DE LA TORRE, Alfonso.  For a dictionary by Carmen Calvo. In the Catalogue: “Carmen Calvo. Matar al sueño (1969-2019)” San Sebastián: Kutxa Fundazioa, 2019.



Translation: Hitzurun. Hizkuntz Zerbituzuak S. L.


 (…) L’opium des mots de l’abécédaire

Yves Bonnefoy[1]


(…) dictionnaire (ou fictionnaire ?)

Michel Leiris[2]




Being used to mentioning the Diccionario Surrealista[3]when making critiques of the work of Carmen Calvo (Valencia, 1950), the construction of this commission allows us to get closer to her work. In the past, I incorporated some terms that were useful to me from that excellent dictionary when writing about Calvo: “Finger”; “Woman”; “Object”; “Hair” or “Live”. The coincidence in time with exhibitions such as L’objet surréaliste(2013) and its corresponding Dictionnaire de l’objet surréaliste[4]or the magna exhibition of Dalí in the MNCARS (2013), which we visited, allowed us to share some questions around her relationship to symbology, the world and surreal words. In another exhibition the post-surreal outrepasseurJean-Jacques Lebel referred to it in another exhibition titled El objeto surrealista(IVAM, 1997), alluding to how Calvo’s work has its own errancy that does not abandon its closeness to surrealism: “her own research, her own errancy and her own system of perception have brought Carmen closer to Surrealism”[5].

Artistic historiography has abounded in taxonomies and classifications, but I now think that history is basically made up of “that”. In contemporary art we have quoted, while writing about Calvo, the panels of the tireless voyeur Aby Warburg in his Atlas Mnemosyne(1924-1929)[6], then through the eccentric Documents(1929-1931) of Georges Bataille, and also the Glossaire(1924) of Michel Leiris, with its palpable side of signs[7].

I always have the Diccionario de símbolosof our own Juan Eduardo Cirlot[8]close to hand. It helps to trace routes or, better, travel along other, less trodden ones: this will help us with the term “object”. At the start is the dream, the world of Alphabetof Paul Valéry, constructed through letters, twenty-four of them like hours, and the day progresses. The alphabet —sorry, the “glossary”— of Leiris tastes of biscuits[9].

The Abécédaireof Marcel Duchamp[10]was published recently. And, hey Marcel! I think a mention of Corps et bien by the belovedRobert Desnos is appropriate, with his decalogue of 150 poemajeroglíficosfor the delicate Rrose Sélavy(1922-1923). I often say my bedtime prayers by reading La geometría y la vida, a literate anthology of the mysterious thought of Pablo Palazuelo[11].

I cannot forget to mention certain frontier taxonomies, some of them literary, that will affect the text that follows. I recall the lists of Georges Perec, also of the Chinese bìjíand, at this Oriental point, the delicate The PillowBookby Sei Shōnagon translated by Borges and Kodama, the list of small things noted down, in this case as if the end of time were tempted. We found ourselves with Carmen Calvo about this book in Vuela Pluma, Madrid, a few years ago on the occasion if the publishing of her Libretas(2013). At the time, we spoke about the world-book. I omit journalism, but there are other fundamental notebooks that I should quote that cross, as we shall see, these lines: The notebooks ofMalte Laurids Briggeby Rainer Maria Rilke; the Cuadernosde Contabilidadby Manolo Millares; theCuaderno de apuntes sobre la pintura y otras cosas byFernando Zóbel and Balzac’s notebook. And the Museo de la novela eternaby Macedonio Fernández, starting over and over in the search for his readers. I browse through a book by Georges Perec, Me acuerdo, inspired by Remember(Joe Brainard, adored by Paul Auster). We remember how Perec recalled the crazy men Bouvard and Pecuchet from Flaubert, a melancholy encyclopaedia in novel form, full of tender quirks of knowledge. Flaubert dreamt about ending the Dictionnaire des Idées reçueswith an “apology for human sleaze in all its forms”[12]. Rimbaud lists the vowels and their colours in his mythical sonnet (1883). Hence the reference to Con todas las letras(1984-2002) by José Miguel Ullán, which opens with the voice of Victor Hugo: “the alphabet is a source”. Barthes said that “God” was a word and an abyss in dictionaries, hence the confusion of words[13].

Silence already in this preamble. Intelligence, doubts about whether we give the exact name to things.

Shonagon related that, on the tenth day of every month the empress had decided to recite sutrasand showing images to the refined ruler. They then drank wine and recited Chinese poems. Captain Tanadobu ended with these two verses:

Where is she at this moment

When the moon and the autumn have returned at the appointed time?



This text, created over a year, would not have been possible without the artist’s involvement, illustrating each of the entries or “terms”of the Diccionario. There were no distractions on her part. By stating the words, and after she had suggested an accompanying image, when I finished I realised that it was her who had built the real meaning, despite this writer apparently being the builder. How misleading is that? As happens in the titles of her work, you will see that there is no exact functional correlation with the word proposed, rather an artist’s gaze on the term. Heart-rending. The term and the image often enter into friction. The author is therefore very grateful to the artist for her work.



Une sorte de nuit verbale, ponctuée de rares étincelles.

André Breton[14]

Qué confusión es todo

Carmen Calvo[15]

Au commencement sera le Sommeil.

The beginning of Alphabetby Paul Valéry[16]



It is the “A”, a black one, referred to in Rimbaud’s sonnet.

The “A” of “amor”. And its ashes.

“Instinctively, one gets the feeling that wretchedness is an experience that is richer, more intense than happiness”[17]. Love: stories interlink, objects now represent others from the past, dour gazes became effigies on the paper, it is the photo (very few portraits in that other time). In the meantime, pain. And stories of past happiness. Heart-rending.

Love as a starting point in her work.

We live off cataclysms, Jarry said in the term “live” of that Dictionary[18]. Old passions, eternal life events, immemorial chronicles of the coming and going of feelings, underlines by a melodramatic tone, somewhere between oneiric and an air or turbulence. Peace and dizziness, as Carmen[19]says.



A place of secrets lodged in the silence of daily life. Hidden inside, a soul inhabits it and wanders through the garments and objects, present or not. The fears of childhood and monsters are hidden there. Or the monsters of childhood. A mysterious chest of life and enigmas about those who are no longer with us, an enigma in the devastation of existence. A piece of furniture with odours, behind its doors disorder is calmed, silently incorporated into the everyday, among the household goods, never losing its air of a sarcophagus. It contains the skin we live in every day. The artist’s wardrobes have referred to the Livro do Desassossegoby Pessoa, and Calvo writes: “he speaks of a boudoir, the night, shadows and the desire that memories should never die. The objects lying in the wardrobe make up the same enclosed landscape: a fencing mask, a dirty mirror (on purpose) with “life” written backwards, needing another mirror to read it. On the second shelf, a round glass that protects an old jewellery box with a strand of hair. On the top shelf, something similar to a ball of wool and hair.The perfect pantheon”[20]. Also see: “Boxes/Suitcases/Chests/Urns”.



Carmen Calvo has been a tenacious compiler, with some of her “systems” even evoking these terms in her title: “series”, “compilation” or “ordering”. This is how the eminent mediaevalist Georges Duby perceived it when he visited her study and applied the term “archaeology of the imaginary” to it, equivalent to the “false collections”or “re-found remains” described by Joan Antonio Toledo[21].

Vestigios revisitados[22]was the title Calvo gave to one of her individual exhibitions in Paris, using elements with an archaic air. Her work seems to relate to something not manifested yet, a formulation not yet expressed.

Imagination organizes things in its own way; at the end of the day, imagination is also a conceptualization.

La paz siniestra de la belleza celeste, a modified photo from 2003, two children in chiaroscuro, their shadows resplendent now (the title is the disquiet of Pessoa).



Places where things are shut away or compiled. Wardrobes that can be transported or have a clinical air, more exposed to the gaze, such as L’Évanouissement[blackout] (1996). Spaces hiding away whatever is human. Living means leaving traces, wroteBenjamin[23], and Calvo seems to collect the memories of those spaces. A skein of hair, a domino, anchor, handle, file or buttons are found, for example, in La casa misteriosa[The mysterious house] (1996), a box/house suitcase previously a closed place, hidden from people’s gazes. Finally, a large box was her work at the Biennial of Venice, Una conversación[A conversation] (1996-1997), which we will talk about later, and we can interpret some of her paintings as chests. Nods to Cornell, although I think Calvo is closer to Duchamp’s disquiet and his uncomfortableness in Torture morteorSculpture morte(1959) which, together with the lyricalmalinconiaor more or less dramatized ones of other constructors of boxes.




“…as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven”[24]. Stunned at seeing Elijah’s biblical chariot in one of the artist’s rubbers. Calvo nigreda; on black would the glory of the images burst. A format for some of her paintings, an extension of blackness on which objects and other objects hang or tie together. Rubbers at times soberer, presided by a few robust objects, or very overcomplicated (compilation of objects). For the artist, the word “rubber” has reminiscences that seem to pretend a certain desacralization, only mentioning one unusual format not commonly found in art. Its poveraair, “rubber”, is found in the solemnity of the works.

Largely created at the end of the 1990s, they are a re-reading and a tribute to the painting of the Golden Age: Ribera or Sánchez Cotán, Zurbarán and, later, Goya’s Black Period paintings. Like the enunciations of the black backgrounds of Velázquez, a void that sustains the images with violence. Or the artists of El Paso, mainly Millares and Saura. In this dark point I am reminded of Soulages.

A great dreamer in black, following Bachelard[25], in essential rubbers: Elías(1996); El gran teatro del mundo[The great theatre of the world]; Le mal[Evil] or ¿Quién me llama?[Who is calling me?] (1998); Al verles, se diría que lloran al dormir [Looking at them, you would say they are crying as they go to sleep];Mathieu; Viaje nunca hecho[Journey never made] (1999); Todos los rostros del pasado[All the faces of the past} (2000); Molinier(2001); El tordo[The thrush] (2003) or Amables conceptos sobre su sexo y país[Pleasant notions about sex and country] (2018).



“(…) Vigour, affirmed as far as violence”, wrote Duby, a visionary, about the artist[26].

In 1969 Calvo painted a hunter with a small, angular head, with the air of a clumsily assembled mask on a body that does not fit. I remember the hunter who had been dead for years, that Gracchus stranded in earthly waters[27], a traveller between the lands of the living and the dead.

