No-one can deny that in Messa’s art the expression of a temperamental creator can be seen. Within an obvious climate of chromatic austerity he manages to shape and share with the most demanding observer of his paintings his constant adventure of the mind concerning plastic research.
Although his “fallero-valencian” origins could have diverted him from his path of constant expressive sincerity, Messa has never let himself be carried along by the free ease of chromatism nor get swamped by mistaken capture of the extrovert reality of light.
His works reflect the living projection to the exterior; his constant craving of expressive improvement. He doesn’t betray himself in his personal genuineness of creative sincerity. He directly suggests attractions from beyond this world, signified by his imaginative clarity. When necesssary, he even reaches hazardous adventures within his own creative sentiments. Serious paintings in a solemn style when, at the mercy of his need for expression, he is obliged to work according to anecdotal depressive circumstances.
It must be understood that Messa is an avant-guard artist. His works speak for him. He has understood that in art there is no room for flattery which, often, does not feed the energy of the creative impulse.
Josep M. de Sucre
Messa has a very special expressiveness which has allowed him to take on a whole given range of the spectre of present day paintings, due to the path he chose at the time of crisis of “informalism”. There were those who, at that time, denied it. There were those who were obstinate. Darwin said that survival is in those who, without ceasing to be themselves, know how to respond to alternative circumstances in the world with the same vitality. “Informalism” was two things for Messa. In painting: a search for substance, texture, the actual figure, with its tactile values. In drawing: using “agua-tintas” to obtain ways of lighting which, by visual means, musically proposed the problem of seeing or not seeing.
On leaving this stage, about 1962, the white pictures of Messa made an interesting synthesis. The tactile values, the vibration of texture, are filtered when freed from colour, visual value. On the other hand, the visual problem of the “agua-tintas” is freed from the materialism of the paper and of the pigment to establish the purely optic phenomenon of the visible and the invisible. His works in white pulp, consequently, had hidden spaces, insinuated places, interiors with the dramatism of an attitude of opening or closing. The ensembles are therefore converted into circulating landscapes, into respiratory figures, into the intimacy of anatomy, into worlds within which one could shelter his imagination or desire, moving away from the transparency of tangible matters in order to find the shadow of undefined places in which dreams cannot be falsified. There is probably a psychological basis of shyness in his desire for hidinghimself. Probably also a sexualised vision of possessing the world.
It is very revealing to observe – at all levels of artistic professionalism – therepertoire of attitudes due to the confusion of the post-informal situation. In times like this, when one sees so much presumptuous opportunism, it is comforting to come across a discovery vouched for by simplicity and good faith.
I suppose this is the case of Messa, a painter who entered the world of art rather late in life. Probably due to that he preserves intact – and I hope he never loses it – the honest sense of vocation and the value of unselfish enthusiasm.
His final works show him as a kind of builder. His pictures are formally shaped and, at times, the symmetry suggests humanoid outlines. The objects – a door knocker, a plumb-line or whatever – are integrated into structured collections, solemn, as in elementary masonry. The formal and spatial values – perforations, reliefs are soberly equilibrated, fused with the repose of the collections.
Vicente Aguilera Cerní
You must pause, paying attention, a lot of attention, before these “pictures” which Messa calls “Constructions”. All of Messa’s work is interesting; that goes withou saying. It seems to be born from a dark energy, re-concentrated, as a fight which is without hope but, at the same time, without giving up hope. However, I believe that it is these “constructions” which can best reveal to us the drama implicit in his work. Deep down this is the drama of many present-day paintings. I put “pictures” in inverted commas. Are they really “pictures”? The colours, brushwork, basic surface – canvas or wall, table or paper, or whatever – what paper have they had here in the creative process? Would it be right to continue talking about “paintings” when the painter deliberately ignores, sometimes angrily, the elements which have “always” constituted the essence of painting? From the caves of Altamira to Picasso or Miró, through the Romanesque, through Rafael, Watteau, or Renoir, painting had accepted its limits and was content. Painters are now more forward. We can see this in these “pictures” of Messa, where the material is not “pictorial” material and has been used as a type of relief, tactile rather than visual.
