“We are trying to attain a revolutionary plastic art which will include both our dramatic tradition and our direct expression, and be our historic response to a universal activity. We are fighting for an art that will lead to the salvation of individuality within the framework of our age. Our goal is a great transformation of plastic art in which may be found the expression of a new reality.” (M. MILLARES, quoted in J.-A. França, Millares, Barcelona, 1978, p. 64).
With its rugged terrain of lacerated burlap swathed in a cascade of visceral paint, Manolo Millares’ Cuadro 193 is a poignant example of the sackcloth creations that represent a critical strand of his oeuvre. Executed in 1962, seven years following Millares’ transition from his native Canary Islands to Madrid, Cuadro 193 is subsumed by a phantasmal figure that coalesces and recesses across the canvas. Effusions of sanguine red, fleshy beige and ossified white emanate from the black void, redolent of bodily remains. The expressive intrusions of chromatic warmth offset the murky expanse creating a formally balanced composition enlivened by the subtle rhythmic movement of colour. Millares’ vast, caustic surface bears a weathered façade manipulated by agitated gashes, extruding stitches of string and crumples of canvas that imply anthropological remains. Throughout his childhood, Millares was enthralled by the mummified remnants of the Guanches found at the Las Palmas museum. It was the extinct ‘homunculi’, indigenous to the island and reiterated in Millares’ figuration, that sparked his interest in the ‘”finitude” of man’, claiming that this ‘extermination of a race’ had ‘provided the original starting point for my sackloths’ (M. Millares, quoted in J-A. França, Millares, Barcelona 1978, p. 94). Cuadro 193 is an expressive investigation into the vulnerability of mankind. Although often affiliated with Arte Povera and Art Informel movements, Millares’ art is more concerned with the depravity of the human condition, which is underscored by his inauguration of the Spanish avant-garde group ‘El Paso.’ Comprising fellow artists Pablo Serrano, Manuel Rivera, Rafael Canogar and Luis Feito, the group sought to create ‘an art that will lead to the salvation of individuality within the framework of our age’—an era ravaged by the psychological effect of the Second World War, the Holocaust, Hiroshima, and the Spanish Civil War (M. Millares, quoted in J.-A. França, Millares, Barcelona 1978, pp. 132-33). Cuadro 193’s ravaged, bandaged and bespattered canvas is a raw and dramatic exploration of mankind’s place in the modern world.