Julio Galán (1958-2006)
Julio Galán (1958-2006)

Hice bien quererte (I Did Well Loving You)

Julio Galán (1958-2006)
Hice bien quererte (I Did Well Loving You)
signed and inscribed 'Julio Galán, 1997' (lower right)
oil on canvas
78 ¼ x 168 7/8 in. (199 x 429 cm.) overall dimensions, diptych
78 ¼ x 70 ¾ in (199 x 180 cm.) left panel; 78 ¼ x 98 1/8 in. (199 x 249.2 cm.) right panel
Painted in 1990. Postdated by the artist 1997.
Annina Nosei Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
J. P. Borum, "Review, Julio Galán, Annina Nosei Gallery," Artforum International, October 1990, p. 169 (illustrated in color).
Julio Galán, New York, Annina Nosei Gallery, 1990 (illustrated in color, detail).
Further details
1 Alfredo Salazar, “Julio Galán: Cada cuadro una historia diferente,” Express (April 22, 1990): 47. Annina Nosei Gallery Archive, MSS 298 Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University Libraries.
2 The spelling of the title for this work was listed on the original exhibition checklist and on the painting’s identification tag from Annina Nosei’s Gallery as “Hice bien qvererte.” While Galán constantly plays with alternative spellings in his title, and “qvererte” may have intentionally been the misspelling of “quererte,” placing an emphasis on “ver” or “seeing,” all subsequent spellings of the title, in the very exhibition catalogue of 1990, and in various publications, list the title as “quererte.”
3 Beginning in 1980 Galán presented solo exhibitions in Monterrey with Guillermo Sepúlveda at the Galería Miró (renamed Galería Arte Actual Mexicano). Moving to New York City in 1984, where he resided part-time through 1990, he secured consistent representation with Annina Nosei Gallery beginning in 1988. Barbara Farber represented Galán at her gallery in Amsterdam, Holland beginning in 1986.
4 The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey awarded Galán the coveted MARCO Prize in 1994 with a monetary award of $250,000.
5 Galán titles this painting, which compositionally is closely related to Hice bien quererte, by re-arranging the letters of the crass statement “No estén chingando.”
6 Margaret Sayers Peden, Out of the Volcano: Portraits of Contemporary Mexican Artists (Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991), 197.
7 Ibid.
8 Galán’s portrait can resemble himself at different ages, his sisters Sofia and Lissi, his cousin Golondrina, his close friends Luisa Peña and Mara Sepúlveda, among others, and in Hice bien quererte, the handsome Johnny Rodriguez.
9 Jenifer P. Borum, “Julio Galán: Annina Nosei Gallery,” Arforum International 29.2(October 1990): 169.
10 Carter Ratclife, in “Post-Modern Tropics,” Elle Magazine (April 1989) on page 162 pointedly commented, “Filled with levitating forms, Galán’s large canvases are eerily quiet. They have the quality of memory: precise, ecstatic, and obsessively treasured because it is all that remains of an irretrievable childhood.”
11 Annina Nosei to Julio Galán, fax, October 29, 1991. Annina Nosei Gallery Archive, MSS 298 Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University Libraries.

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Virgilio Garza
Virgilio Garza

