Even though they lived in Uruguay, the parents of Rafael Pérez Giménez were Spanish. His father’s painting activity exposed him to art at an early age, perhaps the reason why he adopted his second paternal surname, Barradas, as an artistic name.Although he received no academic training, as a youth he was already participating in “social gatherings” attended by the most noteworthy literary figures in Uruguay. He had his first exhibitions in 1910, at a time when he was contributing as an illustrator to different newspapers and magazines in Montevideo and Buenos Aires.
In 1913, he traveled to Italy, where he met Marinetti and the Futurists. Later, in Paris, he became interested in Cubism.Then, in Barcelona, after a stay in Zaragoza in which he participated in artistic events in the city, Barradas made a living by working for several publishing companies as an illustrator of, among others, the works of Salvat-Papasseit. There he met fellow Uruguayan Joaquín Torres García, and the two ended up exhibiting their work together in Galeries Dalmau. In 1918, in Galeries Dalmau, he introduced a new concept of aesthetics:vibrationism: an original and fresh interpretation of futurist dynamism mixed with Orphist and Cubist influences. It was an aesthetic approach that depicted urban life with an intense and expressive palette.
In 1918, he moved to Madrid. There, in the near absence of a market for avant-garde art, he survived by illustrating books, making toys and designing stages and billboards for the Slavic theater, in addition to immersing himself in the avant-garde atmosphere of the capital.After his exhibition in Ateneo Hall in 1919, Guillermo de Torre drew him into the Ultraist environment, one of the most important expressions of avant-garde ideas in the city at that time. Barradas was the illustrator of the manifesto “Manifiesto Ultraísta Vertical” by De Torre, which appeared in November 1920 in the magazine Grecia, and signed also by Norah Borges, Paszkiewicz, Jahl, Los Delaunay and Vázquez Díaz.He participated in the soirees that the movement held and contributed with drawings and woodcuts to the three main Ultraist magazines: Reflector (1920), Ultra (1921-1922) and Tableros (1922). Also, together with Miró, he illustrated the sole issue of Art Voltaic, by Salvat-Papasseit.
In 1922, his work took a turn as it began to reflect a new concept that he called “planism” and which entailed a certain “return to order” and a gloomy figuration with workers as protagonists. It was the beginning of the series Los Magníficos (The Magnificents). In 1924, Eugenio d’Ors placed him in the priviliged gallery of his Salón de los Once, between Gutiérrez Solana and Gris.At the first exhibition of the Iberian Artists Society, held in Madrid in 1925, Barradas was recognized as an authentic emblem of the new art. In a delicate state of health, Barradas returned to Uruguay in 1928.
Noemi de Haro