Joan Cardells (Equipo Realidad)

Was ‘pop art’ a term used by yourself or colleagues or was there a different terminology that referred to a new figurative art movement in the 1960s and early 1970s?

Not exactly. It was a term that I had heard of through the magazine L’Europeo, which was shown to me by my professor Victor Manuel Gimeno and featured an article on the 1964 Venice Biennale, illustrated with works by Robert Rauschenberg, winner of the Golden Lion. At first, the term pop was connected to Rauschenberg and to the Biennale, but in my opinion it was also related to the impact that could be seen in his works, which were capable of cooling the atmosphere and being very seductive, even when printed in a magazine. The terminology we used was Critical Figuration, as we did not want to be Narrative Figuration – which to some extent we followed closely, including artists such as Aillaud, Recalcati, Arroyo and Tina Maselli – nor pop, because we didn’t want to become confused with disciples of North American pop either.

Did you ever consider yourself (now or in the past) a pop artist?

Of course we became artists with pop ingredients, for we started to add images of objects such as washing machines in our works, which had not occurred to us previously.

Did your work engage with current events in the 1960s and early 1970s?

Yes, our work was closely tied to current international events, more than national or local ones, because of censorship. We were cautious because censorship was watching us: we had a problem with a serigraphy of Che Guevara. But the critical stance was always above the local or the general.

How did you choose the subject matter for your work included in The World Goes Pop?

It was an idea we came across while skimming through art historical images: the work by Leonardo Da Vinci was a well-respected image that we altered with a contemporary image of a North American marine [Divine proportion]. It was an ironical take on the universal repression at the hands of Western powers, the supposed perfection and kindness of Western repressive powers. To this end, and more [Jorge] Ballester than myself, we inherited Josep Renau Berenguer’s ironical mechanisms, which were more anecdotal than pictorial.

Where did you get your imagery from (what, if any, sources did you use)?

It was easy to find images by Leonardo because of their enormous distribution. Even images of Marines were easy to come by, given that in those years they could be found in any newspaper. The olive green of his uniform is a conventional olive green, not printed with actual camouflage.

Were you aware of pop art in other parts of the world?

Yes, through the magazine L’Europeo I became familiar with the work of Robert Rauschenberg, and during the first trip I took to Paris, at the end of 1966, I had the chance to visit the group exhibition, La Jeune Peinture, which included Italian and French painters. In our case, in Valencia, and through Tomás Llorens and Julio Aguilera, we tried to adapt pop to a critical figuration, which became known as ‘chronic of reality’.

Was commercial art an influence on your work or the way in which it was made?

Yes, of course, at first in terms of the incorporation of objects, calligraphy and visual solutions like spot colours (uniform colours).

Was there a feeling at the time that you were doing something important and new, making a change...?

In the local panorama absolutely yes, because what we did surpassed accepted, yet already assimilated, conventions (informalism, abstraction etc.)

Was there an audience for the work at the time – and if so what was their reaction to it?

The audience was very limited, but very loyal. It was a minority that came from the university circles and not from the world of those artists who were seated in their own academia. Another issue is whether they actually perceived the message, but indeed we had support. 

Looking back at these works, what you do think about them now?

They were effective, yet naïve, with little atmosphere.

September 2015