Amalia Avia, the painter who knew how to find hidden humor in the streets of Madrid | Culture

Amalia Avia (Santa Cruz de la Zarza, Toledo, 1930-Madrid, 2011) smiles in most of the known photos of her. The file is large and accounts for her shyness in her gaze and her predilection for a cardigan and short hair. She liked to walk on cloudy days and get lost in the gray of the cloudy sky. She also painted the absences, although, despite the gloom of some of her paintings, hers was her enjoyment. Behind her laughter were the streets of Madrid. Many of them can be seen in an exhibition in the Sala Alcalá 31 of the Community of Madrid, in the capital, until January 15, 2023, brought together under the expert eye of the curator Estrella de Diego, who has worked closely with the warm look of one of the artist’s children, Rodrigo Muñoz Avia, who has inherited her same cheerful gesture. A little over a year ago, Muñoz Avia launched a claim message on social networks to locate paintings by her mother with the idea of ​​collecting as many as possible for this exhibition. In the sales notebooks they controlled some 800 works, although they knew that their production exceeded a thousand. The snowball effect did the rest. An email was set up ([email protected]) and more than 80 were found, some of which are now on display.

titled Japan in Los Angeles. The files of Amalia Avia, It is the largest anthological exhibition dedicated to the artist for almost three decades, with more than 110 pieces, a huge void if one takes into account that she is one of the best painters of the “Madrid realists”. That’s what critics called it. It was the early sixties and new options, mostly figurative, began to burst onto the Spanish art scene, seeking to overcome the expressionist and dramatized models of the El Paso group and distance themselves from normative art. This return to figuration was channeled in different ways: the one that linked with the postulates of the New Figuration; the one that bet for a social and populist rooting of the pictorial practice, that is to say, that of Estampa Popular; the one that turned its eyes to reality with a critical gaze conformed to the pop and the way anchored in the tradition of realism of the Spanish school, starring the group of realists around the López clan: the painters Antonio López García and the sculptors Julio and Francisco López Hernández, along with Isabel Quintanilla, Esperanza Parada, María Moreno, Amalia Avia or Lucio Muñoz, whom he married in 1960.

Amalia Avia, on a street in Madrid.By letelier

Despite the union of the group of royalists in Madrid, she was another. Her way of painting the city without hierarchies, of going from Ciudad Lineal to the Salamanca district; an alley in Malasaña or Puerta del Sol, began to make a difference between her contemporaries. What she was interested in was painting the atmosphere of the city, the hidden humor in the graffiti on the street, which she often covered, even laughing at herself. That laugh can be heard in a painting that shows a market full of boxes that read “Amalia Fruits” and “Avia Vegetables.” It’s from 1993, but it looks like yesterday. Avia had the ability to portray a suspended time where the unusual slips through the most unexpected places in the painting: street corners that look like small abstract paintings, local signs that almost look like characters, trees that could appear from any corner and doors, many doors, of houses that I saw and whose interior I imagined. Store doors, garage doors, many of the houses where she lived. If this exhibition reveals anything, it is that this figurative painter is anything but realistic. Her paintings enclose a sophisticated and conceptual halo, an informalist foolishness that goes beyond a fixed image, the one that she took from her camera to later paint the paintings.

‘Ministry of Development’ (1988), oil painting by Amalia Avia.Jesús Madriñán (Muñoz Avia Family Collection)

Avia paints life just at that moment when it is about to be extinguished, filling the canvas with endless visual traps that never leave the gaze calm. Quite the contrary. What awakens in the viewer is the most lively side of her to observe everything that goes unnoticed and that fascinated her so much: perplexity as a vital attitude. That maxim that reality is different from everything. The old woman walking backwards Dairy (1972) represents a platoon, many other lonely elders, and when it represented the crowd, like the crowded audience in front of The family of Carlos IV (1966) in the Prado Museum, seems to be a single entity. Divided into three sections, the exhibition focuses on everyday life, emptied cities and found objects. Also in the personal archive, those photos prior to the paintings, many times forming collageswhich have appeared at the last moment in shoe boxes and which seal one of the best exhibitions that can be seen now in Madrid.

Painting 'Japan in Los Angeles' (1995), which gives the title to the Amalia Avia exhibition.
Painting ‘Japan in Los Angeles’ (1995), which gives the title to the Amalia Avia exhibition.MUÑOZ AVIA FAMILY COLLECTION

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