Manolo Millares was an important post-war Spanish artist known for the burlap-based collage paintings that he began making in the mid-1950s. Drawing from contemporaneous avantgarde art movements and an interest in archaeology, Millares used his artwork to convey visceral emotions and moments.Read More
Manolo Millares' use of burlap derives from the custom of the Guanches—the aboriginal inhabitants of Canary Islands—of wrapping embalmed corpses in fabric. In his collages, Millares stretched burlap over the frame or tore and cut it into pieces that were then tied, folded, stuffed, or sewn onto the canvas, creating cavities and voids in the process. On the surface, the artist typically painted gestural marks in black, white or red; drips and splatters of paint are visible in such works as Cuadro 64 (3) (1959).
In some of Manolo Millares' collages, bundles of burlap suggest abstract anthropomorphic forms that the artist called homunculi. There are more than 40 works under the title 'Homúnculo' conveying shapes that art critic and theorist Alfonso de la Torre described in one essay as evoking 'warriors, acts of mourning, fallen figures'.
Discussions of Millares' work often focuses on the violence of the holes in his burlap and their relation to the 20th century wars that scarred Europe. Reconstructing the fabric, however, is equally significant, as curator Elena Sorokina noted during Millares' solo show Building Bridges, Not Walls (2017) at the Galeria Mayoral Barcelona. Co-curated by Sorokina and de la Torre, the show included Millares (1970): a documentary by his wife the artist Elvireta Escobio that features Millares hand-sewing his collages.
Manolo Millares was an active figure of various post-war Spanish avantgarde movements. In the Canary Islands, he was a key figure of LADAC (The Archers of Contemporary Art): an artist group founded in 1950. After moving to Madrid in the mid-1950s, he co-founded the Informalist group El Paso, which aimed to revolutionise Spanish art, with members including Antonio Saura, Rafael Canogar, Luis Feito, Pablo Serrano, and Manuel Rivera.
Millares began to exhibit internationally early in his career. His participation in the 4th Bienal de São Paulo in 1957 led to the acquisition of his works by several private American collections, including those of James Johnson Sweeney and Nelson A. Rockefeller. The following year, Millares represented Spain in the 29th Venice Biennale alongside other key figures of 20th-century modern and avantgarde art, including Antoni Tàpies, Eduardo Chilida, Canogar, Saura, and Rivera.
In 1960, Millares was part of three major group exhibitions of Spanish art in New York: Before Picasso; After Miró at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New Spanish Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art, and Four Spanish Painters: Millares, Canogar, Rivera, Saura at the Pierre Matisse Gallery. Since his premature death in 1972, his work has continued to garner attention in solo and group exhibitions.
In 2018, de Sarthe Hong Kong presented Manolo Millares—Antoni Tàpies: An Informel Step, which explored the artists' work with Informalism, while the Galeria Mayoral Barcelona brought together a selection of artworks from the 29th Venice Biennale's Spanish Pavilion for Venezia 1958 (2019). In 2020, the Galeria Mayoral and Kolkata's Experimenter Gallery hosted A Shoulder on Which to Bear Time: an online conversation between Sorokina and artist Biraaj Dodiya on the lasting impact of Millares' work.
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2020
A Shoulder on Which to Bear Time A conversation between Biraaj Dodiya and Elena Sorokina on Manolo Millares Thursday 30 July, 2020 In collaboration with Experimenter Gallery, Kolkata India Dodiya and Sorokina build interconnections between Manolo Millares' work and its 'duende', inviting it into their exchanges. They discuss what it...
Elena Sorokina (Co-curator of the exhibition – Curatorial Advisor at Documenta 14 Kassel/Athens and HISK, Ghent) & Chus Martínez (Director of the Art Institute at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design, Basel )