Throughout Spain the symbol of the bull and the ritual of the corrida still survive as a national necessity. To this day bullfights take place on Sundays and on major church holidays. The art of bullfighting, La Tauromaquia is an ancient ceremony enriched in tradition with deep roots in antiquity. In choosing to represent the corrida in his Toros series, Barceló pays homage to this symbol of his national identity. This potent traditional image has fascinated and enriched many previous European artists and Barcelo's Toros series is reminiscent of a long history of bullfight depictions by Spanish masters from Francisco Goya to Pablo Picasso. Barceló's supreme knowledge of the art of bullfighting and his absolute precision in its rendering can be compared to that of Goya and Picasso, and derives from his profound intimacy with the corrida's rules and actors. Barceló paints a vibrant record of the corrida, exemplifying the artist's great ability to reinvigorate with tremendous energy the traditional imagery of his country.
The Toros series is a series of paintings which illustrate each of the different acts of the corrida, from the proceeding moments to the final act; the death of the bull. Salida del chiquero depicts one of the most exhilarating moments of the corrida, the moment when the bull is unleashed from the chiquero into the silence of the bullring. The bull is a wild beast that must meet his fate head on. It is from him, from his strength and power that every aficionado draws his pride. While awaiting the bull's entrance, the crowd vibrates with anxious anticipation. From then onwards he is the idèe fixe of the multitude and seems to occupy the centre stage even before he is released into the arena. The prelude to his entrance is accompanied by a paralysing pitch of excitement from the crowd which transmits itself into a breathless silence as the sacred animal enters the arena to face both glory and death. In Salida del chiquero the significance of this duality is emphasised by the mystical ellipse of light and shade which corresponds to the real division of sun and shade, sol y sombra, in the arena at certain times of the day.
Salida del chiquero was painted in the summer of 1990 while the artist was in relative isolation on his native island of Mallorca. Barceló's solitude is echoed in the painting by the atmosphere of solitude surrounding the bull and the torero, who stand alone in a dramatic confrontation of one another. The earthy strength of Salida del chiquero evokes the terrain of Barceló's homeland but also echoes the nuances of thick brown matiére which he had discovered on his trips to Africa and calls to mind the sandy surfaces of his contemporary Antoni Tapies. The palate of the painting also evokes the essence of Spain. Composed of black, white, yellow, and red each colour is highly symbolic: the black and white colours respond to the light and shade of the arena, as well as to the symbolic black bull and the white horse, and the red and yellow colours are associated with sand and blood as well as the Spanish national flag.
Like his predecessor, Picasso, Barceló links the notion of his own creativity with his ancient Mediterranean heritage and the unfolding of this celebrated ritual. Whilst painting this work Barceló has re-enacted the vital nature of the contest between man and bull in the way that he has used the canvas as his own arena of action in which he as an artist can re-live the drama of the bullfight. The sacrifice of the bull becomes the symbol of the triumph of man over brute force and blind instinct. By his courage man becomes a hero admired by all; he could equally earn their merciless scorn should he show himself cowardly or incompetent in his dangerous task. In this respect the artist bears a resemblance to the torero. The painted bullring is for Barceló a private arena where he is able to express himself, free of all formulas and the performance of the fight becomes the metaphor of the artist's struggle to create a perfect work of art. Barceló once said, "the material of your work is your life", and this is undoubtedly evident in the remarkable 'living matter' of Salida del chiquero. Barceló's mystical presence is conveyed through his expressive brushstrokes that recall the gestural nature of the drama itself, echoing the choreography of the toro's and torero's footwork and serving as a metaphor of the artist's own involvement and risk. Barceló has submerged himself into this painting - his spirit fighting with the material - in his exceptional application of thick paint. In this way his paintings represent images that, in a sense, generate themselves with the controlled richness and thickness of the material essentially determining the image.
"As in bullfighting, I believe, one doesn't paint with ideas." Barceló has said, " The painting happens outside the ideas, in contradiction to ideas even, generating ideas. That is why such silent art forms spawn so many words. This is where painting and bullfighting resemble each other, in the verbosity which accompanies them, as though their own silence was so unbearable that it needed pasodobles and infinite pages". (Miguel Barceló in 1991, quoted in Miguel Barceló 1987 - 1997, Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, April 3 - June 21 1998, p.113).
Everything in this work, from the richness of the material to the expressive curve of the arena not only enhances the drama, but also represents the bullfight as a striking metaphor for the artist's struggle. On the back of the Toros canvas' Barceló has further reaffirmed the mystical presence of the artist (and the bull) by re-using the design of the branding-iron marks, the hierros in conjunction with his own monogrammatic signature. In this way, his initials become a symbol for his own 'casta', a metaphor of risk and of the artist's aspiration and anguish to create the perfect work of art.
see separate catalogue