La Quinta del Sordo group show
21 January – 5 March 2020, Tuesday to Friday
Borges says that it was Oscar Wilde who ironically attributed to Scotsman Thomas Carlyle the idea of writing «a biography of Michelangelo that omitted all mention of the works of Michelangelo.» Let no one be surprised: underlining the irony, Carlyle understood that the history of the world is nothing other than the biography of great men (see On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History, 1841) and that one is what one does. Borges reviews this boutade at the beginning of his commentary on the novel Vathek (1786) by William Beckford, but what interests us most here is another work by Beckford: his Biographical Memoirs of Extraordinary Painters (London, 1780, second edition, corrected and enlarged) which would be better translated as «Invented biographies of painters that don’t exist».
The Beckford Memoirs play the imposture based on the Lives of Vasari in a kind of mockery of the family collection of forgotten Flemish painters assembled by his father at the now gone Fonthill Abbey – also known as Beckford’s Folly – in the English county of Wiltshire. It was written for amusement and, supposedly, as a method of instruction and to inspire the family housekeeper, in charge of explaining the curious paternal gallery to the guests during their stay at the mansion. It is known that Beckford was responsible for these guided tours in his youth, before becoming an unrepentant traveler and collector, and that a woman had bitten her lip (and died of laughter) while the subjects represented in the paintings were described in detail and she had fantasized about the lives of their unknown authors.
Weird, fantastic, satirical, subtle, exquisite. Beckford wrote about the traveling painter and collector Aldrovandus Magnus, who loses everything in a fire, even his life; even his gifted and opposing disciples Andrew Guelph and Og de Basan went off on adventures to Italy; also the sweet and kind Sucrewasser of Vienna, worshiper of his masters; and Blunderbussiana, a somewhat stupid painter who learned by dissecting and drawing the corpses of the victims of his father, a hit man; and finally, the enormously cheesy Watersouchy, who will end his days devoted to the insignificant and painting a flea.
Following the game of mirrors, in our exhibition —which has the same frontispiece as Beckford’s little book: The false word can be a mirror of the truth— brings together a selection of works by five equally extraordinary artists, who are presented under pseudonyms: Claude Lantier, Eli Domingo, Judd Woland, Rafael Molina and Yo Romero sound like “invented painters” that actually show an unexpected, different turn in the way of painting of many other well-known artists: the secret of the landscape, the natural history of the secrecy, the freak bestiary, the manipulation and ramblings of the skull or the revival of Flemish Gothic.
They could be a second version, the alternative routes, just for fun, but they serve to enrich the mystery of these words of Jorge Ballester in an interview with El País (Monday, September 26, 2011) when he said: «if [Goya] dies before painting the Quinta del Sordo, Saturn devouring his children, or that strange dog, and he remains the painter of fans on the San Isidro meadow, Goya is a shitty painter. »
For that alone, for the attempt before the end, the opportunity of the difference and the possible rarity, who knows, it was worth it to gather by surprise these collector’s pieces.