The trophy: of the hair holding together the dismembered trunk of a woman. She does it with aplomb and fearlessly, it is a trophy. There is no compassion. Like a fairground advert. Venus Anadiomena stranded in the steppe, her cut breasts hanging down, morbidity and violence in a clear atmosphere, terror that occurs naturally on a bright day. The air is hardly bathed by some light clouds. The earthly horizon of this Golgotha on a plateau blending into the hunter’s clothing. Of the woman, the colour of her skin is also an earthly grey. She looks like a woman of ash, a time that makes dust her escort (Celan). In Calvo’s work we will hear the woman’s voice, man’s too, and that of the dead.



Classic cinema and its images is where we can find some of the threads that weave the mysterious spirit of this artist. Among others, films she has mentioned: El perro andaluz(1929), Luis Buñuel; Dracula(1931), Tod Browning with Bela Lugosi;Vampyr –Der Traum des Allan Grey, Carl Theodor Dreyer, (1932); The invisible man(1933), James Whale-H. G. Wells; Cat people(1942), Jacques Tourneur; VertigoandThe Birds(1958), Alfred Hitchcock; Peeping Tom(1960) by Michael Powell; The little shop of horrors(1960), Roger Corman-Charles B. Griffith; Taxi Driver(1976), Martin Scorsese; Ópalo de Fuego(1978), Jesús Franco; The elephant man(1980), David Lynch; The cook, the thief, his wife & her lover(1989), Peter Greenaway, or Pulp fiction(1984), Quentin Tarantino. She is tireless with the cinema, of which she spoke in her induction speech to the Academy of San Carlos and managed to build a collage of images in movement[28].



The real workplace of Calvo, one could conclude that all her work is conceived with the collage technique, an appropriation for a new recomposition based on fragments of the world. A greeting to her formerconciergein Paris, Madame Bonnet, the illustrator. Work on old vignettes, photos or postcards, drawings around other images or collages of these overflying the space of the painting, because “hallucinations are innumerable”, as she says. Seeing some of her recent work on paper, on engravings of altered anatomy albums (such as La realidad inmediata[Altered reality], 2017), I think, and think again, in Ernst’s week of kindness, “the power of suggestion”, in Breton’s words, a revelation. Blessed confusion of the world[29].


Hunting / Dressmaking

Reconstruction, reparation. For many years, especially in the 1980s, Carmen sewed elements and small objects on cloth. Sometimes she constructed the elements that she would later sew on the cloth. Her tasks, the daily work in the study has always been an exercise of patience and love of work for her, constituting her as an artist. Small forms of clay or plaster were sown first, then objects and other forms. She has sewn a lot. Finally, she also decomposes, cuts and links things in her collages. She repairs, lives and joins the fragmented body. “Sewing is a defence[30]: by making and repairing we relieve the pain”, said Bourgeois; weaving is an emblem of magic powers and also a metaphor for forgiveness. Louise repaired sexual organs cut in tapestries, through modesty. Needle and thread of the patient work, like a conscientious surgeon stitching wounds. Millares stabbed sackcloth and then sewed them back together, slowly.

Calvo sews on images, and reconstructs non-images. A seamstress weaving patchy elements, history (story) and body, her writing in time[31].



Glass has often been used in her work. Usually broken, either pieces of glass or mirrors. Not forgetting the cycle of works created by the artist around 1998 with fragments of glass from smashed bottles, later joined again with putty or cement, as in Espléndidos en la fragua[Splendid while forging] (2016). Most were exhibited this year in Paris[32]. The artist rules out her new realization, given requests for resplendent beauty.: “(…) Aube éphé/ Aube éphé/ Aube éphémère de reflets/ Aube éphé/ Aube éphé/ Aube éphémère de reflets”[33].

Lebel explains it. In his words: these works by Calvo are not pure beauty, being beautiful they scream in silence in favour of resistance and insurrection[34]. Lebel illustrated his words with photos found during his walks outside the city of Valencia: those walls that evoke blood, crowned with broken glass to cut people’s hands.



Certain assemblagesby Carmen Calvo around 1991 evoke a cubist air. I also think that her still lifes (the works she calls Montajes[Montage] and Escrituras[Writings]), such as La alacena[The pantry] (1989), evoke certain compositions of Picasso or Braque. For her, at their feet, they are “the masters”.



Una conversación [A conversation],1996-1997

I came across the voice of Kafka, spoken to by the mayor: “You should know that the matter of your arrival is too difficult for us to solve it in the course of a brief conversation”. It is from The Castle. Calasso said this about it: “But one’s whole life is a ‘brief conversation’“[35].

In the 47thBiennial of Venice[36]Calvo created a room located in a large four-metre-square box-cube, patiently built on her own over several days in the Biennial. A colossal piece of work done in silence, a mertzcovered with mirrors on the inside, where an incredible panoply of objects and elements grew on the walls and ceiling, and also piled up on the floor. The scene was lit, rather weakly, by the filament of a bulb: fabrics, dolls, mineral remains, ceramics, eyes, votive offerings, furniture, and wings of plaster and wings hanging from the ceiling. A smell like one of the past hung in the air. Minimalist on the outside, the interior full of mirrors, hardly opened up by a curtain, suggested surprise, fulfilling the proposition of Germano Celant in this Biennial: Future, Present and Past.“The dialogue between the objects is the only reason for the title”[37], Carmen often said about the “voice” of the objects, particularly when closing the door of her workshop.



It is worth noting this term to underline the meaning of difference regarding the context of the art in which her work has grown, an artist on the fringe.


Duby, Georges

Georges Duby[38]— quoted earlier—was struck after visiting a young artist who, without stopping, accumulated and sewed object, “some familiar and others strange”, to create her particular “cabinet of curiosities” in such a way that, as he wrote: “the remains were grouped in families, genres, species. Just like fireflies, butterflies or beetles in the shadows on the shelves in the museum, shut away in those glass urns that fascinated me as a child. You believe you are witnessing a reasoned catalogue in which the dispersed remains of a very ancient, extinct, dismantled creation are listed and labelled”[39].Calvo used particular systems of classification, collections of an archaeological nature[40], sometimes mentioning the meta-pictorial, as is the case of the encounter of paintbrushes, palettes, remains of paint or “eyes”. Her life took place in that “difference”, compiling her particularly dictionary of memories, emotions or objects, or portraits of lives of lost family members. Basically, we refer to it in “Archaeology” and will come back to it in the term “Collections”.



Like the old cuneiform writings. Or the tight script of Robert Walser or the displaced words of Michaux. Millares imitating the death sentences of the mad inquisitor Torquemada. Calvo’s writings, the paintings of that cycle, says Jean-Jacques Lebel, are alignments of small fragments of terra cotta that make up pages of text in an unknown language[41]. Signs to be deciphered. Like a thought hidden inside a text. Writings as landscapes, collections “like the pages of a secret diary”[42]. Escrituras[Writings] or Cartas[Letters] were titles of her works in the 1980s. About the use of commercial papers, letters, etc. it will help to look for the word “Tailor” here.



I was reading Borges: “I went to bed and saw myself tripled in that mirror and felt a fear that those images did not exactly correspond to me, and how terrible it would be to see me different in one of more of them”[43], then he spoke about the horror of mirrors.

El creador del espejo envenenó el alma humana[The creator of the mirror poisoned the human soul] says one of the artist’s works, in 2003 (nod to Pessoa). In another, an overflowing clump of hair appears: Te prometo el infierno [I promise you hell] accompanies the work Silencio. Yo no he hecho el mal[Silence. I haven’t done anything evil] (1998) is a kneeler with a mirror of worn mercury, and broken fragments supporting it, as we saw in “Glass”. Other mirrors: Inceste ou passion de famille[Incest or family passion]  (1996), the strand of hair on the oval of mercury or Miroir[Mirror] (2001). The essay by Luce Irigaray, Le Spéculum de l’autre femme(1974)[44]has been quoted. In 2018 it was part of an exhibition under the title Black Mirror[45].

“Ay, how wretched I am! I have a little watch and a silver mirror, but how wretched I am!”, said Doña Rosita la Soltera(1935). One of Lorca’s obsessions, the mirror—wrote Cirlot in his Diccionario de símbolos—, as the organ of self-contemplation and a reflection of the universe. Also as a lunar element, the entry of disassociation, a flat glass and door —we know, Alicia— to another side. A source of images, a childhood place and territory of dread through the announcement of the past. Another panic: The revelation of the mirror when it shows a wrinkle on one’s face: ah, a clear testimony of the passing of time. Centre of the occult and the interior. Mirror, mirror, tell me, evokes the water and the moons. Let us cross the abyss. Oh Dorian! Remember, Federico, that behind every mirror there is a dead start, a rainbow and a sleeping child. And an eternal calm, a nest of silences that have not flown. The book the dissects the twilight. Night on the mirrors. Why was I born among mirrors? We walk on a mirror without transparency. The madness of broken mirrors”[46]. In Interv(alo)[Interv(al)] (1998), quoted in “Wardrobe”, a mirror reflects the word “Life”.

Borges reminded me of the case of the Masked Prophet of Jorasan, the man who covers his face because he is a leper, and the Man in the Iron Mask in Dumas: “the two ideas linked up: that of a possible change in the mirror and the idea of seeing myself awful in the mirror, the Scottish idea of fetch(given that name because it looks for me to take them to the other world), the German idea of Doppelgänger, the double who walks at our side and represents the idea of Jekyll and Hyde and of so many other fictions. Well, I experienced the horror of the mirrors (…)”[47].


Hope – Despair

I do not see hope and despair far from each other in Calvo’s work, not at all.



Carmen made three shelves or elements to support a set of objects created by her that maintained a mineral air about them. To do that, it was necessary to make hundreds of plaster figures beforehand, using moulds from here everyday life: boxes, small boxes, sweet boxes, wrapping papers for madeleines, any concave item that could be used to make the past solid. She “melted” knives, gravestones, half-moons, palettes or a variety of forms. She spent many days watching the process of liquid changing to solid, later observing the emersion of the folds of the box, which later became the positives of small, almost minimalist, drawings on the new surface. Seeing certain accumulations by Calvo, I think of Giacometti’s studio. I am also reminded of Morandi.

She told me this about one of them:“the shelving contains and houses all the objects that surround the artist, paintbrushes, pots, palettes, pigments, bottles… an entire world of plastic arts. The shelving is of iron, bought in a shop that was going to be knocked down. It contains a series of pieces made from chalk, plaster, iron, aluminium, all of them in different forms, extracted from poor cardboard moulds”. About these forms, she explained her admiration for the chalk laboratory of Oteiza: “a great impact, those small pieces placed on shelves, outlines of projects that the sculptor never ended up doing”. For this artist the “idea is also researching around the form, the texture, and above all the consideration that there is no repetition. Rach piece is different”[48].

