García Alix, Alberto
“A way of seeing is a way of being. That’s where we work.” García-Alix’s voice is deep, hoarse, as if trying to remember, syllable by syllable, what he has lived through.
Fortunately, with Alberto García-Alix, the photographer subdued the character. García-Alix was born in León in 1956, and since he hung a camera around his neck, he has never let it go. Photography came by accident to stay with him when his parents, in response to his wishes, gave him a camera as a Christmas present. When one reviews the artist’s abundant material (interviews on paper, videos, texts), certain premises and ideas are repeated over and over again; only the vigor or nuance surrounding them changes depending on when the photographer is speaking. García-Alix is a photographer of words with his speech ready to shoot at the right moment: the encounter and its magic, the trance involved in photography, the necessary understanding of the human being and reality. Photography as a document, a container of information, as a trace and as a memory.
We need his photography to tell the story of Spain, and the artist has survived that burden. Without intention, his images chronicle the awakening that followed the dictatorship, they reflect a few decades that are essential to understanding who we are, who we were and what we lost and gained along the way. Over a career spanning more than thirty-five years, he has broadened his field of observation from his immediate surroundings to an outside world that sometimes appears abstract in his work; he has grown from the literal and intense to the intuitive to achieve the austere lyricism that pervades his latest works. The journey has been from the outside in, from telling the world to telling oneself.
An exhibition by Walker Evans, and another by August Sander, marked the gaze of the young man of the eighties who portrayed friends and acquaintances without knowing that people would turn to these portraits to tell history. However, portraiture is the intimate sphere and epicenter of much of his career, in 2013 the artist stated bluntly: “I always end up taking portraits.” For García-Alix, a portrait is a dance with the accomplice. The perspective always implies intention, and in the portrait environment, the person photographed is not a hostile terrain, but a partner in a moment of mutual acquaintance.
Between 1989 and 1997 García-Alix embarked on, and embarked many of his friends, acquaintances, lovers and passers-by with him on El Canto de la Tripulación, a dreamy, grand, libertarian and sumptuous magazine. During this period he sharpened his eye by deciding on design, layout and content: El Canto de la Tripulación was the great voyage he led as captain, a voyage to which we can return today, to its images, to find out the wishes and desires of an effervescent generation of artists and party-goers who broke with the rules, as most young people so often do.
National Photography Award in 1999, PhotoEspaña Award 2012 and Chevalier des Art et Lettresas of that same year, his work has been in collections such as the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, the MUSAC, the ARTIUM, the CGAC and the Ordóñez-Falcón, as well as the Multimedia Art Museum in Moscow, the Fonds National d’Art Contemporain (Paris), the Speed Art Museum (USA), the Gundlanch Foundation (Germany) and the Photo Museum of HAAG in Holland. He began to exhibit in Madrid in 1981 and, from then on, he has not stopped. He works designing covers for records and magazines, articles and portraits, as a curator, editor and lecturer, writing, designing publications and giving workshops and seminars. García-Alix will never run out of energy, although he sometimes slows down. In 2008, at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, he held his major retrospective to date, De donde no se vuelve (A place of no return), which will travel to China and Mexico. He will research until producing a moving image, making videos and short films. The work of García-Alix is a document of life.
“I portrayed my possessions, my vices and the streets corners where I hang out, because I wanted to elevate them to the height of something epic. The vanity of the excessive, its glory and its wounds, captured my attention”, the artist shared in Hidden in my fear, a text included in the catalog that comes with the exhibition Alberto García-Alix. Self-portrait, at La Virreina, Centre de la Imatge (Barcelona), in March 2013.
“Mirar es vivir” (To look is to live), the artist continues in the same text.
Photography as a second skin. Photography as a method of knowledge, learning and recognition of others; as a salvation and as a path of excess.
In the end, and always, photography: the only companion who never leaves the ship.