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La infanta 1965CARLOS SANZ


2022.10.21 - 2023.01.22

Curator: Mikel Lertxundi


The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue are the result of a research and recovery project on the work of Carlos Sanz that was jointly conducted by the Kutxa Foundation and Gordailua, the heritage collections centre of the Gipuzkoa Provincial Council, after the latter had received a donation from the artist’s family in 2021 of his archive and a considerable number of works.


After examining all this work and other material held in various institutional and private collections, the curator, Mikel Lertxundi Galiana, suggested selecting some 130 pieces produced between 1963 and 1986, thereby forming a chronological overview of Carlos Sanz’s short yet prolific career, and these are accompanied by previously unpublished documentary material.


Despite the fact that his work is well known and appreciated in the art world, he is a figure who has remained in the shadows of the general public for 25 years. The exhibition represents a chance to learn more about this magnificent artist, who would have undoubtedly gone beyond his local status in the art scene had it not been for his circumstances. What remains clear is the quality of his drawings and paintings, as well as his passionate participation in some of the most important cultural initiatives in the Basque Country in the 1960s and 1970s.



The exhibition has been divided into three spaces that arrange his works in chronological order to better understand the changes in his production. Oils and drawings are therefore displayed beside each other, because the curator has wanted to show them together to demonstrate the coexistence of techniques.


From outer to inner

Carlos Sanz began to study law in 1960 after having received some artistic training. He stopped painting at that time, but not drawing. He produced critical, ironic, satirical and macabre drawings, but additionally produced some more intimate works that stemmed from his experiences. He tackled the following subjects, among others: political, religious, social and racial oppression, the collusion between the Francoist regime and the Catholic Church, the hopelessness of the lower classes and sexual repression, as well as other mocking glimpses of everyday life. He also produced a series of works against the Vietnam War in 1966-67.

He returned to painting in 1964 by initially focusing on technical and formal experiments that brought him more in line with informalism and figurative expressionism. This production focused on emphasising its material qualities: he applied energetic impasto, removing and scratching the fresco paint, drawing by dripping with a line of discontinuous width, and in short, providing considerable prominence to gesturality as a means of reflecting a more visceral violence than that implicit in his later work.

Along with the gory quality he developed in many of his oil paintings of the latter half of the decade, specific components that would become recurrent in his universe began to appear, such as doors, windows, frames and beds. The latter, sometimes also depicted as hammocks or pallets, symbolically refer to the recumbent confinement to which his illness forced him over long periods of time.



The large central space contains a kind of living room that recalls the spaces Carlos Sanz began to depict in his works from 1968 until his death.

Here we find his best-known paintings, many of which are based on a composition of vertical and horizontal elements ordering an abstract space in which an organic form, a homunculus, appears. This entity can be interpreted in various ways: as an alter ego of the artist living with the plight of his illness, or as a symbolic representation of the putrefaction of a decaying world.

The artist brightened up his palette with the changing of the decade. The factor of space is heightened after 1972 to create tension between these two elements: on the one hand, the perfect spatial definition and, on the other hand, the undefined lumps that inhabit it. The tactile elements of the previous years (impasto, the addition of string, sand or paper) were reduced, as the artist developed a more diluted style of painting, although he maintained the expressionist gesture in the case of organic elements. Circles and ovals that aimed to lead the spectator’s gaze appeared at that time.

The space expanded even more in the late 1970s and during the 1980s. This extension of the stage makes the silence enveloping his compositions more evident, and it also heightens the feeling of uncertainty by reducing his protagonists to a jumble of clothes and viscera in an unaltered setting.


Collage, poetry and collective spirit

This room is dedicated to Sanz’s collages and other cultural and artistic fields that demonstrate his wide range of interests (including a sample of his literary facet), in addition to his involvement in various experiences that intended to add a social and collective dimension to art (GAUR Group, Estampa Popular in Gipuzkoa, Korain Group).


© La Infanta, 1965 






Jesus UriarteCarlos Sanz  (Donostia / San Sebastián, 1943-1987)



Carlos Sanz’s personal life was marked by the fact that he suffered from haemophilia, a disease that made him a physically fragile person. But he was a lively, creative and enormously restless man and this kept him in close contact with most famous intellectuals and artists of San Sebastián between the 1960s and 1980s. He studied law, and his great interest in cinema led to his involvement in the cultural life of the city, participating in initiatives such as the famous GAUR Group (1966) and the creative projects of the Korain Group to produce short films for children and young people (1964) as well as in the Estampa Popular group in Gipuzkoa (1968).


Having spent time at Ascensio Martiarena’s studio as a child, one could say that he was self-taught artist, learning by observing the work of others (Goya, Bacon or Saura, for example), as well as by his own experimentation. In 1957, he began exhibiting in group of solo exhibitions whenever the opportunity arose and took part in many competitions and awards – both local and national – first as a participant, but also as a jury member in some of them from 1967.


He died young in 1987. Since that time, only two exhibitions have been dedicated to him (San Telmo Museum and Koldo Mitxelena), and these were held more than 20 years ago.



 Fotografía © Jesús Uriarte




Free guides tours
Every Saturdays*
5:30 pm. Basque / 6:30 pm. Spanish
Whit prior booking: in the gallery, T 943 251939, or  Esta dirección de correo electrónico está siendo protegida contra los robots de spam. Necesita tener JavaScript habilitado para poder verlo.
*December 24 and 31 closed in the afternoon
10 November | 6pm
Examining the state of conservation and characterisation of Carlos Sanz’s workby conserver and restorer Brenda Traver
Spanish | Frre



The research process on Carlos Sanz


17 November | 6pm


Conversation between the researchers Mikel Lertxundi and Juan Pablo Huercanos


Spanish | Free | COMPLETED






Price: 40 € (TAX included)

Lenguages: Basque and Spanish 

Texts: Mikel Lertxundi, Juan Pablo Huércanos and Félix Maraña

Kutxa Fundazioa Edition







Descard here the guide of exhibition.