Next to the shelves we find small cupboards, often medical or pharmaceutical, where she installs her formed objects or moulds, reproduced as in “Wardrobe”, L’évanouissement[Blackout] (1996) or No sé dónde te he visto, ni cuándo[I don’t know where I’ve seen you, nor when] (2003).



Carmen Calvo always remembers her studio in Calle Santa Isabel in Valencia, a place where she fed her life as an artist between 1974 and 2001. I think that some of her works are difficult to separate from that setting, in blues full of light clouds, walls drawn by the humus of time, that chessboard floor[49], the kitchen where she “cooked” the plaster. Her studio —the old and the new— have been photographed by Mateo Gamón or Juan García Rosell. Full of paintings, objects and documents, cards, dolls, they are impossible to describe.

Her present studio is not far from her birthplace, among the streets where she hears voices of her childhood. A repertoire of images covers its walls, as a terrestrial food: different photos (family, friends or her own), invitations to exhibitions, drawings for children, posters, cards, souvenirs, notes, postcards, press cuttings or photos from newspapers. All this makes up what I once called a colossal cannibal mosaic without a hierarchy which continually feeds the artist. A few years ago I noted down images of Macchiaioli, Ana Mendieta, Pierre Molinier, Lichtenstein, Fernando Barreira, Mateo Manaure, Gotthard Schuh, Bourgeois, Buñuel, Blanchard, Picasso, Mappelthorpe, Man Ray, Modigliani, Bela Lugosi, Basilico, Helen Levitt, Giacometti and Carmen Calvo. Particular and baroque, an inordinate scenography of mirrors. Carmen Calvo lives inside a Carmen Calvo, Juan Manuel Bonet once said: “a total work of art, governed by mysterious laws, similar to those that govern her paintings (…) between an intimate diary and a laboratory”[50].

The doors of her old study ended up being converted into paintings. One of them, full of glass eyes, belongs to the collection of the MACBA[51]. When she closed it and went to the Plaza de María Beneyto, Carmen heard conversations behind her back. They were the objects she left in the studio that have lived another life since then.


Votive offering

I wander, under the misery of this world. The voice of the poet Jouve[52]. Wandering among images, wax promises, an apparent representation of real solidified desire expressed by Breton, sculptures of unease that do not avoid a serious containment. In the end, the votive offering takes the form of a promise, one that allows the conversion of desire into a form and, therefore, a desire capable of making up a plea, an aspiration to healing. The mysterious object that has not been embellished for the world, the unclean, the not clean, a kind of joyous desacralization of what is considered beautiful. Where are you? A peaceful house, old passions, is a phrase made up of titles of two of her works with objects that have an air of a votive offering.



Images of groups, friends or family, are common in her work; they express reunions and happiness from the past. They work as a kind of hyperbolic ellipsis, an oxymoron that is explained in the presence of families either announced or buried. Some exhibitions have set out, almost completely, to reflect on images of families, for example the one by Guy Bärtschi in Geneva in 2014: Notre vie était toute la vie. Families, happy and unhappy ones, resemble each other.



Photography of others, a private image, a major creative element in her work, a starting point from which she constructs a new and mysterious reality among the folds of the most commonly experienced one.We often find titles that mention time: Desde aquel día enloquecimos[Since that day we went crazy], J’ai perdu ma vie[I’ve lost my life ](2000) or L’eternité[Eternity]. (2001). They were previously kept in portfolios or albums, in envelopes on shelves, small boxes or houses. Perhaps full of actors from ancient dramas who, when they leave those places, walk towards a tragic fate.

To the photographic images found and manipulated by her, she adds paint, objects or various bits and pieces, avoiding the usual fading away due to the inexorable machinery of time, and invites us to construct a certain kind of knowledge. By offering detained certainties, putting forward reasons why this and not that other fragment, she reminds that “living” —as Barthes said—, “later existed”. She raises this new thinking pathosto contemplate the world through images using photography, which is also a way of seeing the world in its wider sense; redeeming a space that had been “non-existent”, forgotten until then. Calvo claims that he works is able to reveala reality constructed like a black hole, an ethics of the visible that originates in subjective contemplation, in the incessant activity of the ego. She faces up to the conventional images of her time, which she rejects exclaiming something like noli me tangere. A devourer of the images, we already mentioned in the cinema as one of her sources, Calvo is a declared admirer of the unsettling photographs and photomontages of Dora Maar and, like her, Calvo believes in the signs and meanings, in the metaphors she constructs with images, not just the mere elevation of forms in space. Carmen conceives an image that will be replaced by another, then another, and this new one prevails because the first one is then buried. Knowing that art is the creation of images, in an endless process. Art, like a punishment, is self-sufficient.



Todo futuro es una niebla[The entire future is a fog], 2007.


Potato man

A set of works that gave rise to an exhibition in the Botanical Gardens of Valencia in 2009. The anonymous man with a hand in his trouser pocket is metamorphosed nine times with the evolution of his potato head. First, smooth, then branched, and finally dry: the anonymous face appears again. Forms also grew outside the Gardens[53].


Church/Religious images

The symbology of the Church is recurrent in her work, one that seems castigated by the signs that are scattered over the images. Pious: Como un cadáver[Like a corpse] (2000) orEscalera de corazones[Staircase of hearts] (2005); Crucifixes and prayer: Et blemi, justement[And deathly pale, indeed] (2000); Nuns: Algún puñal fallido buscaba un corazón [A failed dagger sought a heart]; No es lo que parece[It is not what is appears] (2004); Comprendo bien a las bordadoras[I understand embroiderers well] (2005). Among others (see the term “Impurity”).

“La croix m’attire ? / Lacrymatoire ! / Horizon des oraisons, / ce que nous haïssons…”, sang Michel Leiris[54].



Bafflement of the image, why is painting not a farce, if life is too?[55]. In some of the images proposed by Carmen Calvo an invisible witness appears, images certifying what has already gone, imitating the words of Derrida[56]. Working, tireless, inhabiting the ashes of history —she worked all the time— images cross her work several times, tirelessly, the image that went away, the one that is, after her work, now, like a painting lesson that fixes things. The artist extends the symbols without measure, her particular ghosts of the ego: delirium, lost identity, marks as objects, elements where the authority of the gaze prevails. Looking sympathetically towards creation is a personal act of a solemn individuality, the artist said recently[57]. “Let us illustrate”, she says.

In La mano que aprieta[The hand that squeezes] (2015), a hand over the face watches over the vision, allowing an immersion, an abandonment towards the journey of the imagination. Es lo visible lo oculto[The hidden is visible] is the title of another work from the same year.

In Le Paysan de Paris, Louis Aragon observed the “unregulated and passionate [use] of the stupefying image, or rather the uncontrolled provocation of the image by itself, and through what representations of unforeseeable disruptions and metamorphoses drag along, because each image and time obliges you to review the Universe”.



I have referred to this artist as “impure” on many occasions, in allusion to her ongoing journey around the very notion of sin, so deep-rooted in us. In her works Silencio. Yo no he hecho el mal(1998) [Silence. I haven’t done any evil] reproduced here, using a reclining chair/expiation and mirrors. Or in the Le châtiment de Tartufo[The retribution of Tartuffe] (1998): the punishment of the pious man attacked by desire. Or the frequent godly and contrite references, almost a devout murmur, an aspiration, an ardent prayer in the face of the temptation of punishment, as happens in Dios, ¿es acaso pecado?[God, it is a sin by chance?],Dios, ¿qué haces de mí?[God, what are you doing with me?] or Dios, ahora puedes volverme ciega[God, now you can make me blind] (2005). The signs of ancestral religiousness, as described in “Church”: nuns, various habits, prayers, martyrdoms, the iconography of devotion, marriages or communions and rituals. Also the mention of objects that is almost atavistic, as is the case of a relic or a votive offering of wax, penitence and mortifications. The sinister terror of religiousness is exhibited withdispossession and gentleness, a frequent doubt or apparent innocence not exempt of unease and disquiet. Maybe everything is much simpler, the first “guilt” of the artist is the displacement of her singular way of being towards the life of an artist. (“Impure”also had another meaning related to the different artistic techniques that make it difficult to classify her. See the terms already mentioned: “Church. Religious images”).



The images of childhood, like (as we said) those of family, are recurrent in her work. Photographs, but also childhood objects. This has been a common feature in the history of art (Velázquez, Murillo, Manet or Picasso). I pause before a broken black-and-white photo of a group of children with their overcoats and coloured heads painted by the artist that she titles Infancia feliz[Happy childhood] (2003). I also think of a set of drawings from2005 such as Treinta pulseras, no me las he puesto[Thirty bracelets that I have not worn], Fábula verde[Green fable], Perder el tiempo comporta una estética[Wasting time means an aesthetic] or Para darle relieve a mis sueños[To highlight my dreams] and all those that accompanied Una jaula para vivir[A cage to live in]. Also some childhood photos that have been an ineffable format for her collages that year. Among others: Ô mort mistérieuse, ô soeur de charité![O mysterious death, o sister of charity!]; Le buffet[the buffet] or Escribir es olvidar[writing is forgetting]. When I think of the representation of childhood in Calvo, I recall Lo siento, Ernie[I’m sorry, Ernie] from 1999, a disquieting work in its simplicity. Hardly anything, the simple drawing of a stripped child’s back, denied to the portrait. A single clear stroke that seems to come across a photo glued in its image, another face that conceals the face: the child that contemplates his future or the adult who evokes his childhood. The silence and solitude of the infant against the figure, its harness and forlornness. The loneliness of someone who, on waking up, lies in bed ready to begin another day. Once again, the voice of the artist: “Childhood, the maltreatment of many children, abuse… with the memory of that broken childhood image, and with the photo of the maturity of a character that does not speak and hides his past”[58]. The previously mentioned Una jaula para vivir[A cage to live in], arising from the reading of a horrible piece of new in the press, redounds in the sorrow. Señor, he de decirte dos palabras[Lord, I have a couple of words to say to you] (2017), is a recent montage of the artist that explores the mention of the pain about the death of children who cross the seas, as a kind of settling of accounts with the divine authority. Sorrow.



Una jaula para vivir [A cage to live in], 2001

Derived from “Infancia” [Childhood]. As we wrote, in 1997 the artist read a piece of news about a seven-year-old girl who had been locked away in a cage. The place conceived by the artist recreates the closed world of childhood: objects, mainly toys, sounds and drawings by the artist about that news story. To live in? A cage to die in.



