On my visit to Museo Nacional Centro De Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, I came across a painting that struck a nerve:
La Puerta (The Door) by Juan Genovés (1966)
A quick search for biographical detail revealed that he was born in Valenica in 1930 and trained at the Valencia art college. He was part of a number of groups in post-war Spain: Los Siete (The Seven) 1949, Parpallós (1956) and Hondo (1960). Genovés is a very political painter and in his early works used expressionism as a means of opposing the Franco regime.
The 60s saw Genovés concentrate on showing the individual and the crowd and this style was very cinematic. This image seems to tell a story of collective will versus individual preservation. It works best if you take in the fact that the crowd have walked through one giant door and are now faced with a second. All turn to the door, all wearing similar clothing, but you can determine the sexes. Questions build: What are they waiting for? What is on the other side of the door? Why did they go through the first?
This question seems to be the one that can be answered by taking in the fact that there are bodies lying in front of the first door. To the left and to the right, running figures leave the canvas; lucky to escape with their lives. The ones who have fallen are twisted, indicating that they have been slaughtered as they tried to run. Did they resist? The fact that there are no figures to distinguish who has done this and who is controlling the crowd give an ambiguous air to this work and makes it even more chilling to observe.
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