Artist Lluis Barba’s work playfully appropriates art history masterpieces, and reworks them using references taken from pop culture. The artist constructs absurd, revisionist histories by merging the past with the present. In his images, highly recognizable scenarios from art history become a black-and-white backdrop for present-day figures depicted in colour, which are digitally compiled to create the final photograph.
These paradoxical montages acknowledge the cannon of art in a fragmented manner by infusing iconic imagery with current-day themes such as: alienation, globalization, mass consumption, and the loss of individual identity. Camera-yielding tourists are an ever-present figure within Barba’s work, alluding to photography’s role in preserving and interpreting art and the everyday. In these works, the camera defines points of interest for the viewer, further emphasizing how photography delineates the world around us.
Born and raised in Spain, Barba is not afraid to mix the past with the present. Playing with historic and iconic images by interjecting them with modern themes, Barba’s work has a strong social commentary. His work uses artistic symbolism to express his views on both contemporary society and the art world.
How did you become involved with art? Did you know from a young age that it was your passion? I have felt since I was a kid. I always thought that both art and creativity is ether implicit in us or not, it is something that no school or university can teach. I think that art is subjective and particular to seeing the world around us. It is important for those who [create art to] emit to recipients who are watching as much emotionally as conceptually and formally. For me, it also means a way of life without which I would certainly not identify as a person.
Where do you get inspiration from? Long ago, I saw that humanity was unfair and had too many imbalances, both social classes, ethnic and economic. I felt the need to communicate through the medium I knew best, the arts.
The works are based on a critical and social level, which contrasts with the language used by the author of the masterpiece. I made a subjective review of past art and structured a relationship between contemporary and historical personalities. In the characters in my works, I incorporate the barcode as a tattoo, a symbol of loss of individual identity, validation and alignment.
Now, in the twenty-first century, we still have not managed to change anything. At the conceptual attempt to do my bit to society, I worry about using themes such as intolerance, isolation, social pressure, dehumanization, handling, hunger and mass consumption. If that is for someone to think about my speech, it’s good news.
What themes do you like to showcase in your artwork? Right now I’m doing works of past masters unknown to the general public; unknown because they have not entered the tourist circuit of major publishers. Lost to these masters of the past through his work seems important work and of historical justice. At first, the themes evolved through the most famous works of Renaissance and Baroque Neoclassicism, as Botticelli, Raphael, Leonardo, Van Eyck, Tiziano, Velazquez, Goya, Vermeer, David Teniers, Rembrandt, El Bosco, Brueghel. Lately I’ve spoken works of contemporary masters like Millet, Degas and Magritte.
Along with the old masters, I have introduced contemporary artists from different disciplines, such as Jeff Koons, McCarthy, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Cattelan, Miro, Matthew Barney, Richter, Rothko, Vanessa Beecroft, etc. It is a contrast, antagonistic generating a new reading of art. Everything is based on the need to have a conceptual adaptation that has the original work on my speech.
While classical artists seek perfection from perfection, contemporaries seek perfection from imperfection. The classics define the work of craftsmanship and artistic form. In the case of the contemporaries, appearing is mechanization and socialize serration, which gets part of the art.
Your pieces are created from past artworks. What made you decide to incorporate these iconic images into your artwork? My relationship with the works of the past is one of admiration and respect. Many of the old masters were able to provide us with sufficient evidence for the existence of contemporary art.
Travellers in Time has been an ongoing collection for you. Do you plan to put final touches on this project or continue to add onto it? Previously, I made other major series in my career and that surely helped to make the series called Travellers in Time some years ago. I’m working on this project and continue to evolve in my speech at the conceptual and formal level, which I will continue doing as I add new elements to allow the work, because I always thought “If you have nothing to communicate it is preferable to remain silent.”
You were honored by the Young Masters Awards for your modern interpretation using historic images. Your work has been exhibited in the United States, Europe, Latin America and Canada. What has been your proudest? I think one of the most significant moments was when I was represented by Jacob Karpio Gallery and at Miami ArtBasel Fair it became an event picked up by the media like CNN and the London Times.
TO GO: Lluis Barba will show at the Baker Spoder Gallery. Opening reception November 14 from 6-8pm. Through Jan 4. Baker Spoder Gallery, 608 Banyan Trail Boca Raton. For info: 561.241.3050 or BakerSponderGallery.com