The writer Kafka: “The letters K are ugly, the almost repel me although I don’t stop writing them, they must be very characteristics of me”[59].



We have quoted him at times. “Really, there is an incurable disorder in it, and you have to get very close to see something”, Franz wrote to his fiancéeFelice Bauer, referring to his own book. I have taken a while to re-read this note by Joan Antonio Toledo: his classifications, archives and imaginary reconstructions are desolate and overwhelming, like Kafka’s[60].


Manipulated books

I was amazed to find a book in braille with some quarryman’s glasses on it: Puede ser que no te viese[I might not see you] (2013) was Calvo’s title. I found another one in braille: Luz fuerte y clara[Strong, clear light] from the same year. As often happens in her work, the result has a heuristic air, something new was created out of something old, which allows us to discover something that we did not know, to reach something unknown through the known.

The books rise up as a kind of conciliation above the world, Carmen Calvo works on them, ends them and turns them into object-based collages. Sometimes the objects end up displacing the book, almost rising up on them, showing their autonomy. They are very numerous, these works with books and notebooks, for example (among others): El inmenso hormigueo de todos[The immense tingling of all] (1998) or Yo he tocado Isis[I have touched Isis] (2013), books with hair; La muerte del príncipe[The death of the prince] (1998); Recuerdos[Memories] (1999); Vuelvo tanto los pasos[I retrace my steps so much] (2010); Releo en una de estas somnolencias[I re-read in a somnolent state]; Solo no lo es cuando la desilusión[It is not only disappointment]; Y las arenas lo cubren todo[And the sands cover it all] (2012); Comunidad C/ Santa Isabel 14[Community in Santa Isabel street number 14]; Quién está en el rincón[Who is in the corner]; O peor que lo contrario[Or worse than the opposite] (2013); Aventuras de Robinson Crusoe-Daniel Defoe[Adventures of Robinson Crusoe-Daniel Defoe]; Les Jours de Congé-Paris et la campagne[Rest days-Paris and the countryside] (2014)[61].



“Painting will drive you crazy”, her mother Casimira told her. Using that phrase, Carmen created works such as La pintura la volverá loca[Painting will drive her crazy] (2016) or Siempre la misma historia[Always the same old story] (2017).



In some of Carmen’s catalogues we reproduced the sombre alleyway of the Galerie des Beaux Arts (Paris, 1938). For Breton, the modern-day mannequin and the romantic ruins were part, in a dark way, of a kind of general revelation that was able to “move human sensitivity for a certain time”[62]. It was the problematic and worrying nature: “some of these objects are only perceived in dreams”. As Duchamp put into practice, existing objects that are usually considered to have little value but provoke an affectionate reaction, a “particular emotion”, according to Dalí. Then there is the tribute to the mannequin made by the surrealists, when number 140 in Faubourg-Saint Honoré opened its doors to the surrealist exhibition in Paris on 17thJanuary 1938[63]. At the entrance, the Dalian Taxi lluvioso[Rainy taxi] occupied by a mannequin-driver with a shark’s head and another blond “woman”, buried among endives and lettuces full of Burgundy snails. Man Ray described the mannequins as “invalids of the windows in department stores”[64]. As in Calvo’s work, the manipulation made by the surrealists affected, as a calculated strategy, a number of mechanisms of the unconscious. For these, the world started to be populated by robots, as evoked by Jacques-André Boiffard, Paul Eluard and Roger Vitrac in the first issue of La Révolution surrealiste(1924). Still figures, others not dead, on which she vindicated her own life: “Déjà les automates se multiplient et rêvent. Dans les cafés, ils demandent vite de quoi écrire, les veines du marbre sont les graphiques de leur évasion et leurs voitures vont seules au Bois”. Other artists such as Bellmer or Marcel Jean used —or evoked— busts or fragments of mannikins in their works at an early stage.

This fiesta of the mannequin in Paris always comes to mind in Calvo’s Santa Isabel[Saint Isabel] (2007). We can also quote: Ulises[Ulysses] (2003); Chanson de la plus haute tour[Song of the highest tower] (2006); No tengo motivo para sentirme mal[I have no reason to feel bad] (2008); La magia[Magic] (2016) or ¿Quién es?[Who is it?] (2017).


Hand/ Fingers/ Body fragments(hand/fingers/body fragments)

La mano que aprieta[The hand that squeezes] (2015) is one of her titles. Hands and feet are often found in her work. Also pigs’ trotters, which reminded me of that forgotten painterLorentino, a disciple of Piero della Francesca, reborn through Pierre Michon[65]. The painter paid with a pig to satiate St Martin’s thirst.

These are the cases of: Cuando, puestas las manos en lo alto del pupitre; Una cosa es la existencia del mal[When, with hands on the top of the desk; One thing is the existence of evil] (2011-2012);Semejanza de la vida[Similarity of life] (2013) or the book Falso entre lo que he sido y lo que soy[False between what I have been and what I am] (2012). Basically, her intervention in 2011 in the shop window[66]consisting of hundreds of fingers installed in a box with mirrors recalled her penchant for body fragments. Long fingers in Quand s’ouvrent lentement tes grandes portes noires[When your big black doors open slowly] (2011) or small things, like Onanismo[Onanism] (2015).

A lot of little legs as votive offerings or articulated wooden legs that recall Tristanaby Buñuel, as in Personajes a través del espejo[Characters through the looking-glass] (2005) or now, and we quote it once again El ojo existe en estado salvaje[The eye exists in a savage state] (2015). Feet, like the beautiful Pedestal are the shoes(J. Brossa] (2015).

Dear L., a letter from the amputated Rimbaud to his sister Isabelle came into my possession, in which he painted his wooden leg[67]:“dessin de la jambe”[68].



Her work is full of masks, they hide faces or construct figures, sometimes with an air of stopping people breathing: Hace mucho(2008) [A long time ago]; ¿Qué sueños tengo?[What dreams do I have?] (2012); Mi instinto de la perfección, Siempre me he preocupado[My instinct for perfection. I have always had it] (2013) or Ardiente verano[Burning summer] (2015).Se me abre un abismo[An abyss opens before me] (2013) is, for this author, one of the most disquieting. Rostro[Face] (2011) was the title the artist gave to a childhood drawing, covered with a deformed mass, a face disfigured by the grimace of a clay-like filling.



She revisits the world of ars memoriæthat Giordano Bruno dreamed about. Memory. Magna Memory. Fantasy memory. Immemorial memory. Memory of all memories. And dis-memory. Also transformed memory. Memory of baking hot days. Memory of offerings. Transfused memory. Memory of absent faces. Or Panmemory. Reconstructed memory. Memory of Carmen Calvo painting. Memory of buried objects. And memory of disenchantment. Blessed memory. Memory of artists’ palettes or paintbrushes. Like the sea, which does not forget. Memory of fingers. Does memory exist, or is it invented like that director of the Library? From the mirror through memory. Dazzling memory. Remains in the memory. Memory in all epochs. Ceci n’est pas une mémoire


Tables/Display case

Metaphysical tables. Like models of landscapes by Dino Buzzatti, extensions of ruins of phantasmagorias, sometimes with an air of frozen figures, detained figures, plaster mops, forms repeated like a toolbox of her paintings, glacial landscapes. Metallic remains, ceramic eyes, ropes or small forms. Tributes to the calm painting of Giorgio Morandi.


Tables/ Dramaturgy

Dramatic tables, where a story has taken place. We saw that those tables could be used for exhibiting, like a ledge that shows diversity. Evoking the old way of commerce of the provinces, ordered and apologetic. Or tables whose top hides the space of the secret revealed when it is opened, or objects always crouching. These are the words that Carmen calls Diario[Diary] (1998). Or old wooden tables to compose a short story, as if to say: something happened here, come and see. Among others: Entre la pintura y el objeto[Between painting and the object] (1998). I invented a story of jealousy, seeing one of her tables with objects (this El ángel de lo singular[The angel of the singular] (1998). It was a story of a gaucho, with ropes, horns and writings. And a death, which I added later: there was a pistol with a mother-of-pearl grip hidden in a box on the table, among pieces of glass. This led me to recall stories by Chekhov in The Seagull. A shot rang out at the end.



Titles: El carácter fugitivo del amor es también el de la muerte[The fugitive nature of love is also that of death] (1998) or Hacer las paces con la muerte[Make your peace with death] (2002). In the latter, the title is shown in the writing on the painting. In other term we will refer to her visits to cemeteries, “open-air painting session”, in the artist’s paradoxical words. I have a beautiful image, called Ausencias[Absences] from 2003.



The Surrealist Dictionary chooses some words by Baudelaire for the term “woman”: “she lives another life, different from her own”[69]. “J’est un autre”, I is another, like Rimbaud distant from himself. La mujer, una buena fuente de sueños[Woman, a good source of dreams] is a work by Calvo from 2003. In Grave pasión encantadora[Serious delightful passion] the artist stakes a claim for the past of our women: an angular, hard face whose jewels are handcuffs in the form of a broach, juegosin which life passed, not far (as I see it) from Soñando con vistas al invierno[Dreaming with views of winter] (2017).



The use of music is common in her work, to the extent of making up a corpus. This is the case, for example, of Una jaula para vivir[A cage to live in] (1997) or Chanson de la plus haute tour[Song of the highest tower] (2006). She has also evoked the music of Claude Debussy, Franz Liszt, Richard Strauss, Igor Stravinsky or Quincy Jones-Count Basie and Bessie Smith[70]. She has often composed music as soundtracks, in which her surroundings intervene: sounds in her workshop, noise from the street, clocks an cuttings of other music, particularly film soundtracks[71].


Night/ Black

I remembered her “cauchos”(rubbers) and think of a painting by Ernst with a beautiful title: La Révolution la nuit[Revolution at night] (1923), also called Pietà: shadows seem to prevail in the world, says Bonnefoy[72], although the flame of hope can emerge from them. Perhaps from Entre los muertos empapados por las nocturnas aguas[Among the dead soaked by nocturnal water] (2005), a collage by Carmen Calvo.



I read Pierre Jean Jouve: “l’objet n’est rien et le désir est tout”[73]. The term “object”is the opiumof this dictionary. It is mentioned around one hundred times.

