Manolo Valdés - New Now New York Tuesday, September 28, 2021 | Phillips

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  • "When Art Informel, Abstract Expressionist, and formalist criticism were predominating trends, [Valdés] devoted himself to personal figuration. His brand of realism promised to make legible what Abstract Expressionism eschewed." —Kosme de Barañano

    “I am just a narrator who comments on the history of painting in various ways, using new materials,” the painter, draughtsman, sculptor, and printmaker Manolo Valdés claims, “[it] is like a game that consists of changing the code and the key to the artwork.”1 Utilizing various compositions from art history, Manolo Valdés has achieved near-iconic status as one of Spain’s most prominent living artists. He looks to the work of masters of Western art—namely Diego Velázquez, Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Henri Matisse—as prompts for his canvasses as he creates large-scale compositions teeming with bombastic force, exemplified by the scale and immediacy of the present work, Constance sobre fondo oscuro, 2010. Lingering in the ether between inspiration and appropriation, Valdés’s paintings indirectly allude to historical works, mediated through his distinctly linear and colorful style.


    Constance sobre fondo oscuro—translated as “Constance before a dark background”—is a fascinating example of Valdés’s careful consideration of historical practices in painting and composition. Like the anonymity of the background behind her, there are no explicit clues as to who Constance is, or where her portrait is drawn from. Valdés leaves us only an archetypal portrait, mysterious and allegorical, emerging between wisps of black paint and saturated fields of color, confronting the viewer with her pondering gaze.


    Paul Klee, Senecio (Baldgreis), 1922. Kunstmuseum Basel, Sammlung Online.

    Underneath the sharp features of the subject, Valdés has spread sheaths of color across the canvas with a palette knife. Various pieces of canvas are sewn onto the work, intensifying the material weight and separating fields of color. Valdés’s lines and the thin face of his figure recall the figures of Paul Klee, whose linear brand of Expressionism vibrates with modern bravado and color. Like Klee, Valdés deploys the historical genre of portraiture with a contemporary flair, paying homage while also continuing a decidedly individual practice.

    "What did Pop art teach us? It taught us large scale. So when I look at and reread that image from the 17th century, I can’t stop thinking and block out everything that’s happened in art history between then and now. Everything that’s happened becomes a tool with which to reinterpret the original image."—Manolo Valdés

    1 Manolo Valdés 1981–2006, exh. cat., Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 2006, p. 20

    • Provenance

      Marlborough Gallery, New York
      Galería la Cometa, Bogotá
      Private Collection
      Acquired from the above by the present owner


Constance sobre fondo oscuro

signed, titled and dated "Constance sobre fondo oscuro 2010 M VALDÉS" on the reverse
oil, thread and burlap collage on burlap
90 x 74 in. (228.6 x 188 cm)
Executed in 2010.

Full Cataloguing

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $252,000

Contact Specialist

Patrizia Koenig

Head of New Now Sale

212 940 1279

New Now

New York Auction 28 September 2021