The past few weeks I have been acquainting myself with the visual art that the city of Córdoba has to offer. These included the Museo de Bellas Artes de Córdoba, the Museo Julio Romero De Torres, and the Centro de Creación Contemporánea. Whilst there is still more to see, my wanderings gave me a varied picture of fine art in this part of Spain.
The Museo de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum) has a somewhat misleading name. I expected a variety of work spanning history, but it was solely focused on the work of Antonio del Castillo, a Baroque painter of the 17th Century. Whilst these paintings are undeniably good, they are all religious scenes, highlighting the importance of Catholicism to the country, which is not something I can personally relate to emotionally. Still, these works are important and worthwhile to see, as are historic buildings such as the Mezquita-Catedral, and the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos.
Opposite the Fine Arts Museum was the Museo Julio Romero De Torres. In the entrance, I noticed the distinctive style, and working during the 19th and 20th centuries, which applied more to my tastes. There were religious paintings, such as the Arcangel San Rafael, which was a reproduction of a Castillo painting, but it became clear that flamenco was almost a religion to Romero. The works really captured the spirit of the art form.
In Mira Que Bonita Era, the description stated the prominence of three themes within Romero’s work that he found so moving – Andalusían song, women, and death – with the title of the piece taken from flamenco classic, soleá. The scene shows a young woman lying dead in her coffin, surrounded by relatives, who are crying around her. Whilst this trio of fascinations is questionable from a Feminist perspective, one cannot help but be seduced by the women portrayed by Romero.
Romero underlines how Córdoba’s past influences the psychology of its people
These women are not there to be objectified, but to tell a story, centre of their own narratives. In La Copla, the woman carries her guitar, a shawl draped around her shoulders, revealing a blade tucked into her garter. In Cante Jondo, we are shown a complex scene which includes various symbols of passion and tragedy, including an extract of poetry; the result of Arabic songs, showing the influences of the different Mediterranean civilizations. Poemas de Córdoba shows eight portraits of women representing Córdoba through its different epoch: warrior, Baroque, Jewish, Christian, Roman, religious, bullfighter. In the polyptych, Romero underlines how Córdoba’s past influences the psychology of its people, as each of the women stand within a background that shows the history through its architectural setting.
Finally, in Centro de Creación Contemporánea, one sees contemporary art being created today by both Spanish and international artists. The work exhibited here couldn’t be further away from the tradition of painting. Falke Pisano finds the place where art and mathematics meets, with use of video and sculptural work. Nicoline Van Harskamp presented a series of eight films under the title ‘Englishes’, exploring the use of the English language by non-native speakers. Lastly, there was a mysterious space with desks and chairs, titled Monaña Negra, which turned out to be a project space within the gallery.
Yet, my journey through the streets of Córdoba also lead me to some street art, which came full circle, connecting the tradition of painting in an unexpected setting. A staircase with the words ‘tu nombre las estrellas’ (you name the stars) leads to a secluded park, a large portrait of a man in a tracksuit top appears through the trees, and a closer look reveals more paintings on the wall. On another section of the wall, there is a cityscape which looks like watercolour, including graffitied walls, people sitting on apartment blocks, a scene at an ice-cream stand, and yet another wall shows people in blocks of colour and patterns under some festive bunting.
Whether inside a building or simply walking through the streets of Córdoba, there is always something different to see. One of the things you notice about the city is how sociable it is. Perhaps the generally good weather, people spill out into the street from tiny bars, talking deep into the night. This connects with the prominence of people in the artwork. Through all this you can see the mixture of influences – from the obvious Catholic influence, to the passion of flamenco, to the importance of Spanish people (amongst others globally) needing to learn English (more so after the economic crisis), we can see that the personal is political, as well as appreciate the art for its beauty.
Featured image © celta4 on Flickr