The artist exorcizes the world and life with the presence of objects. She replaces symbols with these others, stranded on the roadside. For Surrealism: a real and virtual object, mobile or mute, a ghostly object, interpreted, incorporated, an object-being, and objects existing in a world removed: a natural object, a perturbed one, a found one, a mathematical one and an involuntary one[74]. A phenomenon or a sign, Marguerite Yourcenar prefaced one of our artist’s catalogues saying: “this spirit for which each object in the world was a phenomenon or a sign”[75]. Evoking Cirlot, Carmen’s house of objects communicates with the forces that perforate the worlds[76].

The epiphany of the object, saysCarmen: “When I shut the place at night I feel that all my objects start to live. You can hear the murmur through the door”[77].



“When God made the first clay model of a human being, he painted eyes, lips and sex. And then He painted the name that the person should never forget about him. If God approved his creation, he blew the model brick powder painted in life”.Rainer Maria Rilke, in Notebooksof Malte Laurids Brigge. Carmen placed two tacks over the eyes, they were hers, one of the portraits of Christopher Makos (2002), smiling. Ojos [Eyes]is the title of one of her paintings from 1996.



“Seeing is forgetting the name of things you don’t see”, saidPaul Valéry, and Carmen Calvo often quotes it.



She has done the lighting for operas such as Carmen;Das Rheingold; La forza del destino; L’elisir d’amore; Lucio Silla; Madame Butterflyor Il turco in Italia, among others. She also did so for the opera season of the Liceo in Barcelona in 2012 and for an exhibition about these operas took place in Paris in 2016[78].



First there were painted landscapes, like shadows of horizons, fragmented landscapes watched over by a dense fog, very close to the light of sunset. They later became almost physical landscapes, a formal representation through elements sown onto cloth. They were non-landscapes or ways of looking at the world from the inside of the artist.Landscapes as scriptures. See the term “Paris”.



Used as an element to compose some of her collections, around 1989. Like the threads of fossilized painting, palettes remind us of the birth of Calvo as an artist, in a context of discussion on the very meaning of painting. Files, palettes, canvas cuts (draperies), chalk, heaps, slates seem to recall the process inherent to the painter’s work while recognising the dignified essence of her work. Contenedor[Container] (1989) was a mound of palettes.


Gold leaf

Paintings, generally square in format, whose surface is covered with gold leaf, many of them between 1997 and 1998. Objects on the gold that shines in the background is, asBrines would say, “the liturgical and solar gold”[79], that give this cycle an air of sacred imagery, an altarpiece of scraps. In Calvo’s words, “splendour and richness imbue these humble objects, of a certain nostalgia. This material, gold leaf, is found throughout the history of art, covering the great architectures of interiors, objects and sculptures (…) can also speak of death, fetishes or reliquaries”[80]. In 1994 she covered the ceiling of the Palace of Benicarló, the seat of the Parliament of Valencia, with this material, adding ceramic bits and pieces.


Paris (1982-1990)

According to Georges Duby, Carmen was changed by Paris: “most of her work changed due to the effect of her transplant to Paris”, he wrote, coinciding with the appearance of what he called “immense tragic landscapes”and the emergence of a new use of colour in her painting[81], landscapes with a heavy, deep air, sometimes with an abyssal, nocturnal light. “Life in Paris—said the artist— has given me, on one hand, a new dimension on landscape, a certain tragic nature that surely comes from Paris, the city Paul Éluard called “capital of pain”and, on the other, a bursting, an overflowing of the palette”[82]. She wrote (painted) letters from Paris: Lettre, Paris[Letter, Paris] (1986). She painted its landscapes, with precise references (Paysage, Paris[Landscape, Paris] o Paysage, Pont Marie[Landscape, Pont Marie] (1986) and Le Marais,1995). Carmen lived in Saint-Denis in the 1980s, which propitiated her intense encounters with museums and art history: Impression or Van Gogh, she always says. Painting and life were taken seriously. She took photos, beautiful Polaroid shots with an SX70[83], as night fell. Her stay in Paris and her life in the studio in Saint-Denis Basilique moulded her and made here the artist she is: Siempre Paris[Paris for ever] (2005). She corrected an adjective I had used: “sinister”. To define these paintings (I was thinking of a certain dark world), I explained myself: “For a painter, living day to day is impressive. I had never seen snow in my city and I discovered it in Paris. That leaden sky —between grey, blue and black— surrounds the people all day. The temperature changes also make people more volatile. I adore Paris. I love it, and miss it”[84]. On reflection, I thought that writing “magic” was more appropriate for these landscapes.




Evoking a hairy mandorla, El sexo en la cara[The sex in the face] (1997) crowned her exhibition in Alcalá 31, as a profane altar that recalled the frequency with which this element has appeared in her work[85]:Y quién hay que mire[There are people who look] (2005); Que se evadan flores extrañas[Strange flowers should escape] or Les chercheuses de poux[The flea hunters] (2006). In 2007 she exhibited it in the window of a gallery: Cuando los vientos se hunden sobre ellos[86][When the winds collapse on them]. And hair, or a hairy skin, remained a constant in her work, for example in her cycle in 2009: Sería más feliz o menos[I would be more or less happy], Entresueño[In-between dream] Solo una vez he sido[I only did it once]; Mero perfil a veces[Sometimes, a mere profile];Y como el pensamiento[And like thought] or La vida se abre[Life opens up].Also inLa casa misteriosa[The mysterious house] (1996); Interv(alo)[Interv)al)],La divina envidia [Divine envy] or Père Lachaise(1998). A very long tale, almost unmanageable: El sexo en la cara[The sex in the face] (1997); L’étoile pleura rose…[The star will cries pink] (1998); À notre mère [To our mother]; Ángel[Angel];En las vagas sombras de luz[In the vague shadows of light] (1999); L’éclair[The flash] (1999); C’est le malheur[It is unhappiness] (2001); La existencia en colores[Existence in colour], Las palabras sociales de moral[The social words of morals] (2003) or Chansons de la plus haute tour[Songs from the highest tower] (2006). We could go on. Vultus, and its hair would float, dirty, over the soup or, with dread, in any other part of the food. A hair found in the wrong place: on the bed, announcing another story, another love, betrayed. Hair that grows on a corpse. Horrorized and spiked by fear, clenched dread. Raised in an early caress. Lost in the passage of time, leaving its face on the sleepy pillow. The glorious hair of the victorious solder and the shaved head of the loser. Hair yearned for by Samson. Hair lost through illness. An enigma of identity. The moustachioed Mona Lisa of Duchamp, and his Fontaine.“My dear Bun —Lewis Carrol wrote to his nanny—, I love you a lot, and send you a kiss from little Charlie with a strand of hair. I would like to give you a kiss, but I can’t because I’m in Marke. What a long letter I have written! I am a little tired”[87]. Sexo en la cara[The sex in the face] (1997) and Et pourlèche la face ronde[And licks the round face] (2013-2016), a large sculpture conceived for her exhibition in Alcalá 31. The ignominy of the shaved head of the captive. Dali-like hair. Beuys’ felt, compressed hair. A reliquary of the saint’s hair, inside a vial. How about a coffee with Objet[Object] (1936), hairy, of Meret Oppenheim[88]. Fanero, an identity when we no longer exist, holding what we used to be inside for centuries. “The immense shadow of a hair”, wrote Artaud in the Surrealist Dictionary[89]. Hair.



He encontrado en mí varias personalidades[I have found various personalities in me] was the title of a work from 2004. He rechazado siempre que me comprendiesen[I have always rejected the notion that people should understand me] (2006). A possibility.



“Painting is my language. The language I use best. And a way of life”[90].



Sin título [Untitled], 1996

In 1997 Carmen Calvo represented Spain in the 47thBiennial of Venice[91], as we have already mentioned. She presented a set of twenty-one large works on slate (MNCARS collection). An extensive collage where objects reminded us of her liking for the suspension, almost of a ‘votive offering’ nature, of elements. The artist combined those mysterious objects to create a disquiet helped by a certain disconnection, either through placing them or through painting the surface, underlining the air of heaviness that this techniques conveys. Some of these objects were modified by being installed on the slates. They were objects of strangeness. That strange silence of objects.

“They told me, ‘Calvo, to the slate!’, and I drew what they asked”[92]. In Carmen, the background noise is strangeness, everything is noted, it all comes together there.



Todo placer es un vicio[All pleasure is vice], 2000.




A fundamental element in Carmen’s thinking. Her works feed off poetry. See the entry “Titles (of her works)”. La poesía está en otra parte[Poetry is elsewhere] (2008) illustrates the term “Stillness”). I imagine her in her studio among the objects, holding a book by Rimbaud in her hands.



Looking at the illustration that accompanies this entry, I was reminded of the old film by Marcel Carné, in a foggy Paris at night: Les portes de la nuit[The doors of the night] (1946), with the boys singing. A nod to Marcel Duchamp, his doors and holes to see scenes. I think of his impossible Porte, 11, rue Larrey[Door, 11, rue Larrey] (1927). Doors used in the construction of her works; Calvo has created montages recently with some: El ojo existe en estado salvaje[The eye exists in a savage state] (2015) or Señor, he de decirte dos palabras… [Lord, I have a couple of things to tell you](2016), previously mentioned. “Ouvrez-moi cette porte où je frappe en pleurant / La vie est variable aussi bien que l’Euripe”(Apollinaire, Le voyageur).



Glacial stillness, a “frozen image” the artist would say, to access that absent state of being it is not necessary to seek subjective immensity, Carmen Calvo would say: “that is why my anonymous characters also have something of a frozen image about the, seen in black and white, which later live through painting or the object that fate assigns to them. Or, rather, my way of transforming them”[93].



Towards the end of the 1970s —around 1977— Carmen Calvo created a number of paintings with the title Recopilación[Compilation]; the series was called Paisaje[Landscape], Mosaico[Mosaic]. Collections in urns or laid out in exhibition areas. The artist referred to the encounter of forms, sometimes more constructed, at other times more a collection of bits and piece, or then ordered in a musical way. On occasions, forms shaking in one direction, as if blown by the wind[94]. The cycle Huellas[Traces] (1995) also has an air of a collection. To a certain extent, her entire creative life has revolved around collections: she created the essence of herself as an artist among objects and collections.


Stories / Tales

Images of people who used to be alive, expressing their doubt, showing themselves. Tales as sieges, linking images and interrupting or stating a repertoire of events that she used to pick up on her obsessions later: seeing in order not to see, contemplate and cry, create to see, tempting (in)visibility in its joyful contradiction. This is why her work is often full of drawings that come across pieces of paper, photos and cutting, usually elements from history together with drawings that appear to have emerged from somewhere between distraction or chance, perhaps made in different positions —head up or down— multiplying the images as if to say: life is this: coming, coming and going. With varied techniques and changed scales, like tracing a disordered history of her memory and, therefore, navigating through the past now. Names said and hidden names. Diving.



