PEPE DÁMASO - Brother Pepe

PEPE DÁMASO – Brother Pepe

Text published in the catalogue
UNIVERSO MANRIQUE
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 2020: Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno, pp. 309-334

 
Brother Pepe
On the Correspondence between César Manrique and Pepe Dámaso

[ 1955 – 1992 ]
 
ALFONSO DE LA TORRE
Art Critic and Theorist

 

A warm embrace for 1992 or for 2497. What’s the difference!!

CÉSAR MANRIQUE, letter to PEPE DÁMASO, 1. XI. 19901

 

 

“Happy holidays!! May 1956 see you buried, but in the joy of love and poetry. We can never forget people so full of purity as Pepe Dámaso. A warm embrace from Manrique and Pepi.”2

 

This is the earliest correspondence on record sent by César Manrique (Lanzarote, 1919-1992) and Pepi Gómez (Josefa Gómez Miguel, Alcaudete de la Jara, 1911 – Madrid, 1963) to José Dámaso (Agaete, 1933), a Christmas greeting illustrated by the artist with a colourful monotype and sent from his address at number six Calle Rufino Blanco in Madrid, in December 1955.3

Reading the above again now, I return to Dámaso’s timeline, as we know the exact date of their first meeting, which is 10 December 1954, during the opening of Manrique’s solo show at Galería Clan in Madrid. It is worth transcribing the memory at this point because Manrique, his brother (older, of course), would recall it later. On the day of the opening, Dámaso was a “strange visitor”:

At the time I was living in Madrid, caught up in avant-garde circles; we met during the opening of my first abstract exhibition at Galería Clan; in 1954. Among the crowd of people packed into the gallery on the day of the opening, I was suddenly struck by a strange visitor, who showed such enthusiasm and unbounded interest in the painting that it took me completely by surprise. His letter of introduction was that he was from the Canaries and was an artist. The impression he made with his capacity for astonishment, his spirit of observation and his enormous interest in art, was the first reason for the cementing of a friendship that has lasted until today. In Pepe I found all the qualities of the enchantment with life, with such a positive and exemplary conception — which I had discovered intuitively. Since then, I was convinced that his friendship would be a discovery, like few others in life. And, as it turned out, that has been the case. We have maintained a friendship in which art has played a leading role in a rewarding and exceptional correspondence to understand each other better.4

And “El extraño visitante” (strange visitor) is precisely the title I gave to one of my essays on Dámaso.5 Months later, they were to coincide again in another equally remarkable episode in that boorish and grey Spain of the fifties, a country of “thistles and ashes” as Antonio Saura6 called it, in an attempt to meet Igor Stravinsky. As I wrote on some other occasion, Dámaso ended up waiting for Igor.7

Ah, waiting, waiting, nothing but waiting.

Patient waiting has been a constant in his story as an artist, as is recorded in the correspondence they maintained over almost four decades. In rereading the above paragraph by Manrique on his first meeting with Dámaso, I would underscore, by way of insisting, that the interruption of an uninvited character into the scene, somewhere between Ionesco and Beckett, is almost like an entrance on stage.

Writing letters forcibly evokes old rituals exercised leisurely in a world that still turned at a slow pace. In this correspondence, Manrique started to write with a certain impetus, but on occasion he gets up and interrupts the writing, he comes and goes, he welcomes guests, and the hiatus of night allows him perhaps to continue another day, or even for someone else to pick it up and add a closing flourish. Manrique goes out to a cocktail reception at Galería Biosca and continues when he gets back: letters, postcards, pages of shaky handwriting, sheets with letterheads not his own (often international galleries). Letters hastily scribbled on paper from the Brasilia café, or with heraldry illustrated with suns and palm trees from some grand hotel, promising repose in the city, and other letters typewritten on thin carbon paper. Seeing these letters, especially a beautiful one I will quote from later, — written on the H.M.S. Blenheim, the ship that covered the route between London and Madeira —, brings to mind others I had read by Pierre Matisse, written on board the rolling Queen Elizabeth, as Matisse’s son took advantage of the ocean crossing to attend to his correspondence, thus availing of the necessary distance to write to the world and remove himself from the demands of the day to day, with melancholia and the nothingness of the open rolling ocean, the sky with the lead of the stars.8 And, after writing, waiting days until the arrival of other letters. An appended greeting to the postmaster Roulin, wearing his cap embroidered with the word “Postes”, painted by Van Gogh. The postmaster in Arles delivered letters from Theo and Paul Gauguin. Slower times, far from the non-stop vanity of today: yet there still remain some dying embers of that past world with its postcards that conjure up foreign journeys and homesickness, photos with memories, telegrams, clippings and advertising cards, chess games.9 The pleasurable melancholy of one who chooses to travel like this, overseas between two worlds, replying to letters that, stored away in a little dusty cardboard box in a corner of the artist’s studio, enable the lives of others to be reconstructed. Artists’ letters? Of course, I am brought to mind of those from Rimbaud to Demeny, as sharp as a knife edge, and many other lovers of epistolary correspondence: Cézanne or Van Gogh with his brother; Rilke with Rodin; Benjamin or Berger; Ulises Carrión and Paz. Paz with Gimferrer. Palazuelo questioning himself with Claude Esteban.

