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AGUSTÍ PUIG: Between Myth and Matter

SAN FRANCISCO 765 Beach Street San Francisco CA 94109 349 Geary Street San Francisco CA 94102 415.441.8008 / 800.926.9535

FRANKLIN BOWLES GALLERIES

NEW YORK 431 West Broadway New York NY 10012 212.226.1616 / 800.926.9537

AGUSTÍ PUIG: Between Myth and Matter

www.franklinbowlesgallery.com

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AGUSTÍ PUIG: Between Myth and Matter

FRANKLIN BOWLES GALLERIES San Francisco – New York

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AGUSTÍ PUIG: Between Myth and Matter Agustí Puig is without doubt a Catalan artist, embodying that region’s restless, inventive energy and philosophical questioning. While Catalonia’s rich cultural history reaches back to ancient times, its capital Barcelona has been regarded, since the end of the nineteenth-century, as a nexus of avant-garde activity. Puig is at home here—literally and figuratively, an heir apparent to its most renowned and radical modernist artists: Joan Miró, Antoni Tàpies, and Pablo Picasso; not to mention the Catalan masters of other mediums: architect Antoni Gaudi; poet Salvador Espiru, and musician and composer Pablo Casals. Barcelona still resounds with the chorus of their voices. Puig has listened to all of them, and boldly found his own. Among contemporary artists today, his work offers a remarkable unity of thought and form, a powerful and intimate fusion of poetic and material elements. Over the last twenty-five years, Agustí Puig has gained international prominence, exhibiting widely not only throughout Spain, but in Europe, the United States, Taiwan and Japan. His paintings, sculptures, and works on paper are increasingly sought after by collectors and museums. He is particularly beloved in his native country, where he was a finalist for the XXIV International Prize from the Joan Miró Foundation in Barcelona. He has also received commissions to create posters, murals, and other public monuments. Most importantly, Barcelona’s Fundació Vila Casas, opened in 1986 to highlight the leading artists of Spain and now viewed throughout Europe as an important venue for contemporary art, includes a significant collection of Puig’s works, spanning his entire career. Given his place in Spanish culture, it’s not surprising that when Woody Allen went seeking a model for the artist characters in Viki Cristina Barcelona (2008), played by Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, the director to landed in Puig’s studio. Puig’s paintings appear throughout the film, and the artist tutored Cruz to bring greater authenticity to her role. g Recently Puig was honored with a prestigious one-man show at the Can Framis Museum, in BarR celona. This was followed in New York by his inaugural show at the Franklin Bowles Galleries in c December 2014. The beginning of 2015 was marked by a radically ambitious installation of 100 D engravings made with Joan Roma, his long-time printmaker, at the Alella in Barcelona. e With W his youthful face and compact, athletic build, Puig could easily pass for younger than his fifty-eight years. Constantly moving, gesturing, drawing, Puig’s body pulses with an energy that cannot be contained. It’s a physical demonstration as eloquent as speaking about his t art. His wife Lola, a medical professional and researcher, is a well-matched partner (and a yin y to Puig’s yang, so to speak), who clearly understands the artist’s mind and soul and conttributes a layer of calm and order to their family life and the daily operations of the studio. Agustí’s studio is in a converted textile mill, enormous and filled with light. The building’s A sspacious industrial origins allow the artist to envision and create his extremely large-scaled works. Sketchbooks abound, drawers contain works on paper; dozens of canvases lean against the walls in different states. It is a place of work, action, and constant experimentation. Puig might begin with a large canvas propped against the wall; a suggestion of the human figure is summoned in a few lines. Thrown upon the floor, this body now joins the earth, and a pool of paint is poured and spread in a dance of the artist’s hand. From this, a profile appears in white; then another within it, but black. Fine lines are etched into the image and the world from which it is emerging—calligraphic notes from a forgotten language, ideas from a restless sleep. More paint layers are added, amplifying, altering, even occluding the forms that came before. The visceral power of Puig’s images comes from his direct and energetic physical approach to each and every work. 3