Lot Essay

At the beginning (my self-portraits) were more static, rigid, anguished, but now I can see another aspect that I have been discovering of myself, something more tranquil, more compliant, more of finding myself with my very self.1
Julio Galán, having made the above statement to a journalist in April of 1990 as he was preparing for his upcoming solo exhibition I, Galán, My Own Icon at the Annina Nosei Gallery in SOHO, New York City, manifested just that with Hice bien quererte (I Did Well Loving You).2 Expansive, timeless, and nostalgic, the monumental canvas was one of fifteen new artworks slated for the May-June exhibition. A young 31-years of age, Galán was already well-established by that point, having presented retrospectives at the Museo de Monterrey in 1987 and Mexico City’s Museo de Arte Moderno in 1988, and several individual exhibitions in Monterrey, Amsterdam, and New York City.3 His artistic trajectory on a fast-track, 1990 would be a break-through, productive, high-visibility year with additional exhibitions at Gian Enzo Sperone in Rome, Italy, Witte de With in Rotterdam, Holland, and inclusion in many of the contemporary art exhibitions accompanying the traveling blockbuster Mexico: Splendors of Thirty Centuries. Soon thereafter Galán would win the first MARCO prize and would be represented by gallerist Thaddaeus Ropac in Paris, France, further establishing an international presence.4 Self-investigation drove Galán’s career, the evolution of his treatment of self-portraiture evident in the impactful Hice bien quererte.
From the early 1980s when Galán first exhibited his artwork publicly at Monterrey’s Galería Arte Actual Mexicano and received his first acquisition prize at INBA’s Salón Nacional de Artes Plásticas for El encantamiento (Lissi, Lissi) of 1981, up to his early death in 2006 at the age of 47, identity, explored through self-portraiture was key to the artist. The androgynous, pre-pubescent, and shapeless doll-boy of El encantamiento developed into the adolescent face that appears suspended in Noe stechin gando of 19885 for example, and into the youth of Hice bien quererte of 1990.
But while Galán’s portraits were both conceptually and compositionally central to his work, they were not intended to be straight-forward and representational, rather, poetic and obtuse—multifarity was Galán’s friend. Identity as expressed in Galán’s artwork was multidimensional; enjoying materiality and creating compositional tension through a variety of means including fragmentation, graffiti, heavy black outlines, text, erasure, and more, he underscored illusion, artifice, and cultural construction. Constantly testing the boundaries of identity, he used his own visage as a disguise for fluid gender play. Galán acknowledged that this iconic face was sometimes him, sometimes “people from my childhood, brothers and sisters,”6 while scholar Margaret Sayers Peden noted that Galán’s doppelganger was “sometimes infant, sometimes boy, sometimes youth. In each manifestation, however, (he/she) is the same unmistakable persona: wan, doleful, pouting red lips, small but protruding ears.”7 Essentially, the self-portrait for Galán was a complex, chameleonic composite of those close to him whom he loved, desired, and struggled with; his portraits most often embedded in layers of poetic meaning and (dark, tragic) melodramatic emotion.8
Artforum’s Jenifer P. Borum pointedly observed of the monumental canvas: The artist’s head gazes directly at us, bisected asymmetrically so that part of the middle is missing. The result is a graceful, mannerist self-portrait worthy of Bronzino…Galán wields artifice beautifully to create, on the one hand, an idealized self in a magical world, and on the other, to expose the construct of self as an illusion. His is a never-ending story without a plot, an inaccessible, yet formally intoxicating fabrication of self.”9
In the “eerily quiet”10 Hice bien quererte, Galán employed the trope of bifurcation, omission, and reconfiguration; he also approached in this way several untitled pastel portraits of the early 1990s, and the contemporaneous major works Chinese and Roma, achieving through imperfectly rejoined, misaligned or diplopic portraits, the distortion, and ultimately, othering that he sought in his artwork. Adding to this sense of disjuncture, was Galán’s purposeful post-dating of his artwork, something he did here in Hice bien quererte, and elsewhere, suggesting his attempt, if futile, to harness time.
In a euphoric moment in the fall of 1991, Annina Nosei wrote to the artist, “Your painting turns my horizon. I have been imagining the earth flat and turned 90° while I was driving in my car to the country this weekend. It was dangerous but I looked at the sky and it was square.”11 Perhaps, as the viewer contemplates Hice bien quererte’s vast blue field, which is atypically free from the density of things attached, cut away, text inscribed, or torn-images collaged to its surface, they will be reminded of the open sky and Galán gazing down from high above changing our perspective.
Teresa Eckmann, Associate Professor of Contemporary Latin American Art History, University of Texas at San Antonio

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