Messa is not the only one who has tried this. If he were, his would be a curious but unimportant case. He is not he only one: many present day painters have dared to ‘trespass”. We, the spectators, the public, have to be fair and prepared to try and understand this. The artist is always right: he does what be believes he must do and no-one has the right to dispute his options. Messa presents the problem with cordial and violent proximity. He is from Albaida: a neighbour. His “constructions” are not softened by exotic or remarkable distance, but have been devised within our collective intimacy. Universal palpitation is repeated in domestic surroundings. Fortunately, neither is Messa alone in this. It doesn’t matter. It is gratifying that, over and above provincial, routine or lukewarm mediocrity, a voice or a hand – an intelligence – openly declares a doubt, live and harsh. For example, that of the limits of painting. Where is painting going to right now? After “informalism”, after further and further experiments each of which we thought was the unsurpassable “ultimate”, there are still more. Messa offers us his efforts. Let us approach; attentively, very attentively.
LA PINTURA DE MESSA
Observando, en general, los cuadros de Messa nos da la impresión de que necesitara recuperar urgentemente algo perdido. Bien el erotismo en su última fase, bien la facultad de pensar con o sin el pincel y la materia en todos sus cuadros. En efecto, en sus actuales trabajos el hecho sexual aparece desprovisto de todo lo que pudiera ocultar su humanidad, se trata de recuperar la expresión de lo que no se ha podido decir. No se trata de poner al desnudo a la vista del público. Se trata de sugerir la afirmación humana de lo erótico, acostumbrar la retina humana a gozarse en algo que se nos ha dado bien distorsionado, o casi siempre silenciado. De aquí que le definamos como madurez juvenil desparramada.
Pero este clima de recuperación de facultades perdidas también aparece en el resto de su obra. Cada cuadro se convierte en un acto de libertad interior, y transformando la material -desde el procedimiento clásico al uso del papel pintado-, obtiene siempre algo más que plástica. Parece indicarnos, jugando a pensar cuando lo oficial era no hacerlo.
Estaba recuperando lo que el franquismo nos arrebataba. Y todo ello al servicio del hombre. Del que crea el producto y del que lo contempla. Podemos afirmar en este caso que el pintor se expresa en su obra y expresa a su tiempo, ese tiempo que él mismo es, para decirlo con palabras de ese Horacio valenciano que es Joan Fuster. Creemos esto suficiente mérito para que su obra sea contemplada.
José Luis López Céspedes
Almería – Junio 1980
I. An artist
Of all the artists I have known in Valencia Messa is probably the most anarchical. Messa is an atypical artist who completely violates and exceeds all conventional systems of historio-graphical classification. However Messa is, at the same time, a topical artist who combines in both his personality and in his works the fortune of characteristics, attitudes and coherent incoherence which the public usually attributes to artists. I think that Messa could be the last dinosaur of a species which is about to become extinct, that of artists which society has just recognised as such, even apart from their work. To achieve this he has had in his favour a perfect biography which is, in the final instance, his most accomplished and clinching work and also the strange instinct of moving counter-current. On the other hand his disadvantage has been the lack of capacity of self-promotion which characterises all dinosaurs and also of having stayed in Albaida most of his life. I have often wondered what would be become of Messa had he developed in Paris, Zurich, Berlin or New York.
Within very limited circles, Messa has slowly been able to gain an incorruptible reputation which stretches from irregulatity to surprise, passing through an eagerness to learn and ingenuity, all this from the farthest corner of his home town. But in spite of his interior exile Messa has known how to connect with the proper people and be present, on several occasions, in the places where things were happening.
As an example, we must mention the start of his career in Albaida, between significative poles: Segrellés and Monjalés, age and youth, experience and restlessness, the past and the future. Or his participation, at the end of the ’50s, in the discussions at the cafeteria Monterrey, coinciding with the young generation of artists which would finally overcome, in Valencia, the tedius inertia of the post-war. Or his fascination for “informalism”, in the Barcelona of the early ’60s, led by Cirici and Josep Mª de Sucre by virtue of the “Salones de Mayo”. Or, finally, of his return to Valencia at the moment when the critical figure began its irresistible ascent and of his voluntary seclusion in Albaida.