Carmen’s favourite poet, a frequenter —like her— of infernal temptation. We share this beautiful quote: “I ended up finding my spirit’s disorder sacred”[95].Attacking earthly frontiers, the “hell”of this artist, like that of the wandering poet, is silent and its propositions do not prevent her from striking at random, here and there, right and left, in all directions, impartial in the wrath of her images, raging even in pleasurable propositions, because the malaiseshe suffers, the rebellion of herself as an artist, her great thirst, her “hell” is not a mention of something lost that could be restored nor a longed-for desire. Like Rimbaud, it is the fight with the visible world that she does not understand, so her inspiration is both classical and tragic because it is a storm that reserved for her person, granted as a mysterious privilege. Out of human reach and a ground level.



See “Mask”




Tailor-Tailor´s shop

Back in 1996, Carmen found hundreds of papers, magazines, patterns, fashion drawings, correspondence, notes, invoices and other elements in an old tailor’s shop in Plaza de la Reina in Valencia, the house of the tailor Rafael Molina and his wife María Santonja. She did not come across forgotten memories, rather a past life that burned in silence, the spirit of Molina with which she composed a new world. That mysterious house, as Juan Manuel Bonet and the title of a work by Calvo express it, was a placer “devastated by absence and time”[96]. On the remains she collected, among them figurines of military figures, the artist drew “irreverently and in abundance”[97]. “Rafael Molina —the artist said— was well-known for the clientele he had, as well as the ladies who were attended by his wife María Santonja.A dear friend, the owner of the building, gave me the keys. In Rafael Molina’s house I found a series of documents, letters and mannequins that I still use today as a resource for my drawings. It was 1996 when my encounter with the spirit of Mr Molina took place[98].

In another interview with Calvo[99]three years ago, we were in another old tailor’s ship in Madrid, Casa Benítez in Calle Infantas. The atmosphere was powerful; in the background, the silent tailor cutting patterns with large scissors.


Silence, 2005

A work in MNCARS collection, made from a series of plaster elements, a “fragile and beautiful” material for the artist[100], tombstones and knives (around three thousand, moulded one by one by Calvo). Nearby, a mirror with a strand of hair that the artist titled Te prometo el infierno[I promise you hell]. She explains: “The whole installation oozes silence, nothing can disturb it, death passed by and the bitter but serene memory of absence remained”. The artist relates the knives, arranged in an order defined by her, to classic still life (we spoke about Clara Peeters): “in the language of 12th-century still life painting, knives have a particular connotation. They could be used for fighting, as shown by the way they are placed, but the lack of colour reflects the evil done in the past. At the bottom, the forms —niches or tombstones— speak to us of people who will come or went before”[101].

I read Calasso: “there is another life, crossed by forms as by the blade of a knife, or by a dazzling multiplicity of knives”[102].

I also praise the peace of the landscape of the cemetery. The painter specially recalls a visit to Montjuïc with students from Escola Massana, where she taught a course. Other works of hers reveal visits to Paris, Mexico, Caracas or Buenos Aires that she sees, unperturbed, as, “an open-air painting session”. Silencio[Silence] should be linked to other works by the artist in which she mentions the tombstones or moulds in the form of large urns or collections[103]. After these explanations, a certain hermetic world is the domain of this artist: unexplained experiences imbued with a strong evocative power, so that we could “dress them up as our own”[104]. Silence, the story that tells how Job was struck mute when Jehovah reminded him of the Leviathan.


Silence (other)

REF 33488



The glass and fluids that, like mops, were extracted from a tube of paint to compose her Paisajes, mud or wax remains. What existed was halted, like the past. The liquid and faces slipped on the faces. I recall a strange solidified material hung on some masts, as meaty trophies, in the montage Imposible-vent[Impossible-wind] (1998), which can be seen in the terms “Hope-despair”).



Time goes by slow in the artist’s studio. At the end of the day, the passage of the hours is reflected on the painting. Things fade away in the shadowy light. Objects carry a range of shadows and some are not even that, dissolved in paint that they pretend to be. Everything was true, but it all became fiction[105]. She painted Leda, and his shadows, when she was learning in the Escuela. Shadows also multiplied in Comienzo[Beginning] (1994). Other shadows: Las sombras + formas[Shadows+ forms] (1990) or Las sombras de la noche[Shadows of the night] (1994). Calvo, welcome to that society proposed byDuchamp: Société Anonyme des Porteurs d’Ombres, which became the heir to the ancient tradition of “Ars magna lucis et umbrae” of Kircher.



“I tell you, there is a mystery here: We will not all sleep, but we will all be transformed, in an opening and closing of the eyes…”[106].No puedo soñar[I cannot dream] is the title of a book-object of the artist, and with Los sueños vagos[Lazy dreams] (2017) we published a small portfolio. She mentions sleep/dreams frequently: the Sueña[Dream] series (1996);Y así como sueño[That is how I dream] (1998); Sueños de sueños[Dreaming of dreams] (1999); Estoy convencido de que nunca estoy despierto[I am convinced that I am never awake] (2003); Para dar relieve a mis sueños[To enhance my dreams] (2005); Qué sueños tengo, Releo en una de estas somnolencias[What dreams I have! Re-reading in one of those somnolent phases] (2012) or Tengo mucho sueño[I’m very tired] (2013). Being an element that is found at the very core of the Surrealist ethos[107], her work could be a disquieting invitation to enter it (Entrad, entrad, no tengáis miedo de quedar cegados[Enter, enter, don’t be afraid of being blinded], 2011). Matar al sueño[Killing sleep] the title of this exhibition. Basically, “sleep” or “dreams” are two terms extensively developed in the Surrealist Dictionary, referring to that “involuntary poetry”, “second life”, “the omnipotence of sleep”, “the colours of sleep”, also “leading us to our desolate solitude”. It is almost textual: at the end of 1922 Surrealism incorporates the dreams and hypnosis of Desnos, Domínguez or Ernst, orRrose Sélavy, “where the vitrified spirit of Marcel Duchamp reigns”[108]. The header of a bed found in Mexico, hung with elements as if votive offerings, as in a dream (¿Dónde estás?[Where are you?], 2003).

K.: “In a way, I have the privilege of seeing the ghosts of the night, not only in the inert and blessed abandoned state of sleep, but also —and at the same time— I find them in reality, when I have all the power of wakefulness and a serene ability to judge”[109].




We said, in the introduction to this Alphabet Dictionarythat Surrealism is explicitly paid tribute to in works of this artist like Escritura automática [Automatic writing]; La belleza será convulsiva o no será[Beauty will be convulsive or not] (1998); Cadáver exquisito[Exquisite corpse] (1999) or her book-collages Nadja(1998); Manifeste du surrealism [Manifesto for Surrealism]; Minotaure [The Minotaur;] Les pas perdus[The lost steps], Le surréalisme[Surrealism] (both from 1999). The last-named comes with a sleep mask, a subject —narcosis— often the subject of reflection by Calvo (see “Dream”).



A series of her work on carpets, intensely carried out in 2006-2009, which seems to evoke the memory of domestic lives, decorated with them: Ma faim, anne, anne[My hunger, Anne, Anne] or Silencios atravesados por ángeles, por mundos[Silences crossed by angles, by worlds] (2006); Si los demás no existen [If others did not exist] orSúbitamente, acero vivo[Suddenly, live steel] (2008); Dos veces, en aquella adolescencia[Twice, during that absence] and Todo se resume[Everything is summarized] (2009). The artist sews objects on the fabric.


Titles (of her works)

Tempted by aphasia following the excess of words in the world, the question is —as Alice said— if it is possible to make words mean something different. Hence, Calvo associates statements to images. Or not… she deliberately disassociates them from them, as if in a state of friction. The shadow of the Surrealists and the verses of some of her favourite poets —Rimbaud or Pessoa, Brines too— embrace title texts, and not be chance. Collapsing titles and persona graphics coincide in her work, often disconnected from images; in that no-man’s-land, an interregnum, lies a powerful friction. Do not ask what they mean. I suspect that certain titles swerve around the meaning, avoiding showing -in a clear way- the thinking behind the images.

“Stream of words”, said Stevenson. Her titles reverberate behind the appearance of common language, other meanings spring forth which, at times, become paralyzing through their intensity.

The words howl.




I am looking at images of Valencia, MalvarrosaandEl Saler, from 2003. The artist always remembers her origins and her work with ceramics, small collections patiently created. Love and sorrow: “My parents met when they were working in San Sebastian for some 1930s aristocrat. They later travelled to Valencia in the Civil War in a CGT truck. Those are my origins and I like to honour that memory, not in a necrophiliac way but because it is necessary. They went to Valencia because there were market gardens and people could eat. A generation that suffered so much… They were exemplary, so hard-working. There are still many things we need to know about them. (…) My parents worked as concierges at Calle del Turia, 45, my birthplace. The flat was upstairs and overlooked the Botanical Gardens. That plant atmosphere enveloped you, the sound of the church bells… Over time, I realise I have ended up in a studio parallel to my childhood paradise (…)”[110].


Keep a watch (blind, blindness, visible, vision)

The eyes are often covered. Bandaged, hidden or covered. Sometimes a hand helps to contextualize the world… whether it one’s own or of others, we do not know. It propitiates the inner journey, or simply to avoid seeing. The gaze is hidden. Ulises[Ulysses] (2003), a face that remains, stranded in the chair, perhaps the work of a blind poet. There is an air in some of Carmen Calvo’s portraits that evokes asphyxia. The mask or other element that prevents air from entering, that could be what lead to muteness. A covered mouth, covered eyes, blinded faces, crossings out, sleep masks or sands, nails or clothes that cover the mask, liquids now still, the artist’s passion for the blinding of the senses (see Mi orgullo lapidado por ciegos [My pride stoned by blind people] (2003) or Dios, ahora puedes volverme ciega[Now you can see me blind], 2005).

Es lo visible lo oculto[The hidden is visible], a mysterious montage by the artist, with a music box, from 2015. And a manipulated photograph, also from the same year: Casi deseo que aparezca para ver.



