“Up to the end of the 19th Century, drawing was an artistic tool used specifically by painters, sculptors and architects. It was Jean Jacques Rousseau who suggested that drawing should go through a democratization process based on pedagogical procedures. Under this new model, drawing was devoid of its aesthetic connotations and became a free and essential educational instrument for all citizens.
Pedagogycal systems based exclusively on intelectual contents were beginning to be questioned by thinkers like Pestalozzi or Fröbel, and the new ideas soon became an important part of the avantgarde project.
Democratization of art means finding what is common to us all, the experiences that we can share in the context of our essential selves and those of our surrounding nature; returning our gaze to the origins, to childhood, to primeaval cultures; strengthening the links between aesthetic experience and the vital cycles and turning our backs to the obsolete tensión between high culture vs. low culture, aesthetic vs. practical or artista/geniouos vs. ordinary people. This was yet another battlefield in the avantgarde period.
Kids draw naturally until they find that they can no longer fulfill the mimetic expectations towards the model. Technique kills creativity. Thus creativity became a tool available for everyone who wanted to explore, and not only for artists that seeked to be genius. This is a very important ideas for it gave us the power of the gods. Now we do not need to reproduce. We simply produce, create, invent… these are activities much more important than the simple copy and technique could not be an obstacle in such a development. Consequently, Nature is no longer represented as a supreme creation. Instead, we now apply Nature’s own inner rhythms to creative procedures.
Ánfora, Grotesco, Armazón, Maniquí. Una exposición sobre pedagogía seeks to evince the bridges between art and education. It maye ven be closer to the latter than to art itself. On the one hand, works by Ángel Ferrant are exhibited alongside his own pedagogical archive, my own works and those made by kids in the many workshops I have realized in the recent past and in which we have explored manual work understood as a pedagogy of senses, of nature and of the relationship between cultural and biological evolution.With this gesture, the exhibition insists in our will to democratize art, education and culture by breaking the aforementioned binary concepts. Because the aim of any educational endeavor, as is that of every artistic proposition, is not the purity of knowledge but the improvement of experience.”
Antonio Ballester’s work is focused on painting. It evolves around iconographies closely linked to the quotidian and to the primary expression of Nature. In the realm of representation, his images are as scarce, essential. They depict suns, rain, tres, plants, mountains or moons, which are treated by truly austere means.
Alongside his artistic work, Ballester has invested a great deal of time and efforts on thorough research on pedagogy and participatory processes that have ocassionally taken the shape of an exhibition. His solo show at La Casa Encendida or his inclusion in the last Sao paulo Biennial are good examples of this. In this exhibitions, his own artistic work was shown alongside the result of the workshops he organized with kids belonging to different contexts and social strata. In the same space as his paintings one could see watercolors, collages or clay and wooden sculptures, just to name a few of the many languages they dealt with.
A few months ago, Museo Patio Herreriano invited Antonio Ballester to visit Archivo Ferrant, one the gems of the Colección Arte Contemporáneo, housed in this museum. Ballester focused on Ferrant’s pedagogical procedures. In 1931, Ferrant published an immensely relevant text, Diseño para una configuración escolar, that brought down many of the conventions around pedagogy so firmly rooted in academic artistic teaching. Javier Arnaldo, one of the most relevant experts on Ferrant, explains that the artist soon adopted a “non-authoritarian position based on the principle of expressive freedom” that he designed in three phases. The first one, that of initiation, was focused on experimentation and games with forms and materiales. The following two would be would be an examination of the transition between intuition and knowledge. Ferrant’s text was never actually set in motion by Spain’s the public administration but it remained a key evidence of the duality between the artistic creation he defended and the pedagogical dynamics required by art that structured his thinking.
In 1935, Ferrant designed small pieces of an array of cardboard pieces. Some were made following basic geometric patterns while others were more complex and capricious. Ferrant suggested the young pupils to freely create shapes in a combinatory exercise. These small cardboard pieces and the exercises were called “Arsintes”, which is the blend of two concepts: “art” and “synthesis”. There were 11 groups of cardboard pieces but Ferrant used mainly 4 of them. He gave each of these 4 groups the following titles. “Ánfora”, “Grotesco”, “Armazón”, “Maniquí”. They now give their names to the title of our exhibition.
Some of these little cardboard shapes are now the leitmotiv of our exhibition, or, rather, of the museography of our exhibition. Designed by local carpenter Jesús Morejón, the wooden plinths that are scattered around the exhibition space follow the patterns devised by Ferrant in his “Arsintes”. On these pedestals Ferrants’s sculptures, drawings, photographs and archival material are shown alongside different drawings, paintings, sculptures or object made by the kids that participated in the many workshops conducted by Antonio Ballester, an artist for whom art and pedagogy were, as Ferrant also held, one very same topic. Ferrant’s “Arsintes”, are now, 85 years afterwards, reinterpreted by the contemporary concerns of Antonio Ballester’s take on artistic education. His workshops with kids in Madrid, Mexico or Brazil, just to name only a few of the many different contexts he has worked in, evince the close ties between the two artists.
Both artists’ common concerns around pedagogy finds an echo on the austere nature of their artistic work. This is visible in Ferrants’s 1949 outstanding “Maternity”, a brilliant version of the well known iconography of the Virgin with Son. Ballester shares his fascination with this subject for it is the theme in which childhood has been most vividly depicted throughout all eras. The synthesis to which all works by Ballester are also submitted is also related to the youngsters’ schematic way of looking and making while simultaneously addressing to an interest in primitivism also shared by Ferrant.
Ánfora, Grotesco, Armazón, Maniquí. An Exhibition on Pedagogy, can be seen in Rooms 6 and 7. The former can be considered and exhibition in its own right, while the latter takes pedagogy from the scenographic to the real, with tables realized by carpenter Morejón also following Ferrant’s designs on which children of a varied ages will work in the various workshops programmed for this occasion. “Ánfora, Grotesco, Armazón, Maniquí” therefore shows our commitment to revise one of the most beautiful moments in the relationship between Art and Pedagogy in Spain’s recent history.