II. A meeting
It was there precisely where a few years ago I met Messa. This was due to a conference which I was organising, related to art, fiestas and life. I have already explained somewhere else how the heterogeneous public at the conference were divided into two groups, those who wanted to know things and those who already knew them, and between the two groups was someone who drew attention, who looked sideways at me. It was Messa and apparently he suffered from some deafness which stopped him from looking straight forward. I found this out after the conference, during an improvised conversation which we held in the street till late at night. From this time on our relationship became richer with correspondence and a few mainly unilateral visits and also occasional typical artist-critic collaboration.
I must confess that the personality of Messa fascinated me from the beginning, though in some ways I felt uncomfortable with the resistance which both he himself and his works offered to labelling. I found a solution to this by considering him to be a little bit eccentric, without understanding the monopolizing logic which flows from his work.
III. A proposal
Later on I understood that it was his capacity for functioning counter-current which distinguished Messa from his colleagues. Messa did not do “fashionable” art, neither “first line” art; on the contrary, the only concept I can think of for his artistic practice is that of “retroactive”. The concept of “retroactivity” is extremely useful and explicatory. Let me explain. Let us imagine that inside the existing artistic tools is something known as “avant-garde” and that one of its fundamental objectives is that of conquering the future within the present, with two indispensable instruments – history and experience – and a third element which arises from them – radicalism. Well then, I believe that if we eliminate history from this hereodox equation, the inevitable outcome is “retroactive art”.
I am aware that we live in confused times, in which labels and artistic prefixes have multiplied too much, and I have absolutely no wish to increase this list. However, I feel that the case of Messa, as in the case of specific artists who I am not going to name now, can be explained thanks to this idea. When artists were faced with the alternative of either the primary formula or the utilitarian they chose the “Morgan”, conscious or unconscious of their anachronism, but seduced by the solitude of the studio, something unrepeatable mechanically and ineffable in results. I fear that artists are freer and therefore the happiest, but the price of all this is exclusion.
IV. A work
The artistic works done by Messa are as diverse as they are anachronistic. On reaching 69 years of age we can say that he has been through everything. His first self-taught painting is “naturalist”. His first ventures are not understood without the cubist lure. His coming of age as a painter is represented by dark “informalist” activities. All this, untimely, untouched and counter-current.
The plastic maturity of Messa is marked by a “neo-figurative” stage, sculpture-pictorial – maybe the least anachronistic if we take into account certain French, Catalan and even Valencian examples – founded on heavy white pictures with two basic orientations: one of a geometrical character and the other a sexual one. In both of them, the plastic movement is sustained in a dense material application which already incorporates actual elements. On this base the painter shapes and moulds schematic forms with a strong symbolic content. Independently of the fact that sometimes the forms have a mechanical character and other times a carnal one we have before us one and the same series, which tells us of the unquestionable vocation in the treatment of material and of the narrative essence absorbed by the artist.
Likewise, Messa did not stop here. His special poetry required a less “academic” language than that offered by post-informalism. Inspired by certain discoveries of the “neo-dadistic” styles of the ’60s, Messa invested his own alternative, more sophisticated, more personal, the “Art-Gandul” and the “apega-sants”, a flat version of the former. With his characteristic candidness he tells us that he was tired of painting and that he found it was far easier to choose an object and offer it, present it. This process is merely “duchamptiano”. With “Art-Gandul” he strikes at his own person, attacks artistic virtuousness, at the same time as he reinvents “ready-made” without knowing it. Verbal praise of his method is such that we can talk of “reinventing” without any danger.
It is possible that Messa could have seen something of the “Combine-paintings” of “Rauschenberg” as well as some of the efforts by American pop artists and this could have helped him to decide that one must not be timid with one’s own handiwork, already implied in his White Series. Messa’s “ready-mades”, if we can call them that, are the concrete objective of mental processes or of incoherent verbal games and comes from his preoccupation and interest in the cruelty of popular language. We can say, therefore, that the clearest contribution of Messa in objective art has been that of endowing it with a spirit, shameless and erroneous, which masks his intentions.
V. A conclusion
The latest and most ambitious artistic intervention of Messa has been the construction of an “environment”, “Les Petites Puces de Paris”, in his house in Albaida, wrapping up a whole room and various life-size items in a newspaper. Conscious of the limited diffusion of this effort, Messa had it photocopied and posted it off to different friends.