“Dear brother Don José de los Pepes Dámasos”; “Dear Trujillo and stepbrother Dámaso”; “Dear Don José Dámaso Trujillo, one of the chosen few”; “Of the dear Trujillos in the Dámaso, by the Pepes”; “The Trujillos in the Agaetes with the Pepes in the lost paradise of the night of stars in Dámasos in the slow roads of palm trees in the forgotten night” and “Dear Sr. Trujillo of Tauros 77”, perhaps “Dear Trujillo, no more”10. Or, “Dear and my best friend”, or perhaps “Dear with Dámaso. Dear without any Dámasos. Dear with Trujillos. Dear with Tauro 77. Dear without Tauro. Dear with 77 in La Isleta. Dear in all possible ways”11, are just some of the many rituals used to open these letters. Other classic beginnings are the loud and still echoing “Guestttttt”, “Dearrrrr” or “Ladddddd!!!”.

With frequent excess of exclamation marks, each letter in a different way, a distinct opening: by hand, with a typewriter, or illustrated, often extensive because we ought to bear in mind that they were the narrative of someone who was away from home and was giving an account of what was happening, often tripping over his own words in the rush to tell the sheer quantity of news during a time that was, for Manrique, truly a time of upheaval. And illustrated, with a special mention for his dépliant-collage-letters, a syncopated découpé dairy with a certain visual psychoanalysis, some visually carnal and delirious.

Of course, César’s and Pepe’s lives crossed over each other in these letters. Manrique talks fast, one story following another with his usual energy, a term often used by the artist from Lanzarote. César left the Canaries at an early age to go to Madrid, and the return addresses on the letters give an account of his various homes. In 1956 we can read one sent from number six Calle Co­varrubias telling about the lavish housewarming party, getting ready to welcome the temperamental Ava Gardner.12 The excitement about the setting of Camorritos (1959)13, with its pine groves and granite in snow-covered fields in winter, where one could see the stars like in Lobos island, as César wrote.14 This would be a place for a life of peace and relaxation among pine trees and running water, with friends, or as he said Arcadian and “monastic”.15 The happiness however was not to last long, as destiny would bring it to a close with the sudden death of poor Pepi. At least we are left with someone who will help narrate this mysterious life next to César.

He would give detailed accounts of his trips and, as Díaz Plaja says, also his lunches and meetings with important people, which reminds me of some hilarious moments like the one when he writes to Dámaso about meeting “Charton Helston (I don’t know how you spell it)”16 in a coc-tail [sic] in Madrid. We are also witnesses to his swift growth as an artist, caught up in the capital of Informalismo as it was taking off in the late fifties, his friendship with Oteiza with whom he is photographed beside his mural in Hotel Fénix,17 visiting the serious Basque artist who used to attend the crazy parties in Covarrubias, where Los Flaps18 might have played, singing their El vagabundo de la playa, that sad hymn to solitude, to melancholia, with lyrics that wallowed in ostrenanie “I want to be a vagabond / I want to walk on the beach”. In 1963 they provided the soundtrack for a party, “with a furiously-paced rhythm” organized for the Homenaje al pintor José Dámaso (Tribute to the painter José Dámaso), to coincide with the artist’s Exposición sin cuadros (Exhibition without paintings) at Ateneo de Madrid, where Manrique demonstrated that he was an extraordinary friend to Dámaso. Manrique would also talk about the commission for the murals in Barajas (1958),19 his encounters in Paris and his trip to New York. His stint in a police cell, in Summer 1962, for indecency in a restroom, and the fine levied by a sinister guard.20 The NO-DO report in December that year which Manrique interpreted as a chance for redress: Spaniards, Happy Christmas.21 Or the extremely sad and sudden death of Pepi, the first news of which was given by Waldo Díaz Balart’s father in August 1963. She would die a few days later, as César rightfully says “as if struck by a bolt of lightning”22. Who he loved so much. Poor Pepi, who will always be remembered on the vast terrace in Covarrubias, covered with the geraniums she looked after so fondly.

