The most important work of contemporary art of the 20th century

The most important work of contemporary art of the 20th century

Ángel de la Calle: “The most important work of contemporary art of the 20th century is the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo”

The graphic novel 'War Paintings', signed by Ángel de la Calle, recreates the artistic and armed experiences that, from exile, survived the horror of the Latin American military dictatorships. This spring it has returned to bookstores.

Fascinated by the actress Jean Seberg since he was a child, even before he was able to see At the End of the Getaway, and concerned about the notion of truth that governs contemporary societies—“lie the lie, lie the truth,” as Manu Chao sang— , the screenwriter, illustrator and comic specialist Ángel de la Calle (Molinillo de la Sierra, 1958) managed to condense these two fixations in the graphic novel Pinturas de guerra, originally published in 2017 and republished this spring by Garbuix Books, also adding other interests to give shape to a story of stories, located in time but with a universal outlook. Its pages portray the violence of life under a dictatorship and the different resistances that can be offered, also from artistic creation.

Under the figure of a transcript of his who, thanks to an inheritance, traveled to Paris at the end of the 70s to write a book about the life of Jean Seberg, De la Calle proposes a story that is at times chilling—the pages about torture in Chile—, reflective—the dialogues around the relationship between art and political militancy—, and as didactic as a historical document but without losing the fictional vein, with those priceless appearances by Juan Goytisolo and Guy Debord.

The character Ángel de la Calle is in the French capital with a small group of exiled Latin American artists who form a movement—autorealism—whose actions consist of putting up posters with their portraits, although behind there are many other things—armed struggle, repression against dissent—that emerge to the surface, traveling back and forth in the timeline of history.

In addition to the approach to exile and political resistance to dictatorships in Latin America, in War Paintings, a very ambitious work, the author Ángel de la Calle pays tribute to films, novels and relevant artistic currents during the second half of the century. “The 60s and 70s are the best in terms of cultural creation,” says the author. This title is his second work in graphic novel format. Between 2003 and 2005 he published Modotti, a woman of the 20th century, a biography of the photographer Tina Modotti. Previously, many years before, De la Calle had debuted in the pages of Star magazine, a fundamental name in culture in Spain during the last blows of the Franco dictatorship, which would keep it closed for an entire year. There she learned, she remembers now, what she should not do. De la Calle also directed the Gijón Black Week festival until the 2023 edition.

War Paints reminded me at first of the film Dreamers, by Bertolucci, but then I thought that he is not a good reference, that in fact it is almost the opposite.
I love Bertolucci, Novecento seems masterful and Last Tango in Paris is emblematic, although it has more to do with the book I'm doing now, which happens in the Transition, than with this one. The book tells its direct references, which are Hopscotch and The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick. It is a book that talks about the culture of the 60s and 70s, just as the previous one talked about the culture of the 20s and 30s, and is full of literary and artistic tributes. The first chapter is a tribute to Pedro Lemebel read by Roberto Bolaños. The characters in War Paints are real, but almost all of them have their names changed.

And the cinematographic reference is evident: the tribute is to Godard's At the End of the Escape. There is Jean Seberg, the character has the sign on. I loved that movie before I saw it because at 15 years old I wouldn't have been able to see it if they had shown it here because it was PG-18.

Bertolucci and most of his films, up to The Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man which is “we know nothing about what is happening with terrorism but something must be done”, seem to me to be an interesting exercise.

There is also something from The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño.
Yes absolutely. What I think is his best novel is Distant Star. Bolaño was a brilliant copy-paste type, everything there is taken from somewhere and treated wonderfully, but he wrote phenomenally, he seems to me to be a better writer than a novelist.

The idea is previous, it is Hopscotch in the sense that the protagonists are several, not just one, and those typical prejudices that the bourgeois novel has a single protagonist, the choral thing. But I think I pay more attention to the Latin American novel of the boom, the one that influenced Bolaño, which seems exceptional to me.

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