I believe that both the planning of this work and its diffusion convincingly summaries the attitude of Messa, which I have tried to explain throughout this text. In “Les Petites Puces de Paris” Messa is reinventing, once again, something which already existed, but the value of this reinvention does not obviously reside in its false novelty but in the lucidity of an artist who, assuming his discourse, practices what his own process asks of him, without worrying about anything else. It doesn’t bother him that the result is no longer fashionable, it doesn’t bother him that many consider, erroneously and self-sufficiently, that they already know it. The really important thing is that he has decided to do it. Sometimes I think that we are short of avant-garde artists such as Messa.
We have hardly got through Messa’s door when the space explodes.
He paints, composes, incessantly, without being pushed, without being questioned.
His material works never stop, in spite of the strictness which the author uses to retain them.
…They seem to be made to be burnt…
From here, maybe, comes the dramatism which they show.
Outside the framework, his works restore a multitude of references.
We don’t know if we are inside or outside. Like video-clips where the technical ability and procedure are as important as the subject matter, to produce another space-time dimension.
Messa concentrates, compresses, reduces the dimension of his argument and his image to extract a formal sequence from it, bearer of a strong energetic and expressive charge: complete overflow, he envies his surroundings and evolves by bonding eroticism, poverty, tenderness, hardness, scandal, light, depth, humour…
Messa escapes from the entire system, fashion and artistic course. In his work this appears with surprising reality.
He seems to me like a Miró, moving from side to side of the canvas – the framework – holding, at the same time, the key: his works.
Paris, 13th August de 1984
Messa uses, strict chronology aside, the most outstanding part of his artistic work. Work which flees from beauty and from aesthetic pleasure and enters into a universal vitalism, approaching “arte-poveda”. We can see this in his Works of “Art-Gandul”, where it is easy to see an obvious cult to useless objects, to detritus: broken dolls, dirty socks against an old board.
Messa is a clear exponent and student of European Dadaism, but differing from his French and Italian counterparts, who destroyed cars, lorries and other scrap items, his work is born of the reality which surrounds him, his hometown, Albaida, where he lives, far from the noisy metropolis.
Joan Vicent Aliaga
El Temps, 12th November 1984
One of the first things that comes to mind on contemplating the anthology of Messa in Parpalló, is that how pleasing it is to see that a painter, over 65 years old, still feels able to surprise us favourably, or maybe it is this which offers him the this maturity by way of lack of prejudices and timely untimeliness , of integral freedom of what he knows and what he would still like to try.
It is said that wisdom is blinded by passion, which leaves the impulsive a bit melancholic and nebulous, I confess, my seduction for Messa’s works; the artist from Albaida who, both in his hometown and in other worlds he has visited infrequently, has been amply established; with unusual originality, for a long time. I mention my favourable predisposition because even further afield than the analysis Of the unquestionable quality of his work, Messa provokes a primary enchantment of irresistible attraction in the spectator, who is never left indifferent and who, without realising it, is converted into an addict of the contrary.
The ample exhibition which completely fills the two floors of the gallery unites Messa’s works of different periods, pictorial stages; retrospective works and present production which gives us a panoramic view of his plastic labours. Above all we can see that the independent anarchical character of Messa, the singularity of his interests at the moment of searching for his own “pictorial truth”, is what has drawn him to each of the points of the extensive range of possibilities which was spread before his eyes, without his abandoning any of them. During his career he paused, not for long, in different options: self-taught naturalist paintings, cubist digress, obstinate “informalism”, … till reaching the neo-figurative stage which marked his plastic maturity and, later, the sophisticated alterative of “art-gandul” and the “apega-sants”. Finally, at the present time, Messa surprises us with this ingenious and delirious vertigo of “Les petites puces de Paris”.
He prepares a hallucinating amusement of wrapping everything he sees with newspaper: real tangible objects, life-size, with the proposition of creating his own special “environment” wlth everything which is intimate to him. In this way, in the Karkian line plucked from the uniformity of reality, he concentrates fantastically on daily trifles, but noting the alarming symptoms of error in what is solidly established, becoming crazed in the vertigo of his delirious conscious productive, shunning any tranquilising implied understanding. He visually stages his personal sequences and consequences, covering the laughing resources contained in all rigorous application of logic, when this is mixed with the reality. Shoes, a sewing-machine, a pitcher, an easel, a doll…. all carefully wrapped and transformed with the fantasy of his subjective licentiousness.