Candles burn inside a display case, with the wax running down to the bottom. It is a difficult piece to exhibit; I watched her working on it one baking hot summer: Ese pájaro es Meret[That bird is Meret] (2015). Candles, lit or gone out, in her works: Por encima de la oscuridad[Above the darkness] (2013), the votive offering still burning thanks to matches. Or they burned: En la soledad[In solitude] (2013), and the marks ae left of the faces. In the eyes, in cupboards. Or the wax is scattered on faces and portraits: a married couple covered in drops in El chirriar de la lluvia[The grating sound of the rain] (2013). I read Sergio Pitol, who told me about San Juan Chamula; I saw the candles of pan burn: “among smells of alcohol, wax, tree resin, urine and sweat, you get close to ecstasy”[111].


Little dresses

Dressed for First Communion, or at the start of adult life. Caressed by the air, little angles, with little eyes or dolls sewn on, or small religious effigies that shine when the light is turned off. The little dresses float with their shadows, mobile, like spirits from the past that have arrived at the exhibition. Sometimes shown stuck to a rubber, like La petite fille de Montreuil[The little girl from Montreuil] (1998), or hung, like the shadow that reminds us of the life they had: Desmesurada[Excessive] (2001); Resplandor,Sueños vagos[Shining, lazy dreams] (2003). (I have also seen tragic clothing).


Vincent Van Goch and others (the world of painting)

The fatigue of daily life, worn out boots an, image-still life by Calvo remembering the boots and shoes painted by her beloved Van Gogh (1885-1888)[112], a metaphor for the daily struggle: Naturaleza muerta de las botas[Still life of boots] (1995). I remember some of the“vangoghian” paintings of Carmen: Habitación de Van Gogh[Van Gogh’s room] (1975) or some of the painting from her seriesPaisajes[Landscapes] (1975), made in fired clay between 1973-1983. Done as a series, the themes are often taken from different works by Van Gogh, and some of the drawings illustrates the Lettersto his brother Theo. As well as to Vincent, Calvo has paid tribute to the history of painting, among others: Rosalba Carriera, Derain, Kandinsky or Mondrian, and some of her material painting remind me of the agitation of Pollock.





Ah, life! I often mention a quote from the notebooks of Rilke that I think ties in with the energetic, hard-working Carmen: “I did not come to you just to make a study, it was to ask you: How should one liver? And you replied: by working. I understand well. I feel that working is living without dying”. Quoted by Guillermo de Torre, during a visit by Rainer María Rilke to Rodin in 1902.








Votive offerings



Strangeness, disquiet, stupor. As Calasso writes about Kafka, the people who admire the works of Carmen Calvo know exactly where they are, and why.





“Fouches caudines de la mort. J’y suis lancé”, said Leiris[113].


I is another

From an extreme emotional force that does not disdain mystery, the desire to shine, this artist incites images in this world devastated by their abuse, impenitently flashing all around, a barren territory where they twinkle, while others attempt visual forms, perhaps convoluted and deformed, decomposed or recomposed, springing from reality and covered with elements or paint, fading away or even suggested from their absence; or portraits conceived with mirror, superimposed objects, stained or dripping with wax, lacerated faces. Or inciting images through certain elements, votive offerings from a forgotten past that allow the image to be reconstructed, an attempt at the I-other. Disorder in the conceived language, a certain disorganization of great meanings that will allow her to reach the centre of gravity of the world, its raison d’être.



“Au sein de la profonde nuit”. Paul Valéry[114].

[1]BONNEFOY, Yves. L’écharpe rouge. Paris: Mercure de France, 2016, p. 130.

[2]LEIRIS, Michel. Glossaire j’y serre mes gloses suivi de Bagatelles végétales. Paris: Gallimard, “Poésie”, 2014.

[3]BRETON, André-ELUARD, Paul. Dictionnaire Abrégé du Surréalisme. Paris : Galerie des Beaux Arts, 1938. Versión en castellano Diccionario Abreviado del Surrealism. Madrid: Ediciones Siruela, 2002, p. 95.

[4]OTTINGER, Didier. Dictionnaire de l’objet surréaliste. Paris: Éditions Gallimard-Centre Pompidou, 2013.

[5]LEBEL, Jean-Jacques. Randonnée chez Carmen. Paris: Galerie Thessa Herold, 1998, pp. 29-30. Referring to the surreal, if we add its presence in an exhibition in its own room in a museum of objects, the Fundación Antonio Pérez, in Cuenca. The term “outrepasseur” has to do with the title of Lebel’s exhibition in the Pompidou in 2018.

[6]DE LA TORRE, Alfonso. Escenas de caza.In Carmen Calvo. Todo procede de la sinrazón. Madrid: Comunidad de Madrid, 2016, pp. 10-21.

[7]Although it is well-known, and published in three issues of “La Révolution Surrealiste” in 1924, we recommend: LEIRIS, Michel. Glossaire j’y serre mes gloses suivi de Bagatelles végétales. Op. cit. On this point: LEIRIS, Michel.  A propos du Musée des Sorciers. Paris: “Documents”, no. 2, V/1929, pp. 109-116, which analyzed the evaluation of what was wonderful in certain random encounters.

[8]CIRLOT, Juan-Eduardo.  Diccionario de símbolos. Barcelona: Editorial Labor, 1988 (the edition consulted), p. 419.

[9]LEIRIS, Michel.  La règles du jeu I: Bifures. Paris: Gallimard, 1975.

[10]AMIC, Sylvain-SNRECH, Joanne. Abécédaire de Marcel Duchamp. Paris: Flammarion, 2018. There are many artistics “Dictionaries” in our era, recalling the “Diccionario de las vanguardias en España (1907-1936)” by Juan Manuel Bonet. Among the favourites are: CALVO SERRALLER, Francisco. Diccionario de ideas recibidas del pintor Eduardo Arroyo.  Barcelona: Mondadori España, 1991 and the different editions of his “Diccionario imposible”. Also, GAÑÁN, Emilio-PASCUAL, Carlos. Diccionario-Una conversación. Badajoz: Galería Ángeles Baños, 2007.

[11]BONELL, Carmen. La geometría y la vida. Antología de Palazuelo. Murcia: CENDEAC, 2006.


[12]BRETON, André-PARINAUD, André. Entretiens. Paris: Gallimard, 1962, p. 93.

[13]MICHON, Pierre. Llega el rey cuando quiere. Terrades: Wunderkammer, 2018, p. 96.

[14]Ibid. p. 14

[15]Title of a work by the artist in 2003.

[16]VALÉRY, Paul. Alfabeto. Valencia: Pre-textos, 2018, p. 19. The capital letter of “Sommeil” belongs to it.

[17]BORGES, Jorge Luis-VÁZQUEZ, María Esther. Borges. Sus días y su tiempo (Conversaciones). Santiago de Chile: Tajamar ediciones, 2010, p. 221.

[18]BRETON, André-ÉLUARD, Paul. Dictionnaire Abrégé du Surréalisme. Op. cit., p. 108.

[19]Title of the artist’s exhibition in the Museo Cerralbo (Madrid) in 2018.

[20]Conversation of Carmen Calvo with the autor, referring to Interv(alo)(1998).

[21]TOLEDO, Joan Antonio.  Presentación. Madrid: Galería Vandrés, 1979. (Presentation to the exhibition catalogue: Galería Vandrés, Carmen Calvo.  Pinturas, Madrid, 27 April-27 May 1979), s/p, p. 1.

[22]Galerie Thessa Herold, Vestiges revisités, Paris, Autumn-Winter 1998-1999.

[23]“The interior was not only the private citizen’s universe, it was also his casing. Living means leaving traces. In the interior, these were stressed. Coverings and antimacassars, boxes and casings, were devised in abundance, in which the traces of everyday objects were moulded. The resident’s own traces were also moulded in the interior”.  BENJAMIN, Walter. Paris, capital del siglo XIX, el Libro de las Galerías (Passagenwerk), 1940.


[24] 2 Reyes 1:1-2:15. The rubber Elías(1996) is present in the exhibition.

[25]BACHELARD, Gaston. La terre et les rêveries du repos.  Paris : Éditions Jose Corti, 1963, p. 27.

[26]DUBY, Georges. Los gabinetes de curiosidades. Palma de Mallorca: Sala Pelaires, VI/1988.


[27]I refer to Kafka’s tale,Der Jäger Gracchus(Gracchus the hunter), 1917

[28]La realidad de lo imaginario(2014), entry speech to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Carlos, Valencia, 9/XII/2014. Or the visual film-collage Retazos(2009), conceived byCarmen Calvo and shown now.


[29]BRETON, André-PARINAUD, André.  Entretiens. Op. cit., p. 69.

[30]BERNADAC, Marie-Laure; HERKENHOFF, Paulo and NERI, Louise. Louise Bourgeois, Oeuvres récentes. Londres: Serpentine Gallery, 1999.

[31]Louise Bourgeois: “I have always been fascinated by wáter, by the magic power of wáter. The needle is used to repair damage. It is a vindication of forgiveness”. GROSENICK, Ulta. Mujeres artistas de los siglos XX y XXI. Cologne: Taschen, 2005, p. 43.

[32]Galerie Thessa Herold, Vestiges revisités.  Op.cit. There were eighteen “Cristales” in the catalogue.

[33]BRETON, André. Pièce fausse. Paris: “Dada”, no. 7, III/1920, p. 3.

[34]LEBEL, Jean-Jacques. Randonnée chez Carmen. Op. cit. p. 19.

[35]CALASSO, Roberto. K.Barcelona: Anagrama, 2018, p. 16.

[36]In this Biennial the work of Carmen Calvo shared space with that of Joan Brossa, under the curatorship of Victoria Combalía. XLVII Biennale di Venezia, Venice, 15 June – 9 November 1997.

[37]Conversation between Carmen Calvo and the author, 12/X/2018.

[38]Paris, 1919-Aix-en-Provence, 1996.

[39]DUBY, Georges.  Los gabinetes de curiosidades. Op. cit.

[40]Works by Carmen Calvo in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New Images from Spain, 21 March-11 May 1980 [and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 5 October-30 November 1980] and (with the same title) in Hastings Gallery/Spanish Institute, 19 March-3 May 1980

[41]LEBEL, Jean-Jacques. Randonnée chez Carmen.  Op. cit. p. 15.


[42]DUBY, Georges.  Los gabinetes de curiosidades. Op. cit.

[43]BORGES, Jorge Luis-VÁZQUEZ, María Esther. Borges. Sus días y su tiempo (Conversaciones). Op. cit., p. 63.

[44]LEBEL, Jean-Jacques. Randonnée chez Carmen.  Op. cit. p. 20.

