A new exhibition opening in Washington, D.C. this week, Spanish Illustrators: The Color of Optimism features outstanding works by contemporary illustrators in Spain who are creating new trends. Curated by journalist and cultural manager Mario Suárez, cofounder of Gunter Gallery, the exhibition features a generation of talented creators who frequently contribute to national and international publications, galleries, museums and popular brands.
The exhibition opens tonight (RSVP required for the public opening) at the Former Residence of the Ambassadors of Spain (2801 16th Street NW) but will remain open to the public through June 26. It is presented by SPAIN arts & culture with the support of the Embassy of Spain and the Spain-USA Foundation and organized by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID).
This collective exhibition – which has toured Rome, Frankfurt, Berlin, among other cities — confirms the growing interest in both Spanish culture and the art of illustration. Drawing on a strong tradition, the art of illustration is currently thriving in Spain. In the early 2000’s, a group of groundbreaking illustrators emerged and began a major international expansion. Professionalism, originality and diversity of styles are concepts that define this generation.
Suárez has selected 28 trailblazing artists who are in great demand internationally. The illustrators participating in this exhibition are: Raúl Allen, Marta Altés, Óscar del Amo, Iban Barrenetxea, Paula Bonet, Mikel Casal, Ricardo Cavolo, César Fernández Arias, Carla Fuentes, Óscar Giménez, Javier Jubera, Violeta Lópiz, Sean Mackaoui, Estudio Merino, Gabriel Moreno, Santiago Morilla, María Pascual, Silvia Prada, Sonia Pulido, Paco Roca, Conrad Roset, Aitor Saraiba, María Simavilla, Eva Solano, Iván Solbes, Robert Tirado, Luis Úrculo and Noemí Villamuza.
This young generation of Spanish artists lead Spain’s boom in illustration, a hybrid and versatile genre well adapted to current times while representing a global reference for their creativity. “The first thing that I want to say to you is that illustration is part of art history,” Suárez points out. “For many years illustration was considered a low category of art, but this is not so,” he explains… “During the last century the leading Spanish artists worked through illustration and this is not widely known.”
The strong tradition of Spanish illustration has been an important asset to art history and continues to be significant in both the art industry and in the media. Some of the great names in art history — Goya, Picasso and Dalí — were distinguished Spanish illustrators and engravers who prompted the development of this artistic discipline making it one of the essential foundations of fine arts.
The importance of illustrations also increased in Spain throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Suárez says, with magazines such as El Museo Universal (1857 and 1869) and Blanco y Negro (1891-2005), a weekly illustrated publication that included articles about everyday life and customs, literature and culture by some of the greatest names of the 19th century.
Spanish illustrators continued to sign the headings of international magazines throughout the 20th century, but it was not until the 1990’s that they achieved worldwide fame that has followed them ever since. “Mariscal and his work for the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Max and his legendary cover for The New Yorker magazine, Ana Juan and her numerous collaborations in The New Yorker, and Jordi Labanda and his works for Wallpaper, Vogue USA, and The New York Times Sunday Magazine, have been central figures in the world of illustration in the last 30 years,” Suárez observes.
On Friday, April 22 and Saturday, April 23, artist Ricardo Cavolo will be drawing a big illustration live. The public is invited to watch as he draws. On Saturday, April 23, at noon an inaugural lecture at the Former Residence of the Ambassadors of Spain will feature Suárez and José Villarrubia, illustrator, comic colorist and chair of the illustration department at Maryland Institute College of Art. They will discuss the state of Spanish illustration today: its internationalization, celebrated creators, trends and publishing industry. Admission is free but space is limited, so please RSVP.