I was incredibly fortunate on my recent visit to Malaga to come across two of the best art exhibitions I’ve ever seen at the fantastic Centre for Contemporary Art. I’ve already written up my thoughts on KAWS – Final Days but capping that was the astonishing Apocalipsis by El Roto which was one of the most powerful, thought provoking reflective exhibitions I’ve ever seen. El Roto is one of Spain’s most important sartirical cartoonists, born Andres Rabago in Madrid in 1947, he has undergone various name changes but creats cartoons on a daily basis over many years that look at the human condition in a world of perpetual conflict that act as a moral compass to Spain’s history and politics.
Apocalipsis was based around the sequences in Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal involving a game of chess between a crusader knight and death for the knight’s life. 271 cartoons were organised in four sections, each section containing 64 pieces (the same number of squares on a chess board) with the sections linked by chess knights and then a final selection of ten cartoons called epilogue depicting the end of the battle / conflict perhaps? Each of the sections / boards had a theme – Ecology, Economy, Science and Violence.
Each picture was very simple with a minimum of colour used but the individual and collective power of each of the sections was truly remarkable. Across the boards the economic and political problems of Spain (and the wider world?) were played out in starkly effective terms, immigration, war, ecology, famine, corruption, capitalism, religion, consumerism, politics, human relations, multi media, health, education and unemployment all featured but El Roto appeared to be pointing a way out of a worn out corrupt system in which we live. Even with only about 4 words of Spanish in my vocabulary I was able to interpret the art even if I could not translate all of what was being said in some of the pictures. I would have thought that for the Spanish audience this exhibition must have been nothing short of incendiary.
It’s very difficult to capture the scale of each of the boards here but to be able to drift round them, immerse yourself in the story that El Roto was trying to tell and reflect upon it was a brilliant experience. To think that after I’d see this I turned a corner into the KAWS exhibition and you can perhaps understand what a fantastic overall experience this was.
Perhaps the final world should be left to El Roto “What my cartoons aim to show is not so much an attitude of despair but an indication of errors committed and thus the possibility of correcting them”.