We would see his first early inclinations of the sustainable future of Lanzarote and, in his absence, his homesickness for the Canary Islands would be a constant throughout this long epistolary communication. This is symbolized in the exhibition Manrique organized on Lanzarote in Sala Neblí in Madrid (1959): the character of that lunar landscape was “breath-taking” and, from there, he announced his interest in giving the island an extraordinary impetus, in the first letter in which this idea appears,23 later confirmed by the story of Fernando Higueras’ visit to the place in March 1962: “what is going to be done in Lanzarote could be fantastic, given that nature itself on the island assists in its realization, so that everything has the same spirit.”24 Welcome to Lanzarote and the rest of the Canary Islands: they will become the Happy Islands.25

And, in some cases, especially on the odd voyage by ship, lulled by the water, time stands still for philosophical reflection in his writing on their friendship. The rolling of the waves rocks the letters.

Among my favourite letters, the detailed amusing story of a party in 1960 in a palace in Venice which he went to with Luis Feito, who was exhibiting that year at the XXX Biennale. There they were, along with other artists like Fautrier, Kline, Burri, Hartung or Zoran Music. And Vedova, who invited him to another party the following day.26 Later on Dámaso would recall another moment in Venice: meeting Luchino Visconti and the pale-faced Tadzio, shooting Death in Venice.

The real before-and-after moment in their letters came with the ten-month trip to New York, starting 10 December 1964 and the “grandiose spectacle”27 which he witnessed there which includes, without a doubt, freedom in all senses, including sexual, never before experienced by Manrique, whose head was frankly turned upside down, and was, in his own words, the most transcendent in his life.28 Manrique arrived in this madness, as he said himself,29 which is a snow-covered New York, and there he saw films by Warhol in the Village, together with Waldo Balart and Alberto Greco,30 the latter shouting out. Three hours of a film with a Jean Harlow lookalike eating a banana had to be another kind of spectacle.

My emotions and impressions have been so extraordinary that I cannot tell you anything, because I believe that my reality is impossible to describe in words. Just the emotion and grandiosity of arriving in this monstrous city is beyond belief and anything you could expect. You cannot put it in words, you have to see it to be able to believe so much madness in proportion, because all you have seen in magazines and newsreels can give no account of the reality.31

How Lorcan is César’s agitated narrative, days and nights open-mouthed in awe of the great city. There were “people as black as panthers in the dancing32, who were able to make César blush when he visits a gay club in Long Island.33

Writing that also brought to mind the mad and poetic descriptions and the beautiful sonority of Frank O’Hara’s Lunch poems. A greeting to his editor, John Bernard Myers34, who both Manrique and Dámaso had met on that trip.

I have always been a foreigner in Spain and suddenly I have discovered the country where I belong […] everything that you have dreamed of, here it is already in place, and the place we’re staying is enough to turn your head with all the different races mixed together35: it was supernatural36, non-stop.

In New York Manrique met, among others, Tennessee Williams and Kim Novak, and also Afro, Fernando Botero, Elaine de Kooning, Conrad Marca-Relli, Larry Rivers and Frank Stella, Catherine Viviano, who would be his gallerist, and he also suffered many setbacks in love, when finding “the BEING” of dark skin, as he put it in an “awe-struck letter”, he would write with good reason.37 Many of Manrique’s letters to Dámaso, as we can read, contain an obscure explicitness, perhaps in an attempt to mitigate any possible surveillance of correspondence or, as I now believe, to avoid the indiscretion of people who would write in the future. Manrique had a deep-seated perception of enduring over time.

