ARMINDA ARTETA: “PANCHO LASSO WAS THE FIRST BIG ARTIST THAT LANZAROTE HAD
The art historian Arminda Arteta will address in the conference ‘Pancho Lasso and her aesthetic vision of Lanzarote’ not only her artistic and ideological link associated with the surrealist movement of the School of Vallecas, but also her social and artistic commitment to the languages of the avant-gardes historical, as well as the transmission of the aesthetic values of the insular landscape to a young César Manrique.
Why this conference now?
It is within the framework of the celebration of the centenary of César Manrique. The Warehouse has launched a series of lectures on the before, during and after César Manrique. To know the influences with which he could have contact and everything that in some way marked the evolution of his work. Pancho Lasso played a very important role in this, especially when he returned after the Civil War broke out despite having a well-established career at the School of Vallecas. There he comes in contact with a very young César Manrique, whose father is forcing him to study architecture. Pancho Lasso conveys all those cool avant-garde ideas of the School of Vallecas that were based on looking at the dry landscape that surrounded Madrid. From there they begin to put in value the landscape of Lanzarote that until then was synonymous with misery. Obviously Manrique drank from many sources, but Pancho Lasso does not put on enough value.
The name of Pancho Lasso is synonymous with art in Lanzarote thanks to the school that bears his name, but do we know enough about his work?
Thanks to Santiago Alemán, Pancho Lasso’s name was given to the School. The discomfort of his work is dramatic because he was the first artist in capitals that had Lanzarote, was the first artist to extend his scholarship in 1925 in the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. There are several reasons why we do not know much about his work. On the one hand, his own character: he was very introverted, humble, honest. He did not have the capacity that Manrique had to project himself to the outside world. Arriving in Madrid, Pancho Lasso said that he felt “in a different hen house”, possibly because he had arrived from Lanzarote empty of references. After the Civil War, he abandoned his Marxist ideals and spent a period of introspection where his work remained dormant until the 60s. At that time he entered the art of the medal thanks to an initiative of the Casa de la Moneda. Pancho Lasso wanted a modest museum in Lanzarote where his work could be to put it at the service of the people. Thanks to that fame that he acquires with the realization of medals, he is entrusted with some public work in Lanzarote such as the sculpture tribute to Dr. Molina Orosa or the bust of Blas Cabrera Felipe. In June of 1973, he was given an anthological exhibition for the first time, but he could not even see it because he died at the beginning of the year. Thanks to the struggle of his daughter, in the 80s he brings part of his work to MIAC, but we still do not know his work well.
Without pretending to seek the controversy, with all that is César Manrique for Lanzarote, at the same time he may have eclipsed the work of other artists such as Pancho Lasso.
That Pancho Lasso was not prone to public exposure made him totally eclipsed. First by Alberto Sánchez at the School of Vallecas and then with César Manrique in Lanzarote. He was the global artist of the island, who prepared it for the arrival of tourism and the creator of that Lanzarote brand. Not because of Manrique’s will, but I do agree that the interpretation we have made after his death seems that only what he did was valid. This is something very unfair and we have to change this look a bit. The store is making local artists visible. There are also young groups, such as Brain Birth, that are working to change that look.
How do you see the evolution of the art that is being created in Lanzarote?
The art that is being done is in keeping with the contemporary world we live. The photography of Gérson Díaz, David GP or Emma López-Leyton or the artists from the School of La Laguna are a great example. There is a series of open genres that is perhaps enriching a new Lanzarote brand. It is a reflection of the multicultural society in which we live.
Should Lanzarote pull down the road to overthrow the myth of Manrique? Why follow it? Or is coexistence possible?
I think both paths are perfectly compatible. César Manrique is a classic for the island, but society evolves and we have to advance to the contemporary. You can always do some pedagogy in this regard through, as The Warehouse does, guided tours, but they are fully compatible. On the one hand, we associate Manrique with Lanzarote and vice versa, but of course it is necessary that there are new ways of interpretation that only enrich the artistic panorama.
With the inauguration of the Archaeological Museum, a temporary exhibition was presented in which you have also worked, what is it about?
We were commissioned an exhibition that gave information about the family of Don Fermín Rodríguez, who had built the house of the Museum. We talk about the characteristics of the owners, Don Fermín and his wife Doña Manuela García. This house without these owners would not have been possible because they corresponded to the bourgeois prototype of the early twentieth century. The exhibition covers the history of this house and the other properties of the family, the theories about its construction … We also make an historical-urban development of Arrecife emphasizing the need to protect the historical heritage that Arrecife still treasures and that is in danger of extinction. “Arrecife is being left behind the soul,” said Leandro Perdomo. In the exhibition we also allude to the phrase of César Manrique “knowing how to see and not to look is the key to knowledge”. Arrecife deserves a slightly more friendly look.
Pancho Lasso also said that “Arrecife is only the reflection of its inhabitants”. It would be necessary to take special care in the maintenance of the heritage of the capital.
The role of Vanessa Rodríguez, as the show’s designer, and mine was simply to try to get people to look up. We have to be aware of what we have, put it into value and from there, everyone in their day to day, can do something to change things. Through social networks we have developed as a second part of the exhibition to try to make people discover those little gems of our heritage. We have realized that there is a lot of interest.
What will we know about Pancho Lasso in a conference?
The intention is to make a tour of all his work, see how it evolved and despite the variety of styles always had two pillars in his work: social commitment to the people and love for his native island. I will influence the encounter with César Manrique to discover the origins of Manrique’s spatial approaches.