Historyline 18

The Rules of Abstraction

We want to continue the story of Josep Bartolí.
Our protagonist moved in 1946 to New York, where he contributed to Holiday magazine – one of the most popular magazines of the time – for more than twenty years. That same year, he began a sentimental relationship with Frida Kahlo.
He collaborated as a set designer and costume designer in Hollywood and combined his stays in Mexico and the United States. After several stays in Europe and after marrying Michelle Stuart in Mexico in 1953, he returned to New York in 1958, where he made contact with abstract expressionist painters: William de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, and Philip Guston. It is not surprising, therefore, that his painting in the early seventies was strongly influenced by abstractionism, although at the end of that same decade he returned to a critical figuration.
His participation in the press in exile was very intense as well, especially in the press associated with the socialist movement such as Mundo Socialismo y Libertad (started in 1943) and Gauche Européenne (1953-1958), both promoted by Enric Adroher i Gironella; and also in Ibérica (1955-1961), directed by Victòria Kent.
After Franco’s death, he returned to Catalonia several times, but in the end, he was unable to settle there, as he had intended. In 1982 he had his first major exhibition in Terrassa and in 1989 he made an important donation of drawings to Barcelona City Council. However, it was not until after his death, in 2002, that a major retrospective was held in the Catalan capital – with an extraordinary catalog – at the instigation of his friend Jaume Canyameres.

From so far to so close.

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