The study of this perspective leads us to the fundamental conclusion that Messa distinguishes himself, above all, by his love of his work which allows him to dominate the most diverse techniques and the mixture of the sarcastic with the pathetic in the elaboration of his restless experiments brings him irremissibly closer to a tender solidarity with the ridiculous solemnity of the figures.
Levante – 1984
Versatile, vitalistic and unceasing researcher, Messa is prepared to wrap everything with newspaper. Part of the present exhibition is a forest of trees and beings of fleeting printed letters. There are also lazy drawings which prove his plastic talent. There are also the inevitable jokes with objects and items of underwear. In the middle of all this there are also good paintings. Messa explains the labyrinth in which he moves and shows that he knows how to leave it when he shakes off the violence of the colours and enter into solitary stages where he paints with cold lighting. I would recommend a visit.
Josep Maria Cadena
El Periódico, 12th May 1987
One of the things which everyone suddenly thinks on contemplating the retrospective exhibition of Messa (Albaida, Vall d’Albaida, 1915) in the Estol gallery is how can an artist, who is over 70 years old, still possess the energy to investigate within such complex styles. Messa, impulsive, vital, with certain primitive enchantment, has carried out, during his career, works of uncommon originality. This exhibition, which includes items of his different trends, makes us realise the singular and independent character of Messa.
In his artistic journey he has busied himself with the different options which he has encountered: cubist paintings, studies of “informalism”, neo-figurative paintings till reaching the alternative of what is called “art-gandul” in which he gives rein to useless objects. In this way Messa, taking advantage of the direction of the currents which most interest him and without any detriment, is capable of creating an “environment” based on objects dear to him (the furniture in his house, his easel … ) wrapped with newspaper and objects rejected by society (broken dolls, old shoes….)
Plaintive and sarcastic, dramatic and restless, this is Messa’s work, – an artist flung into the vacuum of experiences.
Avui – 17th Mayo 1987
Veteran, self-taught, quixotic. Messa made war by himself. Born in 1915 in Albaida (Valencia) where he has transformed his home into a museum; his beginnings in Barcelona (1962), member of “Cerele Sant Lluc”, integrated into restless changing Movement “Ciclos Arte Hoy” founded by Owe Pelsjö, F. Valbuena, Lluis Bosch, Joaquin Llucia., Teo Asencio, Mensa, Chueca, Messa, Amelia Riera, Emilia Xargay; in the “Joan Miró International Art Prize” (Messa obtained an honorific mention in the first competition, 1962); shows live avante-garde art at M.A.N.
(Manifestación Arte Nuevo) collection (’60s and ’70s); participates in classical exhibitions at the “Salón de Mayo”; “Ynglada Guillot” Art Prize; suffers hardship with his friend Sucre; forms part in 1965 of “Grup 5 Forma” (object pictures, Aulestia, Coma Estadella, Kaydeda, Messa, Rey Polo, Rodríguez Cruells); cross-road in life, personal, obstinate non-conformity.
Advancement, his work (in the ’50s) reaches firm volumetric structure, dense chromatism, colour after formal mastery; encounters expressive “informalism”, incorporates objects, ”index Pop’, sign of “nafres vida” he submerges himself afterwards in Conceptualism, giving it a critical meaning.
Determinative moment (1974), clean transparency, images, sensitive harmony and expressive lyric exclamation; figures are transformed, solid structures, flat schematic accentuation, conjunction of differences, contradictions, point of projection of plastic dimension sculpture.
Incorruptible pictorial vocation, creative capacity of Messa, faithful to himself, his roots, principIes, announces his return to Barcelona, years away, young maturity, open spirit; in spite of everything his personal work breathes again, stylist serenity, facing determination of restless nature.
