Joaquim Vicens Gironella:
For the second time, the gallery dedicates a monographic exhibition to the work of spanish artist Joaquim Vicens Gironella, showing more than 20 cork sculptures from the 1950s to his death.
In 1948, Joaquim Vicens Gironella (1911-1997) became, after Adolf Wölfli, the second outsider artist to be exposed by André Breton and Jean Dubuffet in the pavilion that Gaston Gallimard provided them in the garden of his publishing house. An enthralled Dubuffet wrote in the introduction of the exhibition catalogue: “This living material, this organic flesh he manipulates – we can hear trees and forests utter through the cork – seem to stir the artist into poetic litanies, even sending him into wild delirium. The movement of his creation is Spanish: a frenzied dance, a brutal veracity, the tragically grotesque, a reverence to ugliness, alongside grave, philosophical eroticism, blood, and death.”
The Catalan cork worker, who exiled himself to Toulouse following Franco’s victory, applied his skills to unfettered creativity.
His intricate cork sculptures and bas-reliefs gave flesh both to the sacred devotion and to the profane sensuousness of his native Catalonia, sometimes fused together in a demonstration of the surprising filiation of Catalonian Romanesque art and Surrealism. As an artist, the way he honored of this tawny cork’s qualities could rival with the most aristocratic of sculptural art. Whether he polished it or preserved its roughness, he was forging a bewitching pact with light.
Behind the perceptible jubilation showed, here and there, the melancholy of exile, the nostalgia of a paradise lost by the one who wrote in a letter to Dubuffet: “I rejected all the lesson”.
Such historical collections are getting scarcer and scarcer, in opposition to outsider art’s ballooning notoriety. It is why, 15 years after the first exhibition we dedicated to him, we are particularly happy to honor his incredible talent with a representative showcase of his work from the 1950s to his death.
Born in Catalonia, Gironella (1911-1997) followed at an early age in his father’s footsteps in cork craftsmanship. Engendering a lifelong history with cork, unbothered by the exile to France forced by Franco. Thus, in 1948, Jean Dubuffet and André Breton dedicated an exhibition to him. Then, in 1967, Gironella is included in the exhibition L’art brut at the Musée des Arts Décoratif (Paris), hosted by François Mathey, then chief curator. Since 2021, he has been part of the traveling exhibition Francesc Tosquelles. Comme une machine à coudre dans un champ de blé, which will end its road at the New York American Folk Art Museum (after Les Abattoirs, Toulouse ; The Reina Sofía Museum , Madrid ; Contemporary cultural center Barcelone).
Text: Guillaume Oranger
Foreword: Christian Berst
Catalog published to mark the exhibition joaquim vicens gironella: lost paradise, from April 6 to May 14, 2023.