Sexuality and obvious panic about existence
The name Josep Puigmartí will for ever be woven into the fabrics of 20th century art.
His name is spoken with reverence along side masters such as Salvador Dali, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Albert Ràfols Casamada and Francoise Rey. Puigmartí spend 16 consecutive summers in Spanish see side town of Cadaques the company of these masters.
Josep Puigmartí, was born in Monistrol de Calders, south of Barcelona in 1932. He was the oldest son of the Spanish artist Josep Puigmartí Canadell. Even as a young child he showed promise as an artist. This promise resulted in his first exhibition along side his fathers work, at the young age of 11.
Puigmartí successful life story has in largest part been in constant motion physically and artistically - Always on the move with little or no luggage painting his way forward. Along the way an especially impassioned woman caused his suitcase to vanish without a trace, with all his notes and documents, most of Josep Puigmartí past is lucked up in the artists own memory.
It seems he prefers to live like this always on the on the move, and allowing him self to be swept along by life, by women, by his artistic skills, by his friends. Living one day at the time. Living and painting with invincible passion. His wanderings have been one long adventure. He has for instance been expelled from both Sweden and the United States due to his long-expired tourist’s residence permits.
His style oscillates between the abstract and the hyper realistic. This manifests it self prominently in his long standing adoration of the female body. His style of painting lies in the force field between Surrealism, Expressionism, Naivism and Dadaism.
His real debut as an artist came on 2nd of June 1956 where he opened his first exhibition at the influential Syra Galleries in Barcelona. His paintings were well received by the critics, and was characterised as a dark kind of Expressionism. The following years he travelled and worked at his craft.
By his second major exhibition in 1960 again at the prestigious Syra Galleries, his style was stronger and more striking. It showed considerable reverence for the Informalism style, which was preeminent in the Spanish art scene at the time among the up and coming young artists. The style indicated a shift from Puigmartí's initial Expressionism to a more mature Informalism waging a battle in expression in order to not lose all referential expressiveness.
The following decade Puigmartí spent constantly on the move: Exhibiting in a variety of places in Spain, Japan, Sweden, Denmark and the United States. His pictures from this period bare witness to a new direction away form the symbolism and intellectualisation present of his earlier work.
In Sweden he exhibited his art along side with his countryman Salvador Dalí, whit whom he developed a long lasting friendship.
Along with exhibiting his art he worked as a model for fashion and advertising up through the 60'. He was very successful in his endeavour as a model in part because of his striking resemblance to the American actor Gregory Peck. It was a decade where women and sex played a determining part in his life and work was intensifying.
In 1972 he took up permanent residence in Paris. First with his wife, the German Ingrid Wessels, later with Isabel Baillen, a woman from the Parisian high society, who was attracted to Josep Puigmartí as well as the non-conformist bohemian lifestyle he was living.
In Paris he met the gallery owner André Romanet, who had a gallery in the midst of the Latin Quarter in the heart of the gallery district. A few months later Puigmartí presented his first major solo exhibit.
The gallery owner called the exhibit Ode to Woman, witch opened in May of 1973. The name was chosen in part to shock the audience and in part to reinforcing the artist’s new subject matter. The change in subject brought with it a change in vernacular.
Contribution to our collective art
This change of subject matter from depicting the female beauty to a more direct worship of the female body as a sexual object was not surprisingly started in sexually liberated Sweden. It was there in 1971 Puigmartí made a series of erotic drawings which paved the way for a this new artistic vocabulary in which Puigmartí would make more than one historical contribution to art.
Puigmartí used Paris as the point of departure for his many travels until 1989, though he also spends long stretches working in Las Angeles and Japan.
His work in the following years fall into several distinct subjects:
Series of pictures of men in musketeer costumes with nudes. The meaning being: All men can be the valiant musketeer and all women can be these female bodies. This is a subtle game joining the historical with the mundane, the past with the present, greatness with our sublime fragility.
He also painted an ongoing series of pictures where the female body was portrayed with an obvious hyper realism, where the female attributes were accentuated into essential elements within the composition. These are pictures of suggestive breasts, heads and torsos of women with their suggestive pubis, and occasionally with male phallus' standing by watching or trying to participate.
This is the years where Puigmartí cemented his position in the international art scene. He worked in a long range of materials and made pictures, sculpture as well as furniture.
In 1989 Puigmartí returned to live Spain. And in 1995 he took op permanent residence at the Hotel Estela in Sitges near Barcelona. The hotel is also known as the “Hotel of Art”. Puigmartí's murals, design and paintings cover a great portion of the hotel.
On the verge of the new millennium Puigmartí's subject matter and technique again took a new direction. Puigmartí's long standing relation to the fashion world was crystallized into "alien fashion". The new subject matter was found in portraits of aliens and clothes worn by aliens, giving the artist a new hyper realistic body to paint on. The technique used was that of scraping combs and other implements over the paint directly after applying it to the canvas giving it an unique texture. This technique is also used on a long range of en face alien portraits.
On the 26th of July 2007 the Contemporary Art Puigmartí in Bourg-Madame, France, was inaugurated. This makes Puigmartí one of only a handful of artist artists having a museum dedicate to their art, while still being alive.
To this day Puigmartí is living and working in his studio in the Hotel Estela.
Puigmartí and Romy, c. 1961