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?
Pop arrived in Spain from the Anglo-Saxon world in the 1960s. Initially the term wasn’t popular. It was mainly associated with the avant-garde of the time; later on it gained currency among the general audience. During Franco’s dictatorship, pop provided us with a subversive language against the regime. On the one hand it represented a change in aesthetic, and on the other hand it offered an opportunity to (visually) translate the social and political reality of the country, through a plastic language with great communicative potential.
Did you ever consider yourself (now or in the past) a pop artist?
At that time I forcefully embraced this new language, exploring all the possibilities it offered, collage, aerography, photomontage … in that precise moment, in my city, Valencia, we actively sought to represent the political condition of the time through plastic creation. This gave birth to many groups to which I was connected and we redeployed this new language in its many variants. Later we realised that the same was happening across Europe.
Did your work engage with current events in the 1960s and early 1970s?
Without a doubt. In those years early feminist texts were beginning to reach Spain; they slowly and timidly made their way into the country. As Spanish women we suffered from double repression: the politics imposed by the dictatorship and the inequality towards women. The political climate under the dictatorship had a strong National-Catholic drive, which subtly repressed intimate and moral behaviours, ultimately stressing differences between the sexes. In the most conservative classes, this repressive morality was upheld by the figure of the paterfamilias, whose logic saw women going from father to husband. In my work I reflected on the education imposed on Spanish women, encompassing everything from schooling to the strict sentimental culture they had to adapt to. Attending university proved very important for me, as it allowed me to reflect independently as well as exchange ideas. Women without access to culture didn’t have this opportunity.
El Informe Hite (The Hite Report) by Shere Hite and La Mística de la Feminidad (The Feminine Mystique) by Betty Friedan were both discoveries. Taking the cue from this context I began painting, I wanted to reflect on those issues. In this sense I felt that my work was deeply immersed in the social realm. Conceptually, it was a pop work in a pop language.
How did you choose the subject matter for your work included in The World Goes Pop?
Starting with an idea, I was able to explore it extensively through serialisation. The Morfolgías [Morphologies] series, is one of the earliest, most intimate and biographical examples. It developed as a response to my own anatomy, a lyrical series, joyful and vital. The sensual forms and the intense colours define the embraces, which are at the antipodes of real anatomy.
At the time I was looking at Tom Wesselmann’s work, especially his treatment of female anatomy, the flat planes … but I used an aerographer to give it a certain atmosphere. And I suppose it had to convey the three-dimensionality of art paper. The technique is acrylic paint on canvas. The canvas was fixed on a backboard and cut. My aim was for the painting to be circumscribed by the edges of the composition, in this way the effect would be more compact and would convey more strongly the idea of an embrace.
In the Misses series I take beauty contests as a way of considering how women are often treated as objects. Caught between extreme ‘market’ exposure, I make the glamorous dimension ironic through the use of collage. The images were drawn from found graphics of the time. In Labores, I painted embroidery, as needlework was a compulsory subject in middle school for girls at the time – thousands of hours were spent making the perfect tablecloth for the family to eat their meals on. It was the domestification of every creative impulse. Las Hadas are fables aimed at little girls promoted docility, humbleness and discretion – these were the values that every woman had to aspire to. I made paintings juxtaposing fairy tale-like imagery – misses, princes and princesses and beauty pageants, the great paradigms interspersed among the embroidery … and the bosses of fashion magazines. A collage arranged in vertical stripes combined these different layers.
Where did you get your imagery from (what, if any, sources did you use)?
Images are generated from one’s own society, graphics from gossip and women’s magazines, and children fables. The methodology consists of choosing an image, cutting it from a magazine and arranging the composition in such a way that it recalls a collage. It needs to appeal to a sense of irony and above all it needs to display a tinge of criticism, denunciation … mixed with iconographies of a distinct nature, I modified the sizes but always in keeping with the same idea. Once the graphic cuttings have been organised, then you start painting on canvas. The iconography must not get lost in this translation process. The technique is acrylic on canvas combined with an aerographic treatment. On other occasions I worked with serigraphs, repeated images combined with other elements.
Were you aware of pop art in other parts of the world?
Yes, but I had no knowledge of feminist painters, or the representation of women by other women. For me it was a great surprise, when after some time I became aware of American movements by women artists who were working along the same line of enquiry as mine. I was thrilled by this discovery!
Was commercial art an influence on your work or the way in which it was made?
My work was influenced by the iconography of female mass media, so in this sense I can say yes, through the subversion of the image that became the protagonist of a history very distinct from that of pink glamour.
Was there a feeling at the time that you doing something important and new, making a change…?
We conscientiously all worked in the name of a much-needed change. This was the standpoint from which we were moving, we risked it. With time – and historical perspective – you become fully conscious of its importance.
Was there an audience for the work at the time – and if so what was their reaction to it?
Yes there was an audience, but it was confined to intellectual circles and those belonging to the opposition. Some of my male colleagues were known outside of Spain, but it was hard to reach the man on the street – slowly, however, we achieved it, [through] group exhibitions, conferences, etc. In my specific case, the response was rather limited: my colleagues the boys didn’t consider women’s condition an urgent matter in those days.
Looking back at these works, what you do think about them now?
My work then had a strong autobiographical content – something quite usual in the creative production of a young person – but was also driven by a need to respond to the oppressive politics of the time. Seen from the distance of time, I am surprised by the technical maturity of the language and the visual expression of my ideas. At times they strike me as naive, also a trait of youth. But in general and with the weight of years behind me, I find these works very dignified and surprising.