AB INITIO provides us with a privileged occasion to discover the traits and nature of this fabulous being, in addition to confronting us with a work which, as The Nightmare by Füssli, may be spine-chilling. Parto de una mapunda hipotrópica voraz [A Ravenous Hypotropical Mapunda in Labour], one of the last three-dimensional paintings by Valcárcel which is now exhibited for the first time, represents the terrible, private moment when this mythical entity gives birth to its homunculus. In the catalogue for the 2008 exhibition Naturalezas disecadas [Stuffed Natures], when the whereabouts of this work were still unknown, Valcárcel, who regretted not being able to include it in the core section of that exhibition, recalls that “Parto de una mapunda hipotrópica voraz… was a rare piece which had never been exhibited publicly… which I created in the late 1970s on commission by a collector from Tenerife, after whose sudden death it became part of another local private collection.“
Ernesto Valcárcel would also present works resembling puzzles and draftboards in the cycle’s last exhibition, which gives us strong clues as to his Duchampian lineage. They are both games that enable the movement of their pieces, the former by aesthetic intuition and the latter by construction logic. The two draftboards exhibited in AB INITIO perhaps represent the extreme solutions between which the series ranged—it is surprising to see the baroque impetus that led him to make the pieces in one of them with doll arms, whose hands hold different symbolic motifs and revealing inscriptions, in contrast with the more sensitive, oriental emptiness of the other one, arranged only by soft chromatic values.
The puzzles, on the other hand, are cut-out and re-assemblable drawings, with vibrant colours and strokes that are close to comic, with collage elements and texts integrated into them. These are works in the realm of the most expressionist pop-art, namely of Robert Rauschenberg whose work, together with that of many others, he was able to discover in a 1969 exhibition on this movement that he had the opportunity to visit during his few months’ stay in London. The puzzles would be exhibited for the first time in Secuencias de un ámbito onírico, as previously noted, and for the second and last time in L’age de la colle, a 1989 exhibition at Estudio Artizar that brought together four artists who used collage in their works: Ernesto Valcárcel, Candido Camacho, José Luis Medina Mesa and Fernando Álamo. The unusual thing is that the puzzles were exhibited and sold “wrapped in rudimentary, small brown-paper packages sealed with adhesive tape (…) hidden from public curiosity and expectation“, quoting the artist’s own words in the catalogue for the exhibition El jardín caligráfico.
Specifically for El jardín caligráfico, held in 2003, Valcárcel would resolve to edit the puzzles in a collector’s edition, but not at their real size but rather over-dimensioned, limiting their handling and their ludic functionality in order to enhance plasticity and presence. Two copies of that edition reminisce them by way of end of the tour to which AB INITIO serves as an invitation.
From 1979, the second and last date on which Ernesto Valcárcel signs Parto de una mapunda…, the three-dimensional works would give way to other essays that would crystallise in a new abstract episode. In his next 1983 exhibition entitled La mitología Nintra, the few volumetric pieces exhibited would once again be objects, now set in a povera sobriety that accompanies the fragmentation and randomness of his pictorial experience, which in the following years would end up becoming an investigative method and even a new feature of his artistic identity. As for the three-dimensional work, the asphalt-coated fabric sculptures, the games… they would drift away encapsulated in their time, still they have remained significant in the adventure of their creation as one of the truly convincing reasons to believe in it.
Carlos E. Pinto Trujillo
We would like to thank Ernesto Valcárcel for his selfless support to this exhibition that recalls his work in an obscurely transitional yet brightly discovering decade, providing us with unpublished material and works of his collection that he keeps since then. We would also like to thank Gonzalo Díaz or Sala Conca, for the lending of its Valcárcel collection and for having contributed to that desperate adventure.
Last, we would like to thank all those who have participated in the organisation and setting up of AB INITIO.