Josep Grau-Garriga (1929-2011) considered that clothing is like a second skin and that it is not imposed on us but that we choose it, and that through it we can discover the taste and character of a person. Even catch its essence. That is why the artist from Sant Cugat, a great revolutionary of textile art in the seventies, often embedded garments that had belonged to family or friends into his tapestries, along with newspaper clippings, wire or those burlap sacks with which he was familiar since childhood, a peasant's son who drew while herding goats. “He lived creating and created what he lived. Creation and life are absolutely interwoven in his work”, points out his daughter Esther, manager of the legacy, among the gigantic sculptures that make up Dialogue of Light, an immersive installation that transforms the Macba tower into the setting for one of those ephemeral environments that He has done it all over the world, from a ski slope in Vermont to the Plaza de Sant Jaume or a gallery in New York.
Dialogue of light also means the entry into the Macba of an artist whose work is part of the collections of the Metropolitan in New York or the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, but whose figure in our country continues to hide in the shadows. Until now, the Barcelona museum had never dedicated an exhibition to it and it only has one work (Punt cec) in its collections. The project that now places him in the spotlight is part of his interest in rescuing figures that were forgotten by traditional historiography that, as in this case, relegated textile art as a minor art, leaving those who practiced the textile technique out of the picture. story of contemporary art.
Grau-Garriga, who discovered the tapestry technique to artists such as Miró, Subirachs or Tàpies, went far beyond traditional textile art. In the seventies, he freed the tapestries from their flat reproduction, assimilated to painting, and endowed them with a new three-dimensionality, giving volume to the pieces until they became authentic sculptures. It is then that he begins to work on his environments, ephemeral creations very close to the happening that the artist created in all kinds of places, from outdoor landscapes to intimate spaces.
He always made them collectively, with the help of his art students or people interested in his creation who came from different parts of the world. “He had the ability to see beyond the limits of the tapestry, he wanted to extend its poetics through collective action”, says the director of MACBA, Elvira Dyangani Ose. And her daughter Esther remembers that those actions, which lasted several days, transferred "the enthusiasm, joy, hope and involvement of the whole world". She often used them as a reporting tool.
One of his epic environments took place in 1978 on the slopes of Sugarbusch, in Vermont, where he covered the mountains over which he wanted to expand a ski slope with kilometers of red and black cloth in the face of opposition from the neighbors. A year earlier, coinciding with the celebration of September 11, he erected a scaffolding made up of sickles covered in the colors of the Republican flag in the middle of Plaça de Sant Jaume.
Prefiguring what, according to Dyangani Ose, would be a desirable presence of Grau-Garriga in the Macba, the museum has brought together three gigantic tapestries (they measure eight meters and weigh seventy kilos) that make up a single work, shown together for the first time in 1988. , at the Palau Robert. The presentation has required the involvement of the restoration workshop, which has worked intensively for eight months. The sample, in which the preparatory drawings have also been included, authentic brainstorming, will be in Barcelona until September 11. Grau-Garriga was invited to the Sydney Biennale in 2020. Why is he more remembered abroad than within his country? "It is still to be understood," says his daughter, who is confident that this exhibition will change his luck.