Josep Vallés Revira
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF ART CRITICS Barcelona – May 1987
Messa’s universe is multiple, although some points stand out more, maybe due to the insistence with which Messa resorted to them during his career. The necessity of artistic creation is a vital means of expression: he had to wait till maturity to find this expansion in himself. Starting as a self-taught hobby which was combined with his professional environment and which finally became a necessity which wrapped his life in a dense fog, obscuring his dedication to family business in Albaida. Messa feels an internal force which pushes him to constantly create, to dedicate all his physical and mental strength to artistic pursuits.
The subject of social criticism is noticeable in Messa’s orbit: from his youth, and due to family experience, he developed an aversion towards the middle-classes, money and the capitalist society. He is completely in disagreement with the society which surrounds him and expresses this through his works, reflecting the social and intellectual misery of the moment. He highlights poverty, the most noble for him, over a life dominated by money. In this way he leans towards systems of recuperation of unusual or obsolete objects in order to reject consumerism and to dignify poverty.
However, one of the themes which he most often used in his work is that of woman and eroticism, with different styles, techniques and focuses, but always establishing a reflection on the fascination which female forms have for him: the female sex becomes a component of depth and the breasts of opulence; these two together with the anal opening and crease of the buttocks become mysterious plastic elements which inspire him in the creation of a dominant form and he does it so assiduously that he manages to join abstraction and figuration, to synthesise composition and eroticism. He has an intellectual position but also sensual, sensitive. Neither does he present typical society women, but presents expressive women, sexual, in direct and, at the same time, lyrical situations. He detested the provincial circle of narrow minds, and moved away diagonally opposite to it, expressing himself openly and without taboos.
Regarding the question of composition, Messa shows great interest in research: he searches for imaginary forms in labyrinths, in circulation within space, in volumes, three-dimensional. This makes him take the sculptural option assiduously from the moment he becomes assured in his own style, with examples such as those from ”Art Gandul”. In the construction of the environment of “Les petites puces de Paris” he joins the fantasy of an imaginary world of newspaper and the reuse and manipulation of old objects. Another thing which stands out in this work is the fact that the composition does not remain unalterable throughout the years, as it has its own life (degradation) which means that it changes with the passage of time.
This environment becomes independent of the artist, who abandons it, forgets it, and starts a process of slow changes brought about by nature. This work has connections with the new tendencies which appeared in the ’60s (such as the well-known “Ready-Made” by Marcel Duchamp, Pop Art, “El Equipo Crónica”, Minimalism, “l’assemblage”, “ambient” Neodadism, etc.), although the connections were not made consciously by Messa, but were inherent in him, arising from his searching character and putting him on a parallel with these movements, showing the great creative capacity he had, even though he was secluded in an enclosed atmosphere, far from current artistic trends.
Messa did not say much with colours. We can see, of course, an identification of white with his homeland, the countryside, Valencia.
Messa is presented as an artist admired for his effort dedicated to the evolution of the world of art, in spite of all the inconveniences he suffered, and as a person of great force and vitality. These characteristics were transmitted by him to his work, as with the non-conformity which made him reach even further; never remaining still. The fact that Messa got as far as he did means that he continually exceeded himself, as he was capable of abandoning, one after another, all the other techniques and styles which he had previously practised; he advanced in time and in the functions of an artist, he advanced in coherence of what had been the evolution of art through the ages, but without forgetting the accumulation of experience in working with other styles, which finally became obsolete for the expressive necessities of Messa.
I think it finally becomes clear that it is absolutely just and urgently necessary the reconsideration of Messa as one of the most interesting artists of this country. In the future we shall have a knowledge of this man of great personality and deep capacity, now that he is no longer with us.
Susana Domínguez i Albiac Tarragona – January 2000
IN REMEMBRANCE OF “MESSA”
To begin with, I would like to make two points with which – as time goes on – I feel more and more identified with: one, that art is a means of conceiving the world visually and, two (nonetheless convincing by being mentioned in second place!), that artists see what they wish to see, because art – amongst many other attributes – is a constructor of reality.
I wish to make it clear that I make these statements whilst remembering Francesc Sempere “MESSA” (Albaida, Valencia, 1915 – 1996), a unique person definitively installed in the vastness of history and destined to remain in our memories. Before closing this short testimony on his contribution to the artistic sphere, I have recalled – with morbid pleasure I am unashamed to say – various images of his varied and diverse plastic art, which have been reproduced at the same time – as flashes – in my experiences, the visual impressions of his paintings and sculptures which I “stored” away about 1984 (thanks to the anthology of the Sala Parpalló) both of which were made in spite of setbacks and deliberate marginality.