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Puig is unafraid of the accidental. Indeed, the spontaneity of his process involves entering into an almost shaman-like trance while working. Allowing the liquidity of his medium to prompt him, he relies upon intuition to coax meaning from the raw materials. As he insists, “When I start a painting, I never know how it will turn out.” A tear or spill easily becomes a source of inspiration; a collaged element can take the work in a completely unexpected direction. One can’t help but draw comparison with the similarly absorbed and performative activity of Abstract Expressionism’s most famous painter, Jackson Pollock. Puig’s engagement with the subject of the human figure remains a constant. His oeuvre is comprised of colossal beings, alone or in communion with one another, the earth and the universe. Men and women: aged philosophers, maidens, wanderers, lovers, orators, ritual initiates, aggressively or amorphously rendered, may even momentarily disappear, but always re-emerge within the artist’s work. Some figures are ambiguous; neither male nor female, nor entirely human; some are minotaurs, others are winged, evoking sphinxes; others seem part canine. Fragments abound: cropped male and female torsos, supple backs and buttocks, and most frequently, disembodied, monumental heads or faces, shown in profile. Often these float above, in mysterious relation to exaggerated oversize legs, hands, or feet. Some of these body parts morph into stylized glyphs signifying thought, feeling, motion—or some combination thereof. These may be emblems of loss or nostalgia for the past, invoking a longing for an earlier civilization, or suggestions of man in his most essentialized state. Puig’s fantastical, hybrid lexicon seems drawn as much from Surrealism as from an ancient, mythic Mediterranean realm.

Pablo Picasso’s presence is undeniably felt—in the audacity and inventiveness of Puig’s forms and in his facility in conjuring the body’s range of voluptuous, heroic, and tragic contours. Likewise, the underlying eroticism marking much of Puig’s art—especially in his monumental, contemplative women, reclining nudes, and bearded men with their beautiful companions, evokes Picasso’s classicized imagery of the 1930s and ‘40s. The mysterious anatomy and proportions of Puig’s figuration also call to mind Joan Miró’s pervasive and evercurious, synthetic language of personal symbols: strange synecdoches, mystical hybrids, monstrous creatures, and animated, wiry black lines, which remain unrestricted by the laws of gravity or logic. Among his countrymen, however, Puig’s closest affinity is with the highly intuitive, enigmatic, and intensely material art of Antoni Tàpies, who passed away in 2012. Working in a style known as pintura matérica (matter painting), Tàpies’ practice was strongly connected to the broader postwar currents of European existentialists: Jean Dubuffet, Alberto Giacometti, Jean Fautrier, among others associated with the Art Informel movement, who began using new techniques and non-artistic materials in unorthodox and improvisational ways in their paintings. In accord with his innovative and philosophically-driven spirit, Tàpies pushed the boundaries of decorum and pictorialism for decades—incorporating distortion, fragmentation, scrafitti, and roughly-impastoed surfaces, with pure pigment, grit, sand, and varnish, presenting viewers with a more poetically—probing and confrontationally—visceral encounter with art than had ever come before. 4

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Puig is unafraid of the accidental. Indeed, the spontaneity of his process involves entering into an almost shaman-like trance while working. According to the Catalan artist, his innovative and philosophically-driven exploration of materiality, of wrestling with its baseness and employing its most humble, even disagreeable elements within his art was tied to notions of mysticism, even spirituality in the everyday. He believed that if matter is always in flux, it could be creatively, alchemically transformed, and that, in turn, art ultimately had the ability to transform the realities of both the artist and viewer. BETWEEN MYTH AND MATTER

