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CARLES FONTSERÈ AND CAMILO JOSÉ CELA. NUEVA YORK AMARGA

Curator: Santiago Olmo, Adolfo Sotelo, con la participación de Covadonga Rodríguez

Artist: Carles Fontserè, Camilo José Cela

3 June - 26 September 2021. Ground floor

In 2016, the CGAC acquired the photographic archive of Camilo José Cela, which, until that time, had been housed at the Fundación Camilo José Cela in Iria Flavia, in Padrón. This archive is composed of three sets of photographs and negatives that the writer used for literary projects and books like Viaje a la Alcarria (1948), with photos by Karl Wlasak, and Nuevas escenas matritenses (1965-1966), with photos of Madrid by Enrique Palazuelo, and the photographs taken by Carles Fontserè for Nueva York amarga. This last book was never published, although the author did write five very short texts, the manuscripts of which are preserved today in the Fundación Camilo José Cela Foundation archive in Padrón. This set includes around 312 black and white photographs that Carles Fontserè sent to Camilo José Cela in various batches, starting in 1966 after Cela’s visit to New York, through 1971.

The exhibition asks us to reconsider the history of this unfinished project by connecting the photographs Fontserè sent Cela and the letters the two exchanged, as well as the documents, information and reflections on New York that Fontserè would attach to the photographs. The exhibit’s structure strictly adheres to the outline that Cela created, as an index, to articulate the book. In total, there are 28 chapters, the titles of which suggest live images of the city and its people. In each chapter, Cela includes a list of Fontserè’s photographs.

Prior to undertaking this project with Fontserè, Cela had already used photography as a writing tool in various photo-books created through the publishing house Lumen: Toreo de salón (1963), with photographs by Maspons and Ubiña, and Izas, rabizas y colipoterras (1963), with photographs by Joan Colom in Barcelona’s Chinatown, hot scenes of streets teeming with port prostitution. Cela assayed a way of looking at reality that uses photography to create a fiction, with the rapid format of sketch art, of the ‘quintessentially Spanish note,’ like micro-stories that become photo stories.

This exhibit reconstructs the history of an unfinished book and of a friendship while revealing the keen eye that Carles Fontserè Carrió (Barcelona, 1916 - Girona, 2007) had of the human landscape of New York City, where he lived in exile in the nineteen-sixties. A poster artist and Republican fighter during the Spanish Civil War; a painter, drawer, and engraver during his first exile in Paris; a set designer and figurine maker in Mexico, he became a photographer in New York and ultimately returned to Catalonia at the beginning of the nineteen-seventies.

Exhibiton brochure

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