[45]Mario Mauroner Contemporary Art, Salzburg, 21 July-1 September 2018.

[46]Different fragments of poemos by García Lorca, among others: “Suite de los espejos”, “Canción del naranjo seco” and “Tierra”.


[47]BORGES, Jorge Luis-VÁZQUEZ, María Esther. Borges. Sus días y su tiempo (Conversaciones). Op. cit. p. 64.

[48]This statement, and the previous ones, come from a conversation between Carmen Calvo and the autor.


[49]See this background in the photo Imposible=vent[Impossible=wind] (1998) in “Hope-Despair”.

[50]BONET, Juan Manuel. La casa misteriosa de Carmen Calvo. Los Angeles: Fisher Gallery, University of Southern California, 1997.

[51]I refer to the work Ojos[Eyes] (1995).

[52]“Quand j’erre sous le poids du malheur de ce monde”. JOUVE, Pierre Jean. Vers majeurs(1942). In 16 poemas(Carlos Edmundo d’Ory-Alejandro Busuioceanu). Madrid: Abada Editores, 2010, pp. 40-41.


[53]Comme d’un cercueil vert en fer blanc, une tête, 2009.

[54]LEIRIS, Michel. Glossaire j’y serre mes gloses suivi de Bagatelles végétales. Op. cit.


[55]MICHON, Pierre. Señores y sirvientes. Barcelona: Anagrama, 2003 (Relato: Dios no acaba), p. 86.

[56]DERRIDA, Jacques. “Aletheia”. In Artes de lo visible (1979-2004). Pontevedra: Eliago Ediciones, 2013, p. 267.  It is from Nous avons voué notre vie à des signes…Bordeaux: William Blake & Co. Edit., 1996, pp. 75-81.

[57]“This work is, in turn, a treatise on the art of the gaze, a meaning that every artist should exercise in his/her work. Looking at art is a personal act, of a solemn individuality (…)”. CALVO, Carmen.  Goya: los tapices y la artesanía. Madrid. Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, 2016,pro manuscripto.


[58]Conversation between Carmen Calvo and the author.


[59]Quoted by CALASSO, Roberto. K.  Op. cit., p. 28

[60]TOLEDO, Joan Antonio.  Presentación. Op. cit.


[61]Regarding the books, see: BRINES, Francisco. Una mirada salvada y salvadora.Gijón: Palacio de Revillagigedo, 1999, p. 15.  This exhibition contained a good set of maniuplated books.

[62]BRETON, André.Manifeste du surréalisme. Paris, 1924.  Vid. DE LA TORRE, Alfonso. El maniquí surrealista. Madrid: Ámbito Cultural-El Corte Inglés, 2008.

[63]We follow the cover of the catalogue of the exhibition to mention the interveners in order: organized by Breton and Eluard, with Duchamp as “Générateur-Arbitre” and the attendance ofClaude Le Gentil. “Special advisers”were Dalí and Ernst, while Man Ray was the “Maître de Lumières”. “Eaux et Broussailles”was taken care of by Wolffang Paalen. According to the cover, the sixteen mannekin from Maison P.L.E.M. (which conserved the brand on the faces) had been “dressed”, “resuscitated”in the words of Man Ray, by (order of mention in the catalogue): Tanguy, Masson, Selignan, Mossé, Arp, Domínguez, Malet, Ernst, Duchamp, Miró, Marcel Jean, Man Ray, Espinoza, Matta, Maurice Henry and Dalí. Sixty artists from fourteen countries showing two hundred and twenty-nine works (paintings, objects, collages, photrogaphs and installations). Galerie Beaux Arts, directed by Georges Wildenstein.

[64]MAN RAY. Les Mannequins. Résurrection des mannequins.Paris, Jean Petithory, 1966.

[65]MICHON, Pierre. Señores y sirvientes. Op. cit. (Relato: Con este signo vencerás), pp. 131-167.

[66]We refer to Entrad, entrad, no tengáis miedo de quedar cegados, in the programme Otras Naturalezas, of Ámbito Cultural-El Corte Inglés, which took place in Calle Preciados in 2011.

[67]Marseilles, 10/VII/1891.

[68]Sotheby’s, Bibliothèque R. et B. L.,Paris, 9/X/2018, cat. no. 241, il. col. p. 215.  Courtesy of Ladislao Azcona.

[69]BRETON, André-ELUARD, Paul. Dictionnaire Abrégé du Surréalisme.  Op. cit. p. 64.

[70]Radio Clásica, Juego de espejos(RTVE, 27/X/2014).

[71]In her intervention in Otras naturalezas[Other natures] (2011), Carmen Calvo used music of different origins, mainly soundtracks from classic films.

[72]BONNEFOY, Yves. L’écharpe rouge. Op. cit., p. 134.

[73]JOUVE, Pierre Jean. Dans les années profondes. Matière céleste. Proses. Paris: Gallimard, 1960-1995, p. 219.

[74]BRETON, André. Manifeste du surréalisme. Op. cit.

[75]Galerie Thessa Herold, Carmen Calvo. De l’esprit à la matière, une archéologie de l’imaginaire. Paris, 1995.

[76]“Mi casa comunica con las fuerzas/ que perforan los mundos y los alzan/ en la cima furiosa de esa sombra/ sin principio ni fin que me alimenta”. CIRLOT, Juan-Eduardo. Segundo canto de la vida muerta. Barcelona:Alcor, 1953.

[77]LINDO, Elvira. Carmen Calvo. Yo no me callo.  El País, 25/VI/2017.


[78]Galerie Thessa Herold, Carmen Calvo. Les opéras de Carmen. Paris, 2016. They were exhibitied(2012-2013) in the Joan Prats gallery in Barcelona (27 October-3 November 2012) and later (a selection) inVuela Pluma, Madrid (9-19 April 2013).

[79]BRINES, Francisco. Una mirada salvada y salvadora. Valencia: IVAM, 1999, p. 92.

[80]Conversation between Carmen Calvo and the author.

[81]DUBY, Georges. Los gabinetes de curiosidades. Op. cit.

[82]CALVO, Carmen. Modos de ver.Valencia: IVAM, 1988.

[83]SX70 Land Camera, with flash bars and a 116 mm lens that Carmen used from 1980 on. It is well-known that many artists, among them Warhol, used this camera. Her relationship with photography was covered in her exhibition titled Buscaba lo que se pierdein the CFC (Bilbao) in 2014.

[84]Conversation between Carmen Calvo and the author, 17/X/2018.

[85]One of the first would beInceste ou passion de famille[incest or family passion] (1996) and its forerunner ¿Ya ha puesto Vd. la médula de la espalda en el pelo de su amada?[have you putt he marrow from your back in your loved one’s hair?] (1995).

[86]On the ocasión of her exhibition in Galería Joan Prats (2007).

[87]CARROLL, Lewis. (1837). Carta a su niñera, en El hombre que amaba a las niñas-Correspondencia y retratos, Madrid: La Felguera editores, 2013, p. 27.

[88]MoMA collection.

[89]BRETON, André-ÉLUARD, Paul. Dictionnaire Abrégé du Surréalisme, Op. cit. p. 77. Vid. DE LA TORRE, Alfonso.  Carmen Calvo: Doble o nada.  Madrid: Galería Rayuela, 2011.

[90]CALVO, Carmen. Modos de ver. Op. cit.

[91]Vid. previous note about the presence of Carmen Calvo in theXLVII Biennale di Venezia, Venise, 15 June-9 November 1997.

[92]LINDO, Elvira. Carmen Calvo. Yo no me callo.  Op. cit.

[93]Conversation between Carmen Calvo and the author.

[94]Anthology (Landscape)-(Recopilacion-Paisaje), 1977. White clay on canvas mounted on a wooden panel; 150 x 190 cm.; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum collection.

[95]RIMBAUD, Arthur. Una temporada en el infierno. Madrid: Visor, 2010, p. 79 (the edition consulted).


[96]BRINES, Francisco. Una mirada salvada y salvadora.Op. cit., p. 13

[97]Ibid. p. 15

[98]MOLINS, Vicent. Estas son las postales favoritas de Valencia (según una docena de valencianos). Valencia: “Plaza”, 17/X/2015. “Rafael Molina’s tailor’s shop occupied the whole property. On the first floor: dressmaking, second, attending lady customers, and third, their flat. I knew the house very well, as I found all the documents, patterns, letters from customers, personel letters, copies of ABC magazine etc, there, together with mannikins and other objects. (…) I still have the keys to the house. It belonged to a friend of mine, the architect Emilio Giménez (…)”.Conversation between Carmen Calvo and the author, 19/IX/2018. At this point, we should recall the use of cloth in works in the Draperiesseries (1992).

[99]RTVE, La mitad invisible,“Grave pasión encantadora”, by Carmen Calvo, 29/XI/2016.

[100]The reflections on the work “Silencio” come from a number of conversations between Carmen Calvo and the author.


[102]CALASSO, Roberto. K.  Op. cit., p. 22

[103]Galería Gamarra y Garrigues, Carmen Calvo. Pinturas y montajes. Madrid, December 1989-January 1990.

[104]JUNCOSA, Enrique. Las conversaciones de Camen Calvo. Miengo: Sala Robayera, 1997.

[105]This reflection is based on some paintings Untitled, which Carmen Calvo composed in 1990.

[106]Corintios 15, 51-52.

[107]“Les “expériences de sommeil” bien qu’antérieures à la publication duPremier Manifeste, font partie integrante de l’histoire du mouvement surréaliste”. BRETON, André-PARINAUD, André. Entretiens. Op. cit. p. 76.

[108]BRETON, André-ÉLUARD, Paul. Dictionnaire Abrégé du Surréalisme.  Op. cit., p. 95.

[109]From the story by Franz Kafka, Der Bau (The Burrow), 1924.


[110]LINDO, Elvira.  Carmen Calvo. “Yo no me callo”.Op. cit.

[111]PITOL, Sergio. Trilogía de la Memory. Barcelona: Anagrama, 2007, p. 314.

[112]Painted on several occasions, we underline: A Pair of Shoes, 1886. Oil on canvas, 37,5 x 45 cm. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation). F 255. Interpretated by Calvo: Naturaleza muerta de las botas, 1994. Mixed technnique, collage and slateboard. 108 x 122 cm. Private collection, Valencia.


[113]LEIRIS, Michel. Glossaire j’y serre mes gloses suivi de Bagatelles végétales. Op. cit.

[114]VALÉRY, Paul. Alfabeto. Op. cit., p. 96.