"Optical Allusions" explores a range of images and perspectives that have emerged from a group of photographers in Spain during the 1990s. Eleven portfolios selected for their overlapping thematic and stylistic approaches reveal a rich and idiosyncratic photographic vision, in tune with international developments in photography and the arts.
A splatter of paint that wants to become the center of a photographic session. A nervous energy that wants to scribble and sniff about. A pressing urge to get to work and invent novelties from old materials, in search of a sort of truth contained within the sensation of the piece.
The first phantasmagoria was created in Paris in 1798 by a scientist obsessed with optical effects—Étienne-Gaspard Robert, later known as Robertson. His proto-cinematographic spectacle—using magic lanterns in a dark room to project spectral images of floating bodies—captivated European audiences in the first half of the nineteenth century.
OUR FACES, OUR ORGANS, OUR LIMBS are first and foremost parts of a feeling, sensitive body, parts of a body that feels and senses at the same time that it is entrapped in its physical complicity with the world, a body limited by other bodies and other faces.
"Autograms" began as an attempt to distance myself from the self-referential poetic explorations and dramatizations I carried out in earlier series. In this series I concentrate on the process itself as subject. The studio, converted into a large camera obscura, is the setting where a series of events takes place, the final result of which is to materialize self-referential photographic images.
An imaginary being, a fantastic animal, an abstract myth, an exploration into the nature of the object. I photograph the amputated body of the beast, a body transferred to the imaginary world of symbols, dreams, and fantasy. Taking photographs is an exercise in solitude and silence; I encounter the beasts and the elements in the ossuary of my dreams.
The title of this series of photographs, "Dark Glass," is a metaphor for a certain ambivalence inherent in any photographic artwork: on the one hand it acts as a mirror reflecting what is placed before it and, on the other hand, it allows us to look through it.
FACE For the person who makes a self-portrait, the face is the recognition of what’s not seen. The "I" searches for traces of itself: through earlier portraits, in mirrors, or in faces that resemble it, family faces. Through empathy, the child responds to the mother's smile; imitating her gesture, the child interprets the face of the person close at hand.
These images belong to a series I call "Hemograms." The idea was to invite friends and people close to me to provide a sample of their blood. Asking for someone’s blood requires a high degree of trust on both sides. It is a very symbolically and emotionally loaded gesture.
If anything defines our historical moment it is accumulation—the accumulation of images, data, information. The density and diversity of icons at the end of our century is so great that today we can speak of a civilization of images, since the space occupied by the technological media of communication is all-encompassing.
Oddly enough, in the inert presence of the object there is a constant invitation to action, a silent quietude that incites reflection. The object occupies that uncertain space halfway between reality and desire, and with its capacity to provide us with access to the most diverse perspectives, it is converted into a body through which our energies are channeled; a quality that will give it a great symbolic charge in which the spirit of our dreams appears and disappears.
The pictures reproduced here were made between 1987 and 1990. At that time I was interested in the possibility that the pure atmosphere of a picture could provide a sensation of reality. I was interested in analogies: in the fact that a bunch of small and meaningless objects could become a completely different and meaningful thing just by being photographed according to certain conditions.
There was a time when Madrid was everything. No more. Between the insulting fascist architecture and the elegant Madrid of the Austrians, between the long line of movie theaters on the Gran Vía and the twisted streets of the center, between the age-old trees of Retiro Park and the vast expanse of sky (there’s no city with more sky above), between the women selling roses and the white taxis slashed with blood-red lines, there are other dreams of Spain that ain't necessarily so.
PARANOIA AND THE POSTMODERN PICARESQUE Review: "Spanish Cinema Now!" at Lincoln Center, New York City, December 1998
"The most important thing," insists the cripple-abusing, soccer-addicted, coke-snorting, whiskey-chugging, sweat-oozing, larger-than-life ex-cop known only as Torrente, "is to be Spanish." But what does it mean these days to be Spanish?
DANIEL CANOGAR, born in Madrid in 1964, studied visual communications at the Complutense University before heading to New York, where he received his Master’s in photography from NYU/ICP in 1990. He has received numerous grants and artist-in-residency positions and has appeared in group and solo exhibitions worldwide.
In the following credits, dimensions are rounded to the nearest eighth of an inch, with the height listed first. Unless otherwise noted, all photographs are courtesy of, and copyright by, the artists. Front cover by Javier Vallhonrat, Ektacolor print, 43¾x43¾"; contents page by María José Gómez Redondo, Ektacolor print, 39x58½"; p. 2 by Eduard Ibañez, color photographs on aluminum and wood, 19¾x11⅜"; p. 4 by Pablo Genovés, Cibachrome over aluminum, 63½x19¼";