Antoni Gaudí i Cornet (1852 – 1926) was a Spanish Catalan architect from Reus and the best known practitioner of Catalan Modernism. His greatest work is the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família in Barcelona. I had a chance today to see the exhibition Gaudí: Barcelona, 1900 at the Tomie Ohtake Institute in São Paulo, leading me to a number of quiet reflections.
The institute introduces the exhibition with the following notes:
The show’s curators, Raimon Ramis and Pepe Serra Villalba, highlight the constructive process in Gaudí’s projects through three-dimensional models that emphasize details of his architecture. In the field of design, furniture and objects, from metal doorknobs to ceramic and wood items, encompass how artisanal creations were able to substantiate an industry. The consecrated Catalan architect’s body of works is a testimony to an original geometry, calculated while observing and studying nature’s movements. With this rational principal featured by the organic, Gaudí establishes a unique modern aesthetic that definitively marked Barcelona.
To illustrate the abundance in the period in which Catalonia’s capital rose as a modern city project, the curators chose 26 pieces between objects and decorative elements conceived by what were called ensembliers (high level artisans), as well as 16 paintings. These artists were contemporary to Gaudí, developing their work in accordance with Catalan modernist principles. Among them, we can mention painters Ramón Casas and Santiago Rusiñol, and ensembliers like Gaspar Homar or Joan Busquets, who decorated and furnished the homes of the Catalan bourgeoisie at the time.
It is this same bourgeoisie that collaborated with the innovation and integration process between urbanism, architecture, art, design and industry, acting as patrons for this important generation of artists and artisans who conform one of the most fruitful and representative movements Catalan culture. “A moment in which the cultural basis of contemporary Catalonia was built, in which industrial process, intimate side, moment, fate, and mechanization etc. gained space and artistic activities were open to new ideas”, the curators explain. In this panorama, the duo suggests, Gaudí’s work condensates the turn of the century’s technical, aesthetical and social debates.
The exhibition marks an extremely interesting transition in Catalan culture, where portraits became democratised and the elites were forced into a new reality, one where the distinction between private and public life broke down, one in which the painters of this epoc soght to portray beauty in dispair, discovering a new relationship with light and colour.
We are now in another period of great transition, one which although marked by chaos and confusion, “post-facts” and “fake-news”, is also seeing a reaction once more to an out-of-touch elite ruling class. There is nothing new in what we are experiencing, the challenge is to remain authentic, hold fast amid great criticism (as Gaudí also received despite his genius) and stick to our paths.
Following my trip to the gallery, I took a short walk, passing the street art you see below. The phrase on the second picture says “The darkest night follows the brightest stars”. It is always interesting to be embedded into the transition of consciousness here in Brazil, as it is not always found in the places which in theory it should be.