Max Estrella has the pleasure to present José Val del Omar’s oeuvre (Granada 1904 – Madrid 1982) for the first time in a gallery setting. His work was presented for years in cinephile circuits, international cinematheques, numerous institutions, museums and universities until Manuel Borja-Villel, current director of the Reina Sofía Museum, granted him the place he deserves as an unclassifiable and unique figure of the Spanish avant-garde movement.
It was at a very young age, after a retreat at Las Alpujarras (Andalucía), when Val del Omar intuited the lines of his work under the Mecha-mystic philosophy, which merged his mystical vocation with his passion for technology, aspect that marks his entire career as a creator. A few years later, after his involvement in the Pedagogical Missions of the Republic, he developed a deep anthropological understanding of cinema’s transformative power, and on this basis conceived an artwork in which the spectator’s perception becomes the central element of reference for artistic creation. These characteristics will be present in his work and mentality throughout the artist’s life.
Once the Spanish Civil War concludes –period he spent in Valencia with Josep Renau’s team– he moved to Madrid and worked at the Chamartín Film Studios, where he founded the special effects department and established as well his own lab very close to his home, the first of various spaces he employed during his life to test and develop his technological inventions and patents.
This technical and artistic duality –traits impossible to separate- leads Val del Omar to define himself as a “Cinemist” (filmmaker + alchemist) and his films as “Cinegraphies”. Between 1953 and 1962 he accomplishes what will be considered his masterpiece: Tríptico Elemental de España (Elementary Triptych of Spain), composed by three films he planned on projecting in reverse order of their filming. The first one, presented in Max Estrella, was Aguaespejo Granadino or La Gran Siguiriya, manifestation of his Diaphonic Sound system patented in 1944. This consists in setting up two sound sources one in front of and one behind of the spectator, resulting in a dialogue between what is seen and heard.
In the second one, Fuego en Castilla, he uses techniques such as the Apanoramic Overflow of the Image –another one of the inventions applied in Aguaespejo granadino– and the Tactile-vision presented at the 1955 Turin Technique Congress. Both inventions set up a sort of corporeal journey, confronting two opposed audiovisual concepts –figurative and abstract, concrete and expanded– outranging the two-dimensional construction of images. This film was awarded at the 1961 Cannes Festival for its technical merits of pulsatory lighting. As part of this trilogy that travels through Spain, Val del Omar lastly shoots Acariño Galaico (De Barro) in 1961, film he leaves unfinished. Thanks to the numerous annotations left by Val del Omar about montage and sound, the final edition was completed for its premiere in 1995.
In 1973, his daughter María José and son-in-law Gonzalo Sáenz de Buruaga bought him his last lab. Free of administrative obligations and with a space and mediums of his own to develop his technologies, he put into practice his most visionary creation: the PLAT, PICTO LUMINIC AUDIO TACTILE, to which we dedicate the main exhibition room. In this last period, Val del Omar experiments with laser and the Bionic Optic he had introduced at the 1976 UNIATEC Congress in Moscow. With this technology, the spectator is able to travel around the optically distorted images. Additionally, he creates the Plat Tetraprojector –a method of projection amid the still and sequential image– creating a universe of images and sounds and manipulating all of it through the “Mesa Truca”, also created by him. The outcome is hundreds of slides, diakines and tetrakines, recordings of “fluttering” sounds and super8 films, and, among others, the filigree Variaciones sobre una Granada.
The creator’s collages reveal his personality and mentality, as well as his technical and artistic concerns. Fragments where he elaborates about his inventions in form of poetic-technical writings stand out, in which the keys of his mechamystical thinking are clearly reflected. One of the most relevant collages asserts: “Nous sortons de la galaxie Gutemberg pour entrer dans la galaxie Faraday”, alluding to the exhibition’s main narrative.
Curators: Piluca Baquero Val del Omar, Gonzalo Sáenz de Buruaga
Logistics: Ignacio Pavillard
Design: Santiago de León, Victoria Polo
With the collaboration of the Val del Omar Archive
Special thanks to the Max Estrella team.