Like his famous predecessor, Puig has been drawn to the infinite risks, associations, and transformative possibilities of matter, action, and intuitive processes. This is evident in his varied surfaces, primarily worked up in neutral pigments of beige, ochre, black, terracotta, and white: the shades of earth, clay, parchment, dust, sand, and stone, organically enriched here or there with touches of aubergine or teal. Vibrant punctuations of red, suggestive of mineral deposits, fierce war paint, or ancient Pompeian walls, compel our immediate attention, while dense rubbery elements, fluid trails and crusty masses of fleshy pink, white, and ochre (which strongly recall the tactility of Tàpies’ surfaces), offer a corporeal experience that is equal parts sensuous and uncanny. Reflecting the story of direct, physical creation and spontaneous alchemy, Puig’s works express an exciting “presentness.” But their very materiality also seems to link them back to a primordial past. Distant, monolithic figures and abraded grounds convey the passage of time, a palimpsest of experiences, somehow retrieved and brought into view. As in the art of Cy Twombly, who was likewise fascinated by the strata of Mediterranean history, culture, and myth, enormous meaning is held within the subtleties of dulled whites—evoking marble and fresco, time, wear, and the ritual of use. In a form of personal archeology, Puig seems to continually excavate his own psyche, asking formal and philosophical questions by digging into layered surfaces. Hovering as it does between the themes of ancient past and immediate present, earth and cosmos, contour and mass, figure and fragment, myth and matter, Puig’s art seems to reflect a state of duality, even contradiction, appropriate to our own complicated era. Beckoning us, whispering, witnessing, crying out, Puig’s figures seem to wrestle with the question that has occupied man since the beginning of time. What does it mean to be human? In the well-known Sophoclean tragedy, on the road to Thebes, Oedipus successfully answers the monstrous Sphinx’s perplexing life-or-death riddle by responding, “Man is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three in the evening.” But, in surviving the critical test with this simple, intuitive answer, the archetypal hero realizes that his own existential journey, his quest for answers to the deeper meaning of life, has only just begun. Likewise, Agustí Puig continues on his path of discovery, without a road map...culling poetry from matter, and boldly negotiating and representing the intertwined human myths and precarious truths of the 21st century. Larissa Bailiff New York-based Art Historian And frequent lecturer at the Museum of Modern Art, NY 5

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Figure, Foot, Hair and Universe mixed media on canvas 86 x 116 cm, 33.5 x 45 inches 2008

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Figures and Shadows mixed media on canvas 130 x 162 cm, 51 x 63 inches 2008

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At the White Table mixed media on canvas 89 x 112 cm, 35 x 44 inches 2014

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Walking Statue mixed media on canvas 116 x 89 cm, 45.5 X 35 inches 2009

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Figure and Wings mixed media on canvas 89 x 116 cm, 38 X 51 inches 2009

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Under the Blue mixed media on paper 85 x 125 cm, 33 x 49 inches 2009

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The Public mixed media on wood 250 x 250 cm, 97.5 x 97.5 inches 2010

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In Black and White mixed media on canvas 92 x 74 cm, 36 x 29 inches 2009

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Table Striped in Red mixed media on canvas 89 x 112 cm, 35 x 44 inches 2014

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Dog Man mixed media on canvas 116 x 89 cm, 45 x 35 inches 2009

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Couple and Silk Scarf mixed media on canvas 122 x 150 cm, 48 x 59 inches 2014

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Woman and Figure by her Side mixed media on canvas 122 x 150 cm, 47.5 x 58.5 inches 2009

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Figures and White Line mixed media on canvas 90 x 122 cm, 35.5 X 48 inches 2009

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Three Women mixed media on canvas 90 x 122 cm, 35 x 47.5 inches 2015

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Starting Ancient Egypt mixed media on canvas 122 x 160 cm, 47.5 x 62 inches 2014

(facing page) Somebody is Watching mixed media on canvas 160 x 122 cm, 63 x 48 inches 2014

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Two Figures mixed media on canvas 130 x 162 cm, 51 x 63 inches 2015

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Hug mixed media on paper 69 x 48 cm, 27 x 19 inches 2015

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Black Chair in the Middle mixed media on paper 79 x 48 cm, 31 x 19 inches 2015

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Three Unveiled Figures mixed media on canvas 114 x 146 cm, 44 x 57 inches 2015

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Resting Figure and Numbers mixed media on paper 65 x 55 cm, 25 x 21 inches 2015

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Seated Woman and Numbers mixed media on canvas 150 x 122 cm, 58.5 x 47.5 inches 2015

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Female Figure, Wind and Numbers mixed media on canvas 74 x 133 cm, 29 x 52 inches 2015

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Figures over Red mixed media on paper 79 x 118 cm, 31 x 46 inches 2015

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Body Numbers, II mixed media on paper 48 x 69 cm, 19 x 27 inches 2015

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Body Numbers, I mixed media on paper 48 x 69 cm, 19 x 27 inches 2015

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Body Numbers, V mixed media on paper 48 x 69 cm, 19 x 27 inches 2015

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Numeratio mixed media on paper 48 x 69 cm, 19 x 27 inches 2015

