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Enemy of cages. Joaquim Molas and the avant-garde (Until 27.08)

The views of writer and critic Joaquim Molas on the Catalan avant-garde

Palau Robert is devoting the exhibition 'Enemic de gàbies' (Enemy of Cages) to the Catalan avant-garde in the artistic and literary movements of the 20th century, based on the archive material of professor, historian, critic and advocate of publishing activities, Joaquim Molas.

The exhibition 'Enemic de gàbies. Joaquim Molas i les avantguardes' (Enemy of cages. Joaquim Molas and the avant-garde) runs from 23 May to 27 August in Room 4 and is organised by the Government of Catalonia, the Víctor Balaguer Independent Heritage Body and the Joaquim Molas Wing of the Víctor Balaguer Library and Museum in Vilanova i la Geltrú. It was curated by professors Enric Bou and Jordi Cerdà.

The exhibition reveals the intervention of Joaquim Molas in the discovery and study of the literary and artistic avant-garde in Catalonia and his demand for cultural and social modernity. This was a task to which he devoted many years of study and observation, starting as a young man with the books and journals in his father's library and later developing his knowledge during his studies at the Universities of Barcelona and Liverpool.


Joaquim Molas was an inquiring reader and teacher who taught a very specific way of reading and left a very important legacy, part of which was not disclosed or taught through his writings but has now been discovered in his legacy. The 'Molas method' gave meaning and coherence to the task of a number of writers, artists, works and trends in Catalonia to enable the avant-garde to be regarded as an essential stage of our cultural history. Molas modernised the instruments and repertoire of reading in our country. His intervention was both incisive and decisive, dogmatic and orderly. Most noteworthy is his interpretation of such key figures as Joan Salvat-Papasseit, Salvador Dalí and J.V. Foix, and he has been described as an acute observer of the most interesting literature of the 20th century, and as an 'enemy of cages', according to a definition made by Joan Brossa in a dedication.

The avant-garde movement studied by Joaquim Molas marked a very important period in the cultural history of Catalonia. It emerged during the first third of the 20th century in many countries, breaking down the established patterns, modes and morals in a reaction to the crisis in cultural and ideological values that became manifest in the wake of the First World War.

The exhibition at Palau Robert is an adaptation and extension, with the aim of enlightenment, of the exhibition entitled 'Atles Molas. Ordre i disjuncions en les avantguardes' (The Molas Atlas. Order and Disjunction in the Avant-Garde Movement), which was presented towards the end of 2016 in the Víctor Balaguer Library and Museum in Vilanova i la Geltrú, to which Joaquim Molas left his legacy. This exhibition in Vilanova coincided with the first anniversary of the professor's death.


Joan Brossa va qualificar a Joaquim Molas d’“enemic de gàbies” en una dedicatòria l’any 1978.(Foto: Pere Virgili)


The exhibition is structured in the following section:


Historic realism and the avant-garde

Joaquim Molas advocated literature as an instrument for social transformation, as an art associated with life and with society. His tributes to Salvat-Papasseit not only included the vindication of the avant-garde poet but also his sensitive voicing of the quotidian and his exemplary anti-rhetoric approach. The controversial anthology by Josep M. Castellet and Joaquim Molas, Poesia catalana del segle XX (1962) was a key publication from this period.


Knowledge of the avant-garde; friendship with J.V. Foix

The poet and teacher J.V. Foix opened up the avant-garde to Molas and with it a spirit of boldness that was unusual at that time. Foix talked to him from first-hand experience about Salvat-Papasseit, Dalí, the Italian futurist manifestos and the Révolution Surréaliste.


The modernist revival and pop

Professor Molas was one of the people responsible for the recovery and definition of Modernism and Avant-Garde in the culture of the 1960s, and an undisputed authority on the identification and social understanding of this topic. Throughout the Western world these periods were reviewed from a kitsch or retro perspective.


Avant-garde hits the streets

The homage to the ADLAN group (Friends of New Art) at the Architects' Association in 1970 almost coincided with the publication of Poesia Rasa by Joan Brossa and, the following year, Poesia T-47 by Guillem Viladot. The avant-garde, the plastic arts and the literary arts were becoming socialised.


A constant eye on the future

Molas incorporated every incarnation of popular culture, including the underground, in his classes. He also received publications by his students or colleagues such as Vicenç Altaió, Lluís Urpinell and Jaume Valcorba. For this reason, the Molas Archive contains some important material from the shifting period of the last few years of the dictatorship and the dawn of democracy. This period culminated in Molas' most important study: La literatura catalana d'avantguarda 1916-1938 (1983).


The reconstruction of the historian

Molas achieved undisputed authority in the study of the avant-garde and he made a crucial contribution to the story of Catalonia and Barcelona thanks to his advocacy of cultural and social modernity. During the Cultural Olympiad of 1992, the exhibition 'Les avantguardes a Catalunya' (The Avant-Garde in Catalonia) positioned Barcelona as an indispensable source for understanding and identifying the avant-garde movement of the twentieth century.


The Molas Method

The Molas Method is a multi-faceted solution for studying literature which can be modified according to the spirit of the time, editorial needs and topic of study. On this subject, Professor Molas contended: 'As far as I am concerned, literary history is the reconstruction of a specific moment in time; in other words, the discovery and identification of every force, including the marginal ones, that it comprises'.

The exhibition also presents a video featuring excerpts from interviews of Joaquim Molas in which he talks about his interest in literature from a very young age, thanks to a favourable family environment, and his relationships with avant-garde writers. There are also images of the Víctor Balaguer Museum in Vilanova i la Geltrú which showcase the rich literary and artistic legacy of the professor and critic.

It should also be noted that anyone interested in exploring the subject in greater depth can buy the exhibition catalogue, 'Atles Molas. Ordre i disjuncions en les avantguardes' (The Molas Atlas. Order and Disjunction in the Avant-Garde Movement) from the Tourist Office on the first floor of Palau Robert.


Il•lustració de la coberta del disc de Guillermina Motta, Visca l’amor! (1968). Disseny d’Enric Sió i text presentació de Joaquim Molas.


Joaquim Molas i J. V. Foix, un dels escriptors que el van introduir en les avantguardes.


Imatge de la capçalera de la publicació Els Marges, Revista de Llengua i Literatura fundada per Joaquim Molas el 1974. Disseny de Jaume Vallcorba a partir d’un dibuix de la revolució cultural xinesa.

Update:  12.05.2017