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Luisa II
1993
Iron and paint
Dimensions: 240 x 96 x 34 cm
Reference: ACF0272
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A hammer blow to all mediocre, hypocritical, right-thinking minds: that was the effect of the article “Retrato del artista desahuciado” (Portrait of the artist evicted) that Pepe Espaliú published in the newspaper El País on 1 December 1992. In it, with the literary skill characteristic of an artist who was also a poet, he denounced the cruelty with which homosexuals were treated in Spain. His most poisoned darts were aimed at the Catholic church. Espaliú, who declared his homosexuality quite openly, thus becoming a pioneer of the gay cause, also talked about living with AIDS, a worthy act at a time when people with the disease were stigmatised, excluded and treated with contempt. Luisa II consists of two iron cages with pointed tops, almost Gothic in appearance. From inside the cages a series of threads emerge and fall almost two metres until they meet, thus fusing the two pieces in a material and symbolic continuity. The first version, Luisa, is different in the size and appearance of the cages: the curved forms are smoother and more rounded. The title of the work refers to a friend of the artist, Luisa Martínez, a champion of the fight against AIDS in Madrid, who also died from the disease. For Espaliú the use of the cages is a metaphor that touches on the imprisonment of people with AIDS, who had to live with a disease which had deliberately and wickedly been associated with heterodox habits and behaviours (drug addiction, anal sex) and with people from ethnic minorities (blacks, Hispanics). Having AIDS brought rejection, hatred and demonisation, isolation and reclusion. The more conservative sectors, the bigots and the backwoodsmen, inside and outside Spain, made it understood with their offensive attitudes. Espaliú, on the other hand, looked for solidarity and support where he had found incomprehension and opprobrium. That is why the cages, a symbol of the narrow-mindedness of society and the ostracism to which people with AIDS were subjected, are woven together, since for the sick themselves and the people who loved them it was vital to draw strength from weakness in the jail where they had been trapped. Espaliú did two brilliant performances in the streets of San Sebastián and Madrid in 1992 to show the public that they ran no risk by touching or being in physical contact with someone with AIDS; he himself was carried shoulder-high by different couples. In sculpture he sought countless resources and figures that enabled him to probe into the problem of exclusion. Thus, apart from the cages, over the years his prodigious imagination brought forth tortoise shells, ropes/funnels, bottomless boxes, cracked, mutilated bells and sedan chairs (the carryings, which gave their name to a group project that is unique in Spanish art: The Carrying Society). With those sculptural bodies, some opaque and hermetic, some incomplete and fissured, Espaliú raised the wounded of society (the sick, the prostrate, the insulted and the denigrated) to a sphere of dignity, where men and women provide mutual support out of respect for difference.

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