Julio, Roberta & Joan González in “Popular”, IVAM Centre Julio González, through April 2024

Works by Julio & Roberta González at the entrance of “Popular”

Julio, Roberta and Joan González are currently featured in the IVAM Centre Julio González’s collective
exhibition “Popular”, an expansive show that explores the complex notion of the “popular”, as under-represented communities find a voice through symbolic representation.

Visitors are greeted with various depictions of countrywomen by Julio and Roberta González, rendered in
paintings, drawings and sculptures.  Country life was the most frequently represented theme in Julio González’s work, and was also explored at length by his daughter, Roberta, during her formative years.

González’s depictions of country life through the late 1920s are peaceful scenes of agricultural work
and sociability in a bucolic countryside, as visible in his drawings in the second column from the right, “Countrywomen with two chickens” (1926), and “The encounter” (c. 1920-1930), where a male agricultural worker and two kerchief-wearing women meet in a lush orchard.

During the Spanish Civil War, the countrywoman comes to symbolize González’s solidarity with his
compatriots under attack.  His iron sculpture “La Montserrat” (1937, pictured right), a courageous, defiant Catalan peasant mother, holding her baby like a shield and wielding a sickle, is displayed in the Republican Pavilion in the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris to garner international support for democratic
Spain.  As fascism takes hold in Spain and beyond, the resistant countrywoman becomes a terrified victim, as seen in González’s drawings of imploring or screaming distorted female faces (second column from left), or his bronze sculptures of a right and left hands (1942, center), raised in fear or protest.

The shadow of war remains present in Roberta González’s work even after the end of WWII, as seen in her two untitled paintings (1946, left) depicting peasant women protecting themselves from imminent danger.  Their fragmented volumes further accentuate the threat of violence.

Dessins de Joan Gonzalez, exposés dans “Popular”

Joan González’s drawings displayed here represent seemingly fashionable parisiennes in popular
entertainment venues synonymous with turn of the century Paris, including bars (top right), “café-concerts” (middle row), a place to have a drink and see a show, art galleries (lower left), or strolling down the sidewalk (lower right).  These candid snapshots of Belle Époque Paris, featuring working class women donning the latest fashions of the day, highlight the glamor and insouciance of the times, while also hinting at the artifice, dissimulation and socio-economic inequalities of modern urban life. 

Joan González accompanied his younger brother, Julio, from Barcelona to Paris at the turn of the 20th
century in the hopes of transitioning from the decorative arts to painting.  Like so many foreign artists before him, Joan was captivated both by the spectacle of modern Parisian life.  His insightful work was
displayed at various Parisian salons, when his promising career was cut short in 1908 when he succumbed to his poor health.

The contemporary nature of Joan González’s drawings is evident in this display alongside later 20th c. works, including Ralph Steiner’s photograph “Gypsy Rose Lee and her Girls” (c. 1950-1951, top of left column) and Jacinta Gil’s collage, “Untitled (las cinco lobitas)”, 1968 (right).

This rich and diverse exploration of the “Popular” will remain on view at the IVAM Centre Julio González through April 14, 2024.