“The BEING” would soon be a thing of the past, as César’s heart was a constant to-and-fro. Friendship with Waldo Balart and with Mauricio Aguilar, we will find out about a house which was bought between the East and the West Village,38 claiming: “for me Canaries, Lanzarote and New York.”39 But soon would come another mood swing, this time passing, and then later on, or rather immediately afterwards, the arrival of total boredom, no less than: “the Babylon of this planet”40 was mercilessly cruel, able to destroy the human being, in his own words: one would have to get out of it as soon as possible, because man, in New York, was “like a rat.”41 This would be in May 1966: “New York excites me, but is also takes you to the limit of human resistance. The struggle is one of infinite cruelty, and what has been etched in my mind can never be erased.”42 He would return to the city for his solo shows at Catherine Viviano’s gallery, following the one in 1966 (1967 and 1969).

A succession of stories about his latest success, the events in Manrique’s life, messages relayed to people who are friends of both, the flow of letters gradually becomes tinged with impatience and, at times, they adopt a tone towards Dámaso I was going to call despotic but decided instead to describe as short-tempered: Pepe do this for me; Pepe look after this for me; Pepe, I was expecting you to congratulate me; some Canarian sandals Pepe, here is the insole; Pepe I already told you; Pepe the world is out there; Pepe what a triumph; Pepe this message; you didn’t answer me Pepe; Pepe I told you; learn to be a better friend Pepe; I dreamed because of you Pepe.43 You are waiting for me Pepe… “Wait”, yes, there is a lot of waiting on Dámaso’s behalf in these letters. And his hopes, another form of waiting, to be able to advance in the future together with César, his older brother, seeing as there was fourteen years between them. Dámaso seems to see life through the iridescent lens of Manrique. Life, meanwhile, went on. As we recalled on some other occasion, Dámaso relayed to the Canaries the news that César told him and also encourages him to travel. The artist from Agaete becomes his correspondent in the Canaries, evoking Westerdahl, another traveller who conveyed to the islands all that was happening in the modern world overseas. At this juncture, it is a good moment to pay homage, with sincere gratitude, to Dámaso’s obsession with archiving his life that would allow us to reconstruct this narrative. Manrique already underlined as much: “Dámaso has a vast archive of our correspondence, thanks to his obsession with keep any act worth mentioning.”44

Among all these letters, I will transcribe a paragraph from one of my favourites, this one from 1971 and, nevertheless, it has the feel of a perceptive synopsis, almost like a traveller to a future destination:

Could it be true? Is everything that has happened to us in this wonderful experiment called life really possible? […] Or is it a dream of something unknown? Therein lies the key. We always want to get to the bottom of the truth. We plunge into it. We lose ourselves in it, but I believe that what is really important is to play the game of life with as much freedom as possible. Let’s make it the most beautiful and free experiment. Let’s get rid of all recipes, of all possible phobias, of all FEAR, especially FEAR. Let us accept our destiny with the bravery of a great hero. Then, can you imagine everything we would be able to do? The power to choose what we really want to choose is in on our hands. Life can be, and is, a great wonder. Everything depends on yourself. There are few people who have been so clearly aware of this, and I don’t know whether it is the legacy our humanity has inherited over thousands of years of experience full of suffering and frustrations caused by hidden fears. Now I believe that the time has come for the present generation of the great rupture, of the first scream. […] Now I am waiting for the events of the future, but the important thing is to fill each minute of our life with experiments that are worth the while, concentrating to know each moment more profoundly with all the mystery of the unknown. The important thing is to view life as an experiment, taking from it all the positive it has to offer, choosing its poetry and its song […].45

And, equally beautiful, this other letter from 1990:

We always have extensive endless themes to talk about. And now, we have arrived at a point of maturity to be able to invent any situation we like. What is important is to be aware that we only live once, without knowing for what purpose, addressing this profound dilemma with a sense of learning, that everything is lost in the night of time, and that there really exists the doubt whether we really exist at all. We should give no importance to all those moments of possible failure, of unexpected tragedies. Everything can be accepted, when you have this full serenity of the sterile knowledge of existence. If all arguments are possible, choose the one that satisfies you the most. The only thing that can make us truly satisfied, although I believe that it too is not important, is to leave a print as a trace of your life. At least that way we will have to adopt a naïve and optimistic stance in our creative intimacy, for the pleasure of the work of Art and Beauty, as a shield protecting us against the reigning ignorance, aggressiveness and vulgarity. Every day I feel more pleasure in my studio and in the contemplation of all this unknown energy and full of the mystery of Nature that taught me so much, abandoning myself in this stream, not to stumble and to be able to feel its language in which I feel identified.46