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Red Shadow on Dark Background mixed media on canvas 92 x 73 cm, 36 x 28 inches 2013

(facing page) Seated Man mixed media on paper 118 x 79 cm, 46 x 31 inches 2015

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Body Numbers, III mixed media on paper 69 x 48 cm, 27 x 19 inches 2015

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Body Numbers, IV mixed media on paper 69 x 48 cm, 27 x 19 inches 2015

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Four Women mixed media on canvas 150 x 183 cm, 58.5 x 71 inches 2014

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Figures under Rain mixed media on paper 58 x 80 cm, 23 x 31 inches 2015

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Three Figures Close-Up mixed media on canvas 122 x 150 cm, 47.5 x 58.5 inches 2015

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Figure in the Middle (dyptic) mixed media on canvas 116 x 178 cm, 45 x 69 inches 2010

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Opened Arms mixed media on canvas 165 x 200 cm, 64 x 78 inches 2007

(facing page) Sleeping Couple mixed media on paper 48 x 69 cm, 19 x 27 inches 2015

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To Climb Up mixed media on canvas 162 x 130 cm, 63 x 51 inches 2013

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Profile of Woman Waiting mixed media on canvas 160 x 122 cm, 62 x 47.5 inches 2015

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Two Figures and Shadow Face over Red mixed media on canvas 72 x 211 cm, 28 x 82 inches 2014

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Woman and Red Background mixed media on canvas 100 x 150 cm, 39 x 58.5 inches 2006

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Woman in the Middle mixed media on canvas 81 x 65 cm, 31.5 x 25 inches 2006

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Running Figure with Opened Arms (dyptic) mixed media on canvas 117 x 178 cm, 46 x 69 inches 2010

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Dance Close-Up mixed media on canvas 162 x 130 cm, 63 x 51 inches 2014

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Two Figures on the Right Side mixed media on canvas 183 x 150 cm, 71 x 58.5 inches 2011

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Index 8 At the White Table

31 Seated Woman and Numbers

28 Black Chair in the Middle

48 Sleeping Couple

35 Body Numbers, I

24 Somebody is Watching

34 Body Numbers, II

25 Starting Ancient Egypt

40 Body Numbers, III

16 Table Striped in Red

41 Body Numbers, IV

14 The Public

36 Body Numbers, V

45 Three Figures Close-Up

18 Couple and Silk Scarf

29 Three Unveiled Figures

58 Dance Close-Up

22 Three Women

17 Dog Man

50 To Climb Up

32 Female Figure, Wind and Numbers

26 Two Figures

11 Figure and Wings

52 Two Figures and Shadow Face over Red

46 Figure in the Middle (dyptic)

59 Two Figures on the Right Side

6 Figure, Foot, Hair and Universe

13 Under the Blue

7 Figures and Shadows

10 Walking Statue

20 Figures and White Line

19 Woman and Figure by her Side

33 Figures over Red

54 Woman and Red Background

44 Figures under Rain

55 Woman in the Middle

42 Four Women 27 Hug 15 In Black and White 37 Numeratio 49 Opened Arms

FALL 2015 PROJECT MANAGER: Stacey

Bellis Carter GRAPHIC EFFECTS: Scott Saraceno CATALOG DESIGN: Susan Tsuchiya PHOTOGRAPHY: Phebe

51 Profile of Woman Waiting

Front cover: Profile of Woman Waiting (detail)

39 Red Shadow on Dark Background

Inside covers & envelope: Three Figures Close-Up (detail)

30 Resting Figure and Numbers 56 Running Figure with Opened Arms (dyptic)

Pages 1, 60 & back cover: Three Women (detail)

38 Seated Man

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$40

AGUSTÍ PUIG: Between Myth and Matter

SAN FRANCISCO 765 Beach Street San Francisco CA 94109 349 Geary Street San Francisco CA 94102 415.441.8008 / 800.926.9535

FRANKLIN BOWLES GALLERIES

NEW YORK 431 West Broadway New York NY 10012 212.226.1616 / 800.926.9537

AGUSTÍ PUIG: Between Myth and Matter

www.franklinbowlesgallery.com

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Agusti Puig: Between Myth and Matter  

Franklin Bowles Galleries, New York November Exhibition, 2015

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