Dimock Gallery’s Goya exhibit explores Spanish past

Images of misshapen and contorted humans, along with subhuman witches, monks and nobility, play out disturbing and complicated themes in the Dimock Gallery’s latest exhibit “Goya: Los Caprichos.”

The exhibit, which runs until Feb. 28, gives visitors a rare chance to view all 80 prints of Francisco Goya’s controversial “Los Caprichos,” while providing a greater insight into the tumultuous life of the artist and his social critiques of the time.

Beginning with a self-portrait of Goya in a tall top hat and moving to darker images of naked children, prostitutes and ludicrous donkeys mocking Spanish nobility, the exhibit follows what Assistant Curator Cira Pascual-Marquina describes as “an organic and loose arrangement.” The disorder of the prints allows visitors to see the contrasting styles Goya employed.

Published in 1799 the dark and disharmonious figures that populate Goya’s “Los Caprichos” were created through the complex process of aquatint, in which copper plates are carefully exposed to acids, creating pockmarks on the plate’s surface. The plate becomes a print template when ink fills these pocks. This process allows Goya to achieve a detailed composition of tones and masses, conveying the timelessness of his art through the grotesque images in his prints.

“His technique is much more free . and does not give a very finished look,” Pascual-Marquina said. “The prints are very animated . they have a lot of time sensitivity and talk about their time period.”

Goya’s diverse mix of prints exposes themes of social and political upheaval and feelings of oppressed lower classes in Spain during the Spanish Inquisition. In Capricho 43, El sueno de la razon produce monstruos (1797-98), which translates “the sleep of reason produces monsters,” the image of a man asleep at a desk surrounded by bats, owls and an ever-watchful lynx evokes feelings of vulnerability and dissonance.

Goya explains in notes that accompany El sueno de la razon produce monstruos that the man dreaming represents him, and his “sole intention (of “Los Caprichos”) is to undo popular prejudices and to perpetuate with this work of Caprichos a solid testament of truth.”

While some viewers may find it difficult to understand the full meaning of the prints without knowing the historical context of Goya’s work, the exhibit provides descriptive text panels with background information about the collection. There are also walk-through guides available to visitors interested in reading more in-depth interpretations of the individual prints.

“Some people come here who have never heard of Goya and there are others who know a lot,” said Lenore Miller, director of the Dimock Gallery. “We are trying to make this an educational experience. This is a one-on-one experience with the student . it is something you can’t do in a big museum.”

Pascual-Marquina said an intimate setting fits the personal nature of the exhibit.
“This is what Goya wanted.that people could see the human conditions and weaknesses and part of their own life within the works,” Pascual-Marquina said.
“I really liked it,” said Annette McCaskey, a student at the University. “It was pretty macabre but I liked it because every piece brought some emotion. They were all very discordant and not happy.”

To bring more Spanish art to campus, the Dimock Gallery is working with Lisner Auditorium to produce “Espana!,” a festival that celebrates the arts of Spain and provides, as Miller puts it, “a total submersion in Spanish culture.”

“Espana!” which will run through Feb. 9, includes a performance of “La Tirana” by the Maria Pages Dance Company Thursday at 8 p.m. in Lisner Auditorium and a performance of “Locura de Brisa y Trino” by Manolo Sanlucar and Carmen Linares Feb. 9.

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