César’s letters, and this is especially true in the most difficult moments, are always underwritten by a desire to exchange the social agitation of the art world and the cities he visits for the aspiration to find the solace of Pepe Dámaso’s life in Agaete, his valley, the fresh breeze of Tamadaba, the black beach and the ancient God’s Finger at Puerto de las Nieves, “its blue waters and its cliffs,”47 the friendships he described as conspicua (a word he coined himself), and the sunlight. He had always been so happy in the Canaries,48 and this is where, as he said himself, his true aesthetic was to be found. And there was also the sincere friendship that Manrique seemed to long for, something to cling to on the rocky road to success and the frenzy of a glittering social life, particularly in the early sixties when actresses, singers, bullfighters and show-biz stars and starlets had taken over Madrid’s social life at the time and became the true kings and queens of the moment. At this juncture I am reminded of what Antonio Hernández had said: songstresses, impersonators, actors were the manna of bran.49

A special mention is deserved for the postcards: the beauty of that Spain of untrodden landscapes and its beautiful islands, but also the vertigo of what was happening overseas conveyed in the images on the postcards: the slits in the paintings by Fontana; a film still from The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari; a faun from Antibes; a curving museum from New York; the Musée National Fernand Léger in Biot or “the stunning beauty”, in his words, of the skyscrapers in New York.

When César arrived to the “the biblical valley of Haría”50 in the nineties, his final letters focus on reflections on his relationship with nature, leading up to the opening of the Cactus Garden. Now back to his origins, these are militant letters about the need for sustainability in the Canary Islands and, then, the final letter César sent to Pepe, on 20 May 1992, was written while at a UNESCO congress in Sicily,51 representing the islands (of happiness) and ends by referring to the future. Of course, now it would be easy to interpret, with hindsight, but it is difficult not to avoid a certain sense of withdrawal when reading these final letters from his late years, in which César seems to write as a visionary, almost as if he were writing from a great beyond.

Even when writing, he never stopped being an artist. When he describes the places he has been to, Manrique is showing us a kind of making-of, what he sees and what he comes across are transformed into a sort of synesthetic construction, the vertigo of the succession of events calms into peace, in another work that seems to have been built in the dialogue between these two people, himself and his brother.

In addition to what Manrique narrates, the external world, there is also an inner world in his letters, a hidden story that is woven beneath the surface. It reminds me of Nabokov’s short story Signs and Symbols, that ends with the phone ringing and nobody answering it, with the voice of the call left echoing. We read behind closed doors, because you came back Manrique, you are here among us. These letters recompose you, like those holograms that recover the voice and body of someone who was once here. I end up thinking, concluding, that time — yes, dear César — time is a criminal.52

 

[EPILOGUE]

Between 2009 and 2010, the letters between César Manrique and Pepe Dámaso were digitalized and meticulously ordered. The correspondence spanned from 1955 until a few months before his death in 1992.53 Around 2010 I read for the first time that vast archive of documents made up mainly of around five hundred letters and one hundred postcards, as well as telegrams, photos, exhibition and theatre programmes, clippings, texts and other written elements. Bearing in mind the number of letters, one must remember that each one might contain various pages and so the final number of documents is about two thousand. They are the result of a long-lasting friendship of almost forty years between Manrique and Dámaso. With patience, we are manually transcribing (and sometimes unravelling) the fiendish handwriting of César, with the help of Rosa Juanes, the whole of these letters which, at once, I am clarifying, comparing, rereading and annotating. We are looking forward to, indeed feel compelled to, publishing it soon. I have written before on other occasions that this corpus of correspondence is an indispensable overview not just of the story of an extraordinary friendship, of two people who loved to be free in that time of thistles and ashes (repeating Saura’s words)54 but also our own history of art, that of the Canaries and of Spain, and also that of the complex twentieth century.

 

________________________________________

NOTES

1 César Manrique, letter to Pepe Dámaso 1990-11-01, despite the incongruous appearance, the letter is from the date referenced. The code used in our archive identifies the date as follows: year-month-day.

2 1955-12-20. Format: Christmas card including a printed monotype, signed by César Manrique in the bottom right corner: “Manrique”. Sent by César Manrique. c/ Rufino Blanco, 6. Madrid. To Sr. Don José Dámaso Trujillo. Plaza General Franco. Agaete. Gran Canaria. Dated: postmark 20 December 1955. Transcription courtesy of Rosa Juanes.

