In April 1997, Artistas ideales was presented in the Sala Carlos III at the University of Navarra: the exhibition was to become the last individual show by artista María Luisa Fernández (Villarejo de Órbigo, Léon, 1955) after almost two decades of uninterrupted work. The exhibition acted as a provisional conclusion of the different practices and approaches to the figure of an artista ideal (ideal artist), a theme already present in her first works as part of the CVA – Comittee for Artistic Vigilance, a collective conceived as an “artistic company” jointly set in motion between 1979 and 1985, with artista Juan Luis Moraza. The projects of this “company” were characterized by the critical reflection they unleashed around the mechanisms of presenting and receiving art works, the art institution and the contemporary art’s system. After the CVA’s participation in shows such as Mitos y Delitos (Metrònom, Barcelona and CAM, Bilbao, 1985), its initials linked up with what was termed as the New Basque Sculpture: a group of artists located in Bilbao that became a reference point for the artistic practices and debates that marked the 80s in the Basque Country. This group’s proposals redefined the languages of sculpture linking the aesthetics of post-minimalism and the “allegorical impulses” that were circulating at an international level.
In this dialogue with a concrete time and scene – described on occasions as an “unintentional generation” – this exhibition includes two series of works produced after the dissolution of the collective. Twenty years later, Esculturas rojas (Red Sculptors) (1989) and Artistas ideales (Ideal artists) (1990-1997), installations that bring together the main lines of investigation developed by the sculptor over the course of her career, are presented once again in an art gallery.
Artistas ideales are sculptures made in polychrome wood and paper, compositions that conform the logic of graphic representations of statistics to the embodiment of the components that transform an artist into an ideal artist. Only the statistic permits that ideality. The percentages of those qualities remain fixed in pie charts, generating forms in unstable equilibriums. On the other hand, Esculturas rojas give more importance to the color, the shapes and the strength of the “expressionist” constructions, making the matter overlap the concept.
María Luisa Fernández’s works are characterized be the use of disparate artistic languages, ranging from post-conceptual and minimalism to elements coming from the intersections between constructivism and the tradition of the Basque sculpture, training ground of the artist. The use of “doublé entendres” and puns is also frequent in her production, as well as incorporating a critical vision to official versions of the 20th century history of art. Thus, María Luisa Fernández remains attentive to the influence of the 80s, which brought back notions like those of authorship, effort or genius loci, constantly questioned in her works. In this context, Fernández also asserts that in addition to “having something to see” we can also work “so as to have something looking at us and something to look with”.