Joaquín Vaquero Palacios, the man who turned hydroelectric power plants into cathedrals of modern art
The ICO Museum presents the exhibition “Joaquín Vaquero Palacios. The beauty of the huge. Asturias, 1954-1980 », a show that vindicates this multifaceted artist
The ICO Museum presents the exhibition “Joaquín Vaquero Palacios. The beauty of the huge. Asturias, 1954-1980 », a show that vindicates this multifaceted artist who turned the Asturian hydroelectric power plants into« cathedrals of modern art ».
Joaquín Vaquero Palacios (Oviedo, 1900-Madrid, 1998), architect, painter and sculptor, “a twentieth century Renaissance” who approached the creative process globally, as defined by the director of the ICO Foundation, Cristina Cabrera, is the protagonist of the show that can be seen in Madrid from today until next May 6.
The exhibition allows discovering the artistic work realized by Vaquero Palacios in the Asturian power plants of Salime (1945-1955), one of the best examples of Spanish industrial architecture ascribed to the Modern Movement, Miranda (1956-62), Proaza (1964-68) ), Aboño (1969-1980) and Tanes (1980).
His grandson Joaquín Vaquero Ibáñez, curator of the show and architect, like the whole family saga that goes back to his great grandfather, believes that “this way of doing things, as he did them, is essential, and more so in a world of specialists” .
The problem of scale
The scale, reveals the curator, has been one of the main challenges of the exhibition: “We speak of dams built by millions of tons of concrete that make huge and gigantic interiors.” «And waterfalls excavated in mountains of living rock, which are accessed through infinite tunnels; turbine rooms where several regular line airplanes could coexist. The dimensions of these spaces escape our daily perception, “he adds.
Rounding out the exhibition are murals and small sculptures, furniture and explanatory notes that guide the tour, as well as the work done by Vaquero Palacios with his son, also the architect and painter Joaquín Vaquero Turcios – this is the father of the curator of the exhibition, Joaquín Vaquero Ibáñez.
He says that his work has been “easy”, since he only had to “order” things to tell a story, which is also that of his family. It is, he said, a stage in the vast production of Joaquín Vaquero Palacios, the one corresponding to the period between 1954 and 1980.
In those years, he works for Hidroeléctrica del Cantábrico, now part of the Electricity of Portugal Group (EDP), which has not only collaborated in the exhibition but also maintains and protects the facilities, work centers that are stitched together with their workers. explains Nicanor Fernández, they are the ones who “take care of them and pamper them”.
Because the Vaquero Palacios has been a work “made for love,” says his grandson. “I see it very clearly and I see it, not from the exhibitionism,” he says, “but quite the opposite: it reminds me of the work of the pyramids of the pharaohs, where such meticulous work had no vocation to be disseminated.”
«My grandfather has been a constant discovery, from the maximum detail to the minimum, from the macro to the microscale, the colors, the balance; what he did in parallel, his travels, his paintings … His creative and human capacity is overflowing ».
Vaquero Ibáñez highlights from the show how it reflects “the immense effort of these five projects to incorporate, through artistic creation and architectural design, through the understanding of work processes with the vocation to improve and humanize those workspaces” .
The tour begins with an introduction to the character and its surroundings, through maps that locate and locate each of the central within the Asturian scope.
Interspersed, 90 photographs by Luis Asín, and extensive audiovisual work, together with paintings by the artist himself, original plans, sketches, models, books and various elements of industrial design.
The exhibition is intended to be itinerant, with priority to Asturias, according to the director of the EDP Foundation, Nicanor Fernández, who has commented that every year 3,000 people ask for permission and visit the plants, a not inconsiderable number considering that they are active work centers.