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Julio González - Space and Matter

For the first time ever in Brazil, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Fundação Abertis and Instituto Tomie Ohtake present a solo exhibition of works by the celebrated sculptor Julio González (Barcelona, 1876 – Arcueil, France, 1942) with the relevant sponsorship of the Arteris Group. For the event, curator Elena Llorens selected 70 pieces, including sculptures, drawings, paintings, photographs and documents by this Catalan artist who is now recognized as a founding father of modern iron sculpture and a major figure in 20th-century art history.


González' trajectory of metalworking began at his father's workshop, making ornamental pieces in late-19th-century modernist Barcelona. His virtuoso skills yielded a celebrated sculptural production, most of it conceived in the 1930s, after he had turned 50. From 1928 to 1929, Picasso asked González to work with him on a monument honoring the poet Guillaume Appolinaire, who died toward the end of the World War I. They traded ideas and experiences to then develop further collaboration that also let its mark on the sculptural production of the painter of Les Demoiselles d´Avignon. For González too it was the most experimental period of his iron sculpting career for it was the beginning of what he called "new art: drawing in space". He then joined the group Cercle et Carré [Circle and Square] and signed the Abstraction-Création manifesto together with Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger and Vassily Kandinsky in 1934.


"His iron sculptures must be seen in the disruptive context of the avant-gardes of the first half of the 20th century, characterized by intense formal investigation. González had the merit of giving sculpture a new grammar capable of taking material totally foreign to the tradition and using it to displace secular notions of volume and mass," says the curator.


The exhibition presents each stage of González's creative work to unveil his rich and complex artistic personality while following the path that led him to rely on iron as a means of renewing sculptural lingo. According to Llorens, the exhibition suggests a trajectory that starts from a formative period at his father's ornamental metal workshop in Barcelona before he  went on to concentrate on painting materials, which prompted a move to Paris – where he only gave up this kind of painting upon realizing that sculpture was the perfect medium for his self-expression. The third group of pieces comprises the various sculptural registers, formats and languages that he explored in just 15 years to give life to his original proposal of "drawing in space". Finally, there was González’ outcry when he publicly denounced the horrors of war (firstly the Spanish Civil War then World War II). This segment contains images of La Montserrat, one of his iconic sculptures shown at the 1937 Paris International Exposition featuring "a peasant woman armed with an invulnerable weapon: dignity," the curator added.


After Julio González's death, his daughter Roberta took on the mission of publicizing his work and as result he is now regarded as of one of the most iconic artists of modernity. In 1974, Roberta gifted some 200 sculptures, paintings, drawings and engravings to Museo de Arte Moderno de Barcelona (now Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya), thus making it one of the main institutions ensuring outreach for González' legacy. His oeuvre is also found in important collections such as Center Georges Pompidou in Paris, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, IVAM in Valencia and MoMA in New York.


Julio González

Julio González was born in Barcelona, Spain, in 1876. From an early age he was in contact with artistic activities. At the age of 15 he enrolled at an arts and crafts school (Enseñanzas de Aplicación) and started working with his siblings at his father's jewelry and metalworking business. In 1893, they opened a family workshop where they made and sold objects such as mirrors, floral bouquets and jardinière pieces that were entered for exhibitions and won awards. In 1899, Julio moved to Paris with his family and took up painting. From a Spanish bohemian lifestyle, he switched to the French version in Montparnasse and was involved with the Catalan artists living there, including Pablo Picasso. Ten years later he married Jeanne; the couple had their only daughter Roberta and soon separated. In 1927, after working as an apprentice welder at Soudure Autogène Française, he turned to favor sculpture in iron, the medium that gained him most recognition. This career change led to collaborations with Picasso himself and Constantin Brancusi. In 1937, he married the jewel maker Marie Thérèse Roux, whom he had been courting for years. Julio González had a heart attack and died in 1942 at the age of 66.


Elena Llorens

Curator with the Modern and Contemporary Art department at Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (Barcelona). As an expert on Catalan modern art, her published work covers artistic interconnections such as Julio González-Picasso; Duchamp’s, Man Ray’s & Picabia’s “Catalan connections”, and themes such as primitivism on the Catalan art scene and Miró's first steps in Barcelona. The many exhibitions she has curated or co-curated include The Catalan Object in the Light of Surrealism, Realism(s). The Mark of Courbet, and more recently Pere Torné Esquius. Poetics of the Everyday. At Museu Nacional she was chief curator for Yves Tanguy. The Surrealist Universe (co-produced with Musée des Beaux-Arts de Quimper) and Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia (co-produced with Tate Modern). She also teaches on master's programs at Barcelona universities.