legacy of American Minimalism under the theoretical postulates of the French group Support-Surface and the psychoanalytical theories of Lacan. In 1978, however, the members of the original group began to split up, disillusioned by the inviability of a painting highly conditioned by the rhetoric of their ideas. From the conviction that it had to be language itself that dictated its own needs, Grau abandoned the monochrome, geometrical painting he had been doing at the beginning. He began to paint freely, in search of a state of mind, and introduced expressive elements into spaces that gradually became more emotional. He took an interest in American Abstract Expressionism and concentrated on the resources of Action Painting; he often painted in a semi-automatic state, but never took that language to be finished or exhausted. In his work there are a host of references to the history of painting: the spontaneity of Surrealist automatic writing, Gustave Moreau and Odilon Redon in terms of the treatment of light, Cubist collage for the structure of the composition, references to Pop Art, to Willem de Kooning in the control of gesture and Philip Guston in the orange reds associated with greys and the sour humour of certain themes. The ambiguity between figuration and abstraction refers us to Roberto Matta, and there are references to the work of Luis Gordillo, Picasso's last works and Yves Tanguy's dreamlike evocations. From pictorial practice itself, Grau built his own personal style, exploring the language of painting soundly and tenaciously.
Eva Solans