My vision comes from and with time – that spiritual substance through which all existence flows – and with the no less interjected idea that art – apparently useless but so absolutely necessary – can be contemplated from different approaches.
We should ask ourselves – more so now – why we are drawn to the figure of Messa. Yes. The creator of”Art gandul” (“Lazy Art”) and “Apega Sants” (collages). A self-taught man, who on reaching the age of 40, entered into the depths of experimental art with the intention of surprising us – a great merit in our times.
And today we recall his work, registered diversification obtained from multiple artistic events: empathic connection with ‘tachismo negro” (black streaks), synthesis with Japanese art, fringe straightening with regard to cubism; to informalism, abstracts (using the technique of collages) forged with the heat of constructiveness, to his appropriations (and development) of “art povera” (“poor art”), to his sculpture-pictorial trials.
These anarchical art processes, atypical, lucid, transgressive, always in pursuit of novelty, would not have been possible without the immersion of Messa in the context of Catalan art (Barcelona art more correctly) at the end of the era of Franco. Vitalistic art, at a simultaneous and multi-directional time, attracted by fetishism (particularly of objects in disuse, so propitious of the neodadistic age).
But Messa always had a problem (even greater after disconnecting from Barcelona and isolating himself in Albaida; he was always distant from marketing needs as he had the rare virtue of saying “no” when others said ‘yes” and saying ‘yes” when others said “no”. He was eccentrically temperamental, fleeing from fashion, neodadistic to the bone.
Viewing this appreciation from past to present time – quick, fleeting, the work of art is as inaccessible as unobtainable – and from these aesthetic emotions which reach us from his work, I put forward to the reader/viewer a hypothesis which I hope is not too far off course: it is known that in recent times the trend is towards a new study of avant-garde art and I don’t think I am wrong if I affirm that new viewpoints are being woven, and the atypical work of Messa, zigzagging and even contradictory, will be the object of new evaluations and appreciations which have not yet been assessed.
Juan Ángel Blasco Carrascosa President of the Valencia Association of Art Critics
MESSA: THE VALUE OF RESTLESSNESS
Although only a few months have passed since his death, Messa (Albaida 1915 – 1996) continues to be a little known artist.
His artistic bibliography moves within the ambit of the land where he was born, unlike that of other creators, without many moves to other places or external enriching. However, his interest in working in Albaida did not deprive him of the knowledge of the aesthetic movements of his time, converting him in the ’60s into a receiver of various dissimilar styles such as informalism, neofiguration, or neodadism.
If Spain was highly internationally recognised during the first half of the ’50s due to the informalism of Tàpies, Millares, Canogar and Chillida, during the following decade there is a figurative reaction at international level which is echoed in the Spanish panorama and which established, without doubt, the first step towards the realistic movements of avant-garde art. Messa did not remain indifferent to these tendencies, which he knew about through documents or publications or with conversations with Valencian artists such as Monjalés, Gil, Michavila, Cillero, Nassio and Alfaro.
As with many other artists of that time, the spontaneous and smooth neofiguration and the final lashes of material informalism were not sufficiently radical to satisfy his expressive restlessness. To put it another way, these movements neither implicated nor committed to anything. This justifies, to some extent, the popularity which pop-art and all realistic styles achieved in Valencia. Messa openly rejected these artistic expressions, but this was no obstacle to his becoming an active observer of this surrounding reality.
It was precisely an attempt to oblige society, something which made him radicalise not only thematically but also technically, which made him create the most interesting pieces of all his production, those which he himself named ‘Art Gandul” and ‘Apegasants”, and other unique pieces such as “Crítica política” (“Political criticism”) of 1966 or “I la pau torna a Angola” (“Peace returns to Angola”) of 1968 (1). It is obvious that the neodadism of the ’60s showed him fundamentally expressive possibilities which left him no option regarding other artistic styles.
The influence of the intellectual Joan Fuster on Valencian artists during the ’60s also directly reached the artist of Albaida. The social implications applied to paintings had a lot to do with the plans of the Valencian intellectual: “Art works are worthy and long lasting so therefore they are a testimony. Underneath the pure history of the work, of course, is the eternal human substance.” (2). This justifies, to some extent, the fact that Messa did particularly forceful works, with indubitable carnal and mechanistic references.
