At the outset of his career, Jorge Barbi focused on painting, but he soon gave this medium up and turned his hand to sculpture, producing pieces of markedly conceptual character. His work emerged in the context of the Galician art scene of the 1980s, and from that decade until well into the 1990s, his output reflected the influence of Arte Povera and Land Art. Barbi has taken the legacy of these conceptual trends and combined it with reflection on his immediate surroundings; the vitality of the sea in Galicia and the natural environment of the region are implicitly present in his work. The ‘Gallegos’ series (1987–1989), for instance, consists of small sculptures of anthropomorphic forms, made by assembling bits of found material. From 1994 on, after engaging in an intense dialogue with the natural environment that was materialised in sculptures shaped by the sea or the elements and direct interventions in nature, Barbi adopted a critical, reflective attitude towards the world of art. During this period he has explored the decontextualisation of artworks, setting them free from their dependence on museums. In 2010 a retrospective exhibition of his work organised by the Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Vigo (MARCO) and the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon reflected a return to the observation of nature through photographs and drawings, with the focus always on A Guarda, where he was born and still lives.
David G. Torres