3 If I am permitted the digression, the image brings to mind the Diablo de Timanfaya.

4 MANRIQUE, C. (1989). “Introducción”. In MANRIQUE, C. (1989). Dámaso. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria: Edirca, pp. 11-29.

5 DE LA TORRE, A. (2009). “Pepe Dámaso. El extraño visitante”. In José Dámaso. Obras desde 1951. Santa Cruz de Tenerife-Puerto del Rosario: Caja Canarias, Centro de Arte Juan Ismael.

6 SAURA, A. “Viola y Oniro (1936)”. Reproduced in: Madrid: Cuadernos Guadalimar, no. (31), 1987, p. 6.

7 Manrique attended the Igor Stravinsky concert at the Monumental theatre in Madrid, accompanied by Dámaso, who did not manage to get a seat. On 25 March 1955 Juan Gyenes portrayed Stravinsky, conducting the Spanish National Orchestra.

8 DE LA TORRE, A. (2012). “Pierre Matisse y Manuel Rivera, tres décadas de amistad (1959-1987)”. In DE LA TORRE, A. (2012). Manuel Rivera. De Granada a Nueva York, 1946-1960. Granada: Centro José Guerrero, pp. 129-148.

9 DUCHAMP, M. (2014). Afectuosamente Marcel. Correspondencia de Marcel Duchamp. CENDEAC: Murcia, Letter from Duchamp to Louise and Walter Arensberg, III/1919, pp. 79-81.

10 Letters: 1964-12-22; 1965-06-01; 1960-12-28; 1968-10-23 & 1967-07-03.

11 1966-03-28.

12 1956-08-18.

13 1959-07-27. Announcing the rental of the next one while his is being built.

14 1959-07-27.

15 1959-10-01.

16 1960-12 Which is why in this letter he will write it in different ways.

17 1956-08-18.

18 1957-07-17 and 1957-11-19. Los Flaps were a music group formed by aeronautic engineering students, which explains the name of the group. The theme of the Exposición sin cuadros (Exhibition without paintings) and this party were dealt with in greater depth in DE LA TORRE, A. “Pepe Dámaso. El extraño visitante”. Op. cit.

19 1958-05-12.

20 1962-09-19.

21 NO-DO, 1043-C. “Felicitación de navidad de tres artistas”, 31/XII/1962.

22 1963-08-06. She would die on 12 August 1963, at the Concepción clinic in Madrid, with César by her side.

23 1959-04-13: “Right now I am also preparing the exhibition in homage to Lanzarote to be held in Neblí, which is probably the most prestigious and beautiful gallery in Madrid at the moment, with a lecture by Luis Fernández Fuster, that guy I introduced you to in Puerto, when we went to the market. Do you remember? The photos are really great, by Barceló, many of them new, that you don’t know, and some amplified in large 3 x 1.5 metre format are fantastic. Many in colour, and the lecture will be illustrated with colour slides, and a colour documentary on Lanzarote will also be projected. So I think it will be great, in the belief that I will give an extraordinary impetus to the name of the island, as it is certainly worth the while, given its breath-taking character”.

And also in 1965: “We could transform Lanzarote into something unique with great style and personality. At the very least I have changed the minds of the local authorities and they now have an incredible mindset”.

“I believe that the Jameo del Agua is truly looking like something to shout about. 1965-05-09. The underlining is by Manrique.

24 1962-03-25.

25 1965-01-08: “I have countless projects for our future in Islas de la Felicidad, and the know-how for lives that are worth living is in our hands”.

26 1960-07-18.

27 1964-12-22.

28 1965-03-14.

29 1964-12-22.

30 Andy Warhol, Harlot (1965). Letter: 1965-01-10.

31 1964-12-22.

32 1964-12-22.

33 1965-02-12: “The other night we went to Long Island to dance in a place full of lesbians and homosexuals, and you have no idea what it was like. Outside there must have been 200 incredible cars. I was really nervous, because it caused such a big impact on me, and I had never seen anything like it before. I was very nervous my first time, saying to Waldo and my cousin Manolo that I almost did not like it, and then an incredibly stylish black guy in a red jersey came up to me, and like a panther, he took me out to dance. I didn’t want to and I went all red. Just imagine!”.

