Four Saints in Three Acts: Stein Collages
by Gonzalo Tena
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Gonzalo Tena became interested in incorporating language fragments into his acrylic compositions during his year as Painter-in-residence at the Spanish Academy of Rome (September, 1999-June, 2000). Tena had begun a series of bold abstract paintings when his initial working plan was disrupted by an unexpected introduction to the "profound thoughts of Gertrude Stein." He began exploring Stein's texts at the library of the Centro Studi Americani (Center for American Studies), in a neighborhood near to his studio. Stein's writing soon became a kind of grand passion and Tena decided to begin a series of triptych collages in which he would group abstract and separately conceived panels --of both painting and photo-image--together with single words or phrases taken from the text of Stein's opera libretto, "Four Saints in Three Acts." He connects his own cut-ups of Stein fragments, in the collages shown here, to the tiny cut bits of stone—or tessera—used in the re-assembled mosaics often found in ancient public Roman sites. These works are based in abstraction yet carry suggestions of his sojourn in Rome. "It is a happy coincidence, I believe, that contributed to my work--which came directly in relation to Stein's thinking."
Tena's collages were presented as a part of the Spanish Academy's culminating, year-end exhibit of work by Painting Fellows in Rome. His work is shown in galleries in Barcelona and Madrid.