The Paintings of Javier Iturbe Unite Two Diverse Traditions

Written by: Maurice Taplinger

The Girl Looking at the Sea- Oil on Canvas

One of the most interesting things about the Spanish artist Javier Iturbe, whose oils on canvas and panel can be seen in "Persistence of Form," at Agora Gallery, 530 West 25th Street, from March 25 through April 15 (Reception March 27, 6 to 8 PM), is the synthesis he has created between Cubism and Surrealism.

After being introduced by his father to older masters such as Velazquez, El Greco, and Goya at the Museum of Fine Arts, in Bilbao, Iturbe discovered Picasso and Dali as a young man. The two modern masters, although poles apart, appear to have played a more or less equal role in inspiring Iturbe to forge his own unique style. For he has somehow managed to combine the structural sense of the Cubists with the literary content of the Surrealists in a highly successful manner.

One need look no further than Iturbe’s oil on panel "Life has more edges than a diamond" to see just how harmoniously he integrates an array of realistically painted faces, large hands, and full-length figures, and other realistically painted faces within an intricate maze of sharp-angled abstract shapes in a vertiginous swirling composition.

Indeed, a sense of swirling movement, almost reminiscent of Vorticism as well, animates a good many of his compositions, lending them a dynamic energy. At times this is combined with a counter-balancing stability, as seen in his oil on canvas, "The girl looking at the sea," in which the serene, still figure of a shapely nude female figure sitting with her back to the viewer provides the focal point while various more phantom-like forms swirl around her in an atmospheric nocturnal whirlpool of memory.

By contrast, in the composition Iturbe calls "Vanity over vanity, just vanity," another graceful young nude lies in a posture of apparent abandonment amid a plethora of intriguingly fragmented imagery, including a disembodied head, several mask-like faces and smaller nudes and a galloping white horse. Here, too, the subsidiary figures appear to be wisps of memory or dream, surrounding the sprawling central nude.

Somewhat more geometrical in its thrust, given the architectural subject matter is "Urbanism shrinks our souls," an oil on canvas in which a bold central form comprised of clustered building occupies the center of the composition, as though locked in place by semi-rectangular abstract color areas. Here, although the central shape contains Iturbe’s characteristic array of freewheeling images and symbols, the composition conveys a sense of stasis and confinement in keeping with the mood of the title.

In "Love is a masquerade," on the other hand, Iturbe creates yet another rhythmic composition in which tiny figures in red leotards dance around a pensive looking female nude, amid an array of hands, flowers, masks, and other symbols that suggest a somewhat jaundiced view toward the props and promises of romance. But while his imagery is invariably compelling and thought-provoking, what makes Javier Iturbe’s paintings interesting in the final analysis is his ability to meld diverse elements within a context that lends his paintings considerable formal as well as literary interest.

Image Credits: The Girl Looking at the Sea- Oil on Canvas 39" x 29.5"

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