Bordering on the trend previously initiated by Duchamp, Messa dared to highlight, without mercy and with as much violence as possible, all that had been hidden by the repressive censorship of modern society, by means of what he called sculpture-paintings. “La Dona” (‘The Woman”), “Dos sexes” (‘Two sexes”), “Anatomia interior feminina” (“Interior female anatomy”) (all three of 1962) and “Castella la seca” (1965) (3) were particularly interesting works during the career of the artist. According to AJexandre Cirici this refers to “A sexualised vision for the possession of the world” (4). It is really a plastic synthesis which shows mechanistic trends, cold and distant from those of dadaism, pictorial and sarcastic critique to the most degrading aspects of our social surroundings: brothels and prostitution.
Joan Fuster said in 1966, referring to these works of art: “You must pause, paying attention, a lot of attention, before these “pictures” which Messa calls “Constructions”. All of Messa’s work is interesting; that goes without saying. It seems to be born from a dark energy, re-concentrated, as a fight which is without hope but at the same time without giving up hope. However, I believe that it is these “constructions” which can best reveal to us the drama implicit in his work. “(5)
Messa changed the morphological type of the human anatomy in order to create what he considers as especially expressive. To do this he resorts to items of use and even macabre, such as plastic moulds from children’s toys – used at the end of the ’50s by Cuixart – or old wooden blinds, also presented in 1962 by the Catalan artist; all items to which Messa gives ample symbolic feeling in works such as “Destrellat de Messa No. 1″ of 1971 or the series of “Blinds” of 1990.
According to Adolf Loos, in his controversial book “Ornamento y delito” published in 1908 “All art is erotic, the horizontal line represents a woman lying down and the vertical line a man making love to her. Messa belongs to this group of artists who not only believe that art “is” but “should be” fundamentally erotic.
But within this same thematic style, he passionately dissects (sometimes with bitter humour) using procedures which sometimes verge on infantile – as those of Jean Debuffet and other “Art Brut” artists which Messa liked so much, using the intense colouring of Miró and the beautiful and emotional abstract compositions of Torres García. He passes easily from the violence of colour to the serene coldness of ice. He develops a fantasy which escapes conventionalisms.
But specifically erotic works are found in the production of almost all artists, often jealously protected by their own creator. Sometimes they have shown in their work the beauty and strength of the obscene: “Vulva” of 1504 by Leonardo da Vinci; “Esclavo moribundo” of Miguel Angel – destined as a funeral monument below the dome of St. Peter’s at the Vatican -; the self portrait of Alberto Durero – where he portrayed his most intimate parts with the crudest reality -; even Velázquez in his beautiful “Venus del espejo” or his “Maja Desnuda”; also Rodin who resumed the presence of genital organs in his sculptures. Is anyone unable to recognise in Klimt the concealed eroticism, almost mystical, or the loving passion in the picassian drawings of the “Suite Vollard”?
But with Duchamp the eroticism takes on a new form, converting man and woman in machines of desire. Messa follows this only partially when he himself says “Why not paint without “painting” Combine old, useless and absurd items”; sometimes also combined with previous works of mine: “Art Gandul”. Particularly important works in this respect are “Art Gandul No. 4″ of 1972 .
We cannot omit sculptures such as “Objecte”, done in 1962, consisting of sculptures made by wrapping life-size objects – in this case a bicycle and some shoes – in newspaper. These two items were the first with which he carried out this plastic procedure, which curiously he did not repeat until 1984 in the installation and assembly of one of the wings of the Parpalló. In “Les Petites Puces de París” (6) Messa carries out this procedure to its maximum consequences by wrapping up a whole room and several items in it, an “environment” which we can see today in the top part of the house-museum of the artist in his small hometown.
Messa borders everything and nothing but most important, artistically, is having carried out this risky research starting from his own teachings and knowledge; trying, not from Paris, New York, Madrid or Barcelona but from Albaida – at a time and a place both artistically and personally difficult – to live the rhythm of the artistic movements of the century.
Felisa Martínez Andrés