Morata de Tajuña: Martín Chirino’s arcade for sale in the Jarama valley | Culture


Ten days before dying, the sculptor Martín Chirino (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 1925-Madrid, 2019) celebrated his 94th birthday in Valyunque, the arcade in which he lived and worked for the last two decades of his life. Some 50 guests traveled to this farm located in Morata de Tajuña (Madrid, 7,482 inhabitants) for his birthday and drove along secondary roads surrounded by vineyards and quarries that cross the fields on which the Battle of Jarama was fought in the Civil War. At the top of the hill of the rustic farm, of about three hectares, the host waited at the door of the house, a white cube half hidden by a spectacular forest of cypress, pine, olive, arizonic and holm oaks. The sculptor had a gift for his friends and family: Cello. Dream of music (2019), a piece of iron on wood that he had just finished in the workshop. His relatives took the memory of a last meeting with the artist in the place where he bent iron with the force of maturity, until it became a poetic representation of the wind. Now, almost three years after his death, on March 11, 2019, Chirino’s house-workshop has been put up for sale by his daughter, Marta Chirino Argenta, for 1.5 million euros. At the moment, no institution has shown interest in preserving the home of one of the most important Spanish artists of the 20th century.

Wandering and cosmopolitan, Chirino always sought the outskirts of large cities to install his workshop and his home, two concepts that were united for a man who put art before all things. During his New York years he lived in a small, secluded cabin along the Hudson River. When he settled in Madrid at the beginning of the sixties, he chose a farm next to the San Sebastián de los Reyes cemetery. There he remained until 1996. What had been almost a wasteland when he arrived, had become a forest of constructions that devoured space and disturbed concentration and silence. His daughter, Marta Chirino (Madrid, 58 years old), remembers that the lack of understanding with the environment was mutual. “There were neighbors who complained about the blows that my father gave on the anvil and he could not live with what surrounded him.”

Always searching near Madrid, Chirino discovered what would become his last paradise, Valyunque. In the book of conversations The sculpted memory (Galaxia Gutenberg) describes to Antonio Puente what the chosen place was like: “In Morata de Tajuña I am in my Arcadia. The landscape is very sober, but beautiful, similar to Tuscany, and preserves Roman vestiges. The house is very simple, made of waste, but very open to the sun and light, which are counteracted by a garden, designed to compose shade. Also in this house I must be stoic, because I like sober surroundings and a certain solemnity ”.

Works by Martín Chirino, in a room next to the forge where he worked in his house in Morata de Tajuña (Madrid).
Works by Martín Chirino, in a room next to the forge where he worked in his house in Morata de Tajuña (Madrid).
Bald Elm

Chirino took care of every detail of the two-story house contained in the white cube. Each window, each lamp or each piece of furniture has a history and a function that allowed him to lead a comfortable life in an isolated place. For example, the kitchen table, where he liked to spend hours, comes from the dining room of the Nuestra Señora Santa María school (Madrid) where he was a teacher and where he met his future wife, Margarita Argenta. To recreate the solemnity he was talking about with Puente, he had the building covered with cypress trees from his beloved Tuscany and native species such as pine and olive trees. The local aromatic plants, such as lemon verbena, lavender or thyme perfumed his long walks through the rustic lands that extend to the town.

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In the house, his daughter Marta packs the hundreds of volumes that made up her library these days. There are the authors who most influenced him (Ortega, Joyce, Nietzsche, Hesse) sharing shelves with catalogs of the work of artists from around the world. There is also, half finished, the classification of his correspondence with his gallery owners or other artists. In front of countless folders, her daughter tells that Chirino kept everything. He was a maniac about papers and order. “But an order that was confused with crowding,” she explains resigned. “He knew where he had everything. But there were many books, papers and photographs that coexisted in chaos for the eyes of others ”.

Marta Chirino, daughter of the sculptor Martín Chirino, in the living room of the Morata de Tajuña house (Madrid).
Marta Chirino, daughter of the sculptor Martín Chirino, in the living room of the Morata de Tajuña house (Madrid).Bald Elm

Outside the main residence, there is a second small house, which was occupied by the Canarian painter Rafael Monagas, Chirino’s collaborator for many years. From that construction you can access the authentic enclave of the estate. The artist defended that the basics of his workshop were a forge and a window. The first thing that surprises the visitor are the beautiful views of the vineyards of a neighboring property. Inside, you see an anvil scarred from having supported the weight of iron and hammer for many years. There are no more remains of the forge activity. You can’t even see your fire-scorched gloves or aprons. What is in a contiguous space is the result of the incessant activity of the co-founder of the El Paso group. About twenty medium-format pieces reflect his obsession with the wind and, above all, with the spiral, the world-renowned motif in the artist’s work.

The historian and critic Alfonso de la Torre, a deep connoisseur of the work of the Canarian artist, says that in the Morata de Tajuña workshop, Chirino set out in search of perfection using large formats. “He never stopped investigating. His sculptural work was a formal analysis on which he poured his readings and his knowledge. Bow to the world (2005) the Alfaguara (2005-2017), great works of that time, remind us of his desire for what we could call the expression of a monumental intimacy, the possibility of elevating his forms by occupying the world, in the manner of the drawn space of his admired Julio González, that artist whom he discovered at the Musée d’art Moderne in Paris, in 1952, and who completely upset him ”.

Anvil with which the sculptor Martín Chirino worked in his home in Morata.
Anvil with which the sculptor Martín Chirino worked in his home in Morata. Bald Elm

Today, his work is scattered throughout the great museums of contemporary art and private collections. Marta Chirino says that her father’s production is not very large. Around 600 unique pieces and half a dozen that admit four versions, although the figure may be higher because there is work pending to be cataloged. The artist’s daughter regrets that sales have been low in recent times. Only his gallery, Malborough, and the family have pieces available for the market. But he does not see buying interest on the part of the institutions. He is also upset by the few exhibitions dedicated to his father. He has recently learned of the cancellation at the Antonio Pérez Foundation, in Cuenca, of the exhibition that was going to be dedicated to the series of the Black Queens, that could be seen this year in Las Palmas. The sum of this disinterest and the high cost of maintenance make the sale of Valyunque inevitable. The heiress hopes that some other artist will follow in her father’s footsteps and see the creative possibilities of this Madrid arcade.

'Cello.  Sueño de la Música ', from 2019, the last work that Martín Chirino did before he passed away.
‘Cello. Sueño de la Música ‘, from 2019, the last work that Martín Chirino did before he passed away.Bald Elm


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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