VALENCIA.- One way, one ticket. An essay on death in the IVAM Collection is an exhibition organized jointly by the IVAM and the EMAT. The show is presented as an essay on how death is seen in modern and contemporary art, in works from the IVAM Collection. The central focus is Christian Boltanskis installation La réserve des suisses morts (The Reserve Collection of Dead Swiss), and the exhibition also includes works by John Heartfield, Josep Renau, Antonio Saura, Andrés Serrano, Markus Lüpertz, Cristino de Vera, John Davies, Ross Bleckner and Cristina Lucas, among others. The catalogue published in connection with the exhibition includes illustrations of the works exhibited and contains essays by Raquel Gutiérrez Pérez, Fernando Castro Flórez and the curators of the exhibition, Consuelo Císcar and Joan Ramon Escrivà.
The show features 70 works, including installations, photographs, paintings and sculptures, arranged in two exhibition areas: the EMAT in Torrent and the Sala de la Muralla at the IVAM. The items that can be seen at the EMAT include Christian Boltanskis installation La réserve des suisses morts and works by Ross Bleckner, James Lee Byars, Carmen Calvo, John Davies and Equipo Crónica. In the Sala de la Muralla at the IVAM there are works by John Heartfield, Josep Renau, Antonio Saura, Ramón de Soto, Julio González, Antoni Tàpies, Markus Lüpertz, Cristino de Vera, Francisco Bores, Eduardo Arroyo, Equipo Realidad, Andrés Serrano, Cristina Lucas, George Grosz, Carmen Calvo, John Davies and Equipo Crónica, among others.
The dialogue with death has been consubstantial with the activity of art since the most ancient times. The very activity of making art, images produced by human beings, is essentially a combat against the perishability of life and a necessary element in the survival of society through the ages. Human beings have always turned their thoughts to death in their attempts to explain life, understand absence, resolve pain or reorganize themselves socially; and therefore death is present in the symbolic elaborations of rituals related to their development. Each of the works exhibited at the IVAM and the Espai Metropolità dArt de Torrent is a presentation of that strict, subjective observation of life, full of profound memories, with deep wounds that emerge in the form of artistic expression, following those highlights and shadows of memory. Aesthetic meditation on death leads these artists along unexpected courses, as we find when we view the installations, photographs, paintings and sculptures in this show.
Some artists, such as Renau and Heartfield in their photomontages, play with the image of death or treat it with irony and ridicule. Others, such as Ramón de Soto, James Lee Byars, Christian Boltanski, Julio González or Tàpies, prefer to employ metaphor or abstraction to reflect their artistic concern about the beyond. There is also, perhaps, a tendency to represent the idea of death from a very realistic viewpoint, as we see in the work of Andrés Serrano, or in cinematic terms, as with Equipo Crónica and Equipo Realidad.
The naturalness of the old coexistence with death has disappeared and in the twentieth century it became a taboo, like sex in other periods of history. Although it is present in all the media, death is consumed as a virtual simulacrum not connected with the pleasurable flow of our daily life. Contemporary society has turned its back on death and confined it to the cemetery.
Yet we are witnessing a kind of return of the theme of death, as can be seen in contemporary art, literature, films, photography and television drama, and in debates about subjects that worry contemporary men and women, such as euthanasia.
Modern society is undergoing a process in which there is a numbing of the way we see, accompanied by the phenomenon of the repression and concealment of death in a world of illusory longevity. Art reacts to these processes by setting death before our eyes in such a way that we cannot skirt round it.
The use of material from the IVAM Collection has made it possible to present an exhibition that ranges over historical ages, concepts and languages, producing a very substantial synthesis in which we can appreciate the emotional value of contemporary art in relation with human beings.