Texto: Nancy G. Heller

Review Art Post-Franco works from Spain are showcased in Washington

Can you name a living Spanish artist? If not, you're in good company.Traditionally, Americans have regarded Spain exclusively as the birthplace of old masters such as Velazquez and Goya, plus early modern masters such' as Picasso, Miro- and Dali. Only during the last 20 years have U.S. art critics, curators and collectors begun to appreciate the vitality, variety, and importance of contemporary Spanish art.

Until recently, such art was difficult to see even in Spain, due to the isolating effects of the Spanish Civil War and almost 40 years of Fascist government under Franco.

However, soon after Franco's death in 1975, Spanish art began to enjoy a renaissance bolstered by the government's enthusiastic support for contemporary art, as demonstrated by the establishment of the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid and numerous regional museums of modern art.

Since the 1980s, several U.S. institutions have frequently focused on contemporary Spanish art. Viewers can now see an exhibition of painting and sculpture, "Contemporary Spanish Art," by a dozen Spanish artists through Thursday at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington. The show is jointly sponsored by the Spanish and Mexican governments, and this will be its only U.S. venue.

In her catalog essay, curator Maria Teresa Beguiristain explains that she chose these artists to make several points. All are from Valencia, the eastern coastal area known for its oranges, which Beguiristain thinks should also be remembered for its culture. All the artists are women, and most are midcareer.

Beguiristain feels it is important to showcase the work of this "lost generation" that came to maturity under Franco and had to struggle to break free from traditional ideas about women's roles and rights. Arid because these artists have had virtually all their previous exhibitions in Spain, this also was an attempt to introduce viewers in other countries to their work.

There actually are three exhibitions in one: solo shows of sculpture by.Natividad Navalon and Rocio Villalonga, plus diverse works by 10 others.

Navalon is clearly aware of Spanish art history. Dark and austere, abstract yet also poetic, her works combine huge iron monoliths with narrow pillows of wine-red velvet. This series of "Anonymous Dwellings" (1994-96) suggests marriage beds, gravestones and altars. The artist says they are intended to embody strong emotions, especially loneliness.