Rarely has the geometric abstraction of Islamic art encountered a more inspired dialogue with modern and contemporary creation. José Manuel Ballester (Madrid, 1960), winner of Spain’s National Photography Prize in 2010 and the National Engraving Prize in 1999, analyses, deconstructs and recreates the work of two of the greatest exponents of abstract geometric art that the world has ever known: Dutch painter Piet Mondrian (1872–1944, the founder of neoplasticism) and Ukrainian artist Kazimir Malevich (1878–1935, the father of suprematism). And the venue chosen to exhibit this dialogue is the remains of the caliphate palace (9th-11th c.), then Mudejar church (18th c.), invoking the echo and memory of Arab culture: the most direct reference in the abstract iconography of the avant-garde movements.

From: 06.04.2022

To: 06.04.2023

From Monday to Saturday: From 10:00 to 18:00 Sunday: 10:00 a 15:00

Centro de Arte Moderno y Contemporáneo de Castilla-La Mancha.
Paseo del Miradero 1, 45001 Toledo

Room 1. Video creation that fuses the geometry of both masters, inverting not only the order of their compositional elements but also their primary colours (2022). Ballester creates 13 variations on 13 compositions by Piet Mondrian, subverting the Dutch painter’s trademark orthogonal order always based on parallel lines. Without this grid to articulate the elements, the structures acquire new characteristics, allowing Ballester to offer a novel interpretation of his neoplasticism. On the screen, these are fused with 21 variations on the same number of works by Kazimir Malevich, whose structures—as Ballester explains—are the exact opposite of Mondrian’s: they are fashioned out of oblique lines and diagonals, onto which Ballester has imprinted an orthogonal order.

The video is projected on to the remains of the wall of what was the city’s first Islamic citadel and the chambers attributed to Al-Mamun, the taifa king of Toledo from 1043 until 1075.

Room 4. Six variations on Malevich (digital prints on canvas, 2022). Ballester has created compositions and photographs based on the avant-garde Ukrainian artist’s work. In the background, an interpretation of a work by Mondrian (2022), shattering his characteristic orthogonality. These pieces are on display in the funerary chapel of the old Gothic-Mudejar church of the Order of Calatrava, built in 1253.

Room 5. Two videos about the variations on Malevich and a third on Mondrian (2022) are projected on to three central screens. These screens are flanked by the 12 preliminary drawings for the Malevich-based video work, while the original drawing that constitutes the basis of all these variations hangs on one of the side walls. The installation is on display in the apse of the same Order of Calatrava church.

Room 6. Video creation based on Malevich’s work against a white background (2022), which will dialogue with works from the collection pertaining to constructivism, futurism and other contemporary avant-garde movements close to the suprematism practised by the Ukrainian artist.