Since her early influences of Pop Art and Post Minimalism, Carmen Calvo (Valencia, 1950) has developed a uniquely singular identity based on a visual language that is characterised by the appropriation of objects, often with deep connections to the historic memory and in danger of disappearing, that she recovers and manipulates employing a heterogeneous combination of mediums. Using rubber, collage, drawing, gold-leaf, diverse objects or anonymous photographs, enlarged and manipulated, Calvo presents us with her own particular vision of the human condition with the figure as the main protagonist. They are anonymous personnages that evoke an irrecoverable past of our history while commenting on contemporary reality.
Carmen Calvo’s interventions on anonymous photographs, either by changing the face of the character with the application of everyday objects or with painterly manipulation, alter our reading of our identity, who we are, and how we are perceived. The individual, isolated from any context, compels us to reconsider the role of our cultural heritage and the effect it has on the definition of our own sense of being.
A small porcelain sculpture of a child reading a book, unquestionably kitsch in a nineteenth-century bourgeois style, serves as a key to enter into the cosmography of Carmen Calvo. The artist has blindfolded the boy, forcing him to read blindly, thus implying that only the blind can see the truth. A lack of eyes is not an obstacle to understanding, and indeed, many of the characters that inhabit the world of Carmen Calvo are missing eyes. Their attention is internal, toward a world of impressions and memories that cannot be interpreted by ocular sensations. Nevertheless, these absent eyes appear disembodied in several drawings on paper, observing innocuous and anonymous characters in neutral spaces that evoke exhibition halls where the works gaze upon the viewer. They are works of a teeming sexuality loaded with a powerful life force and an intimate connection with the subconscious that make a discreet nod to the chance encounter between the sewing machine and the umbrella of Count Lautréamont whilst challenging our perception of the Self.
One of the most recognised of Spanish artists, Carmen Calvo, has enjoyed a broad international museum exhibition programme. She represented Spain at the Venice Biennale (1997) and has been the focus of important retrospective exhibitions in museums such as the IVAM (1990, 2007) and the Museum of Contemporary Art Reina Sofia (2002), amongst others. Her extensive exhibition record and an unequivocal commitment to experimental work have served to place the work of Carmen Calvo amongst the most significant within Spanish Art of today.