34 John Bernard Myers (1919-1987) would collaborate with Dámaso insofar as he is associated with the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York (1951-1970). Myers visited Lanzarote in August 1965 where he met Pepe Dámaso, César Manrique, Manolo Millares, Elvireta Escobio and Francisco Rojas Fariña. Myers would be the editor of many poets from the School of New York: John Ashbery, Barbara Guest, James Schuyler, Kenneth Koch and the last-named: O’HARA, Frank. Frank O’Hara: Poems From The Tibor de Nagy Editions 1952-1966. New York: Tibor de Nagy, 2006).

35 1965-02-12.

36 1965-06-01: “I am fascinated by New York and my life here would be hard to describe. I have been incredibly lucky with everything, and sometimes I believe there is something supernatural, because there is nothing normal about everything that has happened to me”.

37 1965-04-09.

38 1965-04-09: “I now have my own home and studio in New York and in the middle of Manhattan between the East and the West Village, with a studio-bedroom-living room, bathroom and a big kitchen with all mod cons. This apartment-studio is located at no. 65 Second Avenue, corner with 4th Street”.

39 1965-02-12.

40 1966-03-04: “To live forever, I could catalogue New York, as a punishment planned to destroyed the human being”.

41 1966-03-12.

42 1966-05-10. Or, in the same sense: “Pepe, New York is something you cannot even imagine. Sometimes it is mercilessly cruel. Other times it is incredibly wonderful. It is a continuous contrast, but at the same time it is exhilarating. In any case, I believe, now that I am mature and serious enough to realise it like never before, that THERE IS NOTHING like our islands. My future is definitely there, alongside you, and alongside other friends who breathe the same air, where we find our TRUTH which is the only one. New York is a purgatory you have to go through, because to a certain extent it gives you greater mettle, and makes you see things with greater exactitude. 1965-01-20.

43 “[…] what you have dreamed of, and I too.” 1965-04-09.

44 MANRIQUE, C. “Introducción”. In Dámaso. Op. cit.

45 25/X/1971. H.M.S. Blenheim-London-Madeira. Letter from César Manrique, who arrives from Norway.

46 1990-11-01.

47 1959-01-18.

48 1966-03-28: “Now Pepe, and I believe this more than ever, I feel true nostalgia for the truth of things. For the purity of people. For the bareness of my landscape, and for my friends, and especially for you. […] Those balmy evenings. That indolence… My ultimate conclusion is that in New York MAN is like a rat. It is incredible, but that’s what it seems like to me. Everybody has an impenetrable face full of sadness. Man was not created for this artificialness. This is an imperious need to return to the land. To touch it. To smell it. That is what I feel. Don’t imagine that, because I am telling you all this, it has all been bitter. On the contrary. Everything could not be more extraordinary for me. Therein the paradox. I would swap all this, this minute, for Lanzarote. Why is that? I don’t know. I have always been happy in the Canaries. I believe that deep down it is like trying to recover Paradise Lost. I believe that is the reason”. 1966-03-12. Or, also: “Now I want to work in Lanzarote. But I already know that I am going to a medium that is as primitive as it is extreme. But what I cannot bear is mediocracy. Now for me Lanzarote means the beginning of the world, and to find, like for the first time, the beauty of Nature, and to bathe in it in order to cool my soul. This is the only reason. Besides, there is where my true aesthetic is”.

49 HERNÁNDEZ, A. (1978). Una promoción desheredada: La poética del 50. Madrid: Zero Ediciones, pp. 54 & ff. “[…] fell on the bull’s hide like manna of bran, embodied in bullfighters, flamenco dancers, songstresses, impersonators… they were the kings and queens of the time.”

50 1990-03-03.

51 Convegno Internazionale “Isole 2000”, Giardini-Naxos, 19-23 May 1992. “A new consciousness is born, and I believe that in the Canary Islands it is urgent to know how to see more clearly what we have managed to do, to be able to improve what is left to be done. We have always had a clear overall vision of our beautiful islands, knowing what were its fatal mistakes and blunders”. 1992-05-20.

52 1956-08-18.

53 This author curated the retrospective exhibition, José Dámaso. Obras desde 1951, at CajaCanarias. Santa Cruz de Tenerife, which opened on 30/06/2009.

54 SAURA, A. “Viola y Oniro (1936)”. Op. cit.