What: Exhibition "The Colors of Human Rights".
Where: Exhibition hall - Faculty of Fine Arts, Complutense University of Madrid
When: Opening Tuesday, 26 March 2019 (26.03 / 10.04.2019)
Exhibition curator: Javier Pérez Segura
Organized by: Faculty of Fine Arts of the UCM and Gabarrón Foundation
"Art as a tool for raising awareness of human rights"
Elena Blanch, Dean of BB.AA. UCM
Birgit Van Hout, Representative for Europe of the United Nations Office for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Javier Pérez Segura, Curator of the exhibition and Prof. History of Art at the UCM
Manuel Hernández Belver, UCM Professor and Director of the Pedagogical Museum of Children's Art (MuPAI)
Tomás Paredes, President in Spain of the International Association of Art Critics and Member of the Jury of the Competition "One drawing, one right" Kids4humanrights
Since the beginning of his career, the artist Cristóbal Gabarrón has been very convinced of the educational dimension of plastic arts as a means to generate discourses of equality and respect in society. The creation of the Queen Sofia Children's Picture Gallery of the Gabarron Foundation and the development of specific programmes for children's education have long reinforced this line, as well as concrete projects such as the one we are now presenting.
At the beginning of 2018, the idea arose to convene the International Drawing Competition "One right, one drawing", which would reflect, and make us reflect, on the need to defend Human Rights, whose Universal Declaration is now celebrating its 70th anniversary. The competition was organized by the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, the Gabarrón Foundation and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The global response was overwhelming, with 17,000 drawings from more than 70 countries. The final selection, which took place at the end of last year, has given way to a travelling exhibition which has already been seen at the Palais des Nations in Geneva and at the Pompidou Kanal Centre in Brussels.
For Madrid, the curator of the exhibition has selected a total of 41 drawings by children from 26 countries: Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Greece, Iran, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey and the United States.
With this magnificent exhibition, we are closing a year of celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of one of the most ambitious international agreements ever adopted. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrines the principles of the equality and dignity of every human being, and makes it clear that every State has the essential duty to guarantee to everyone the exercise of all rights and freedoms.
We all have the right to express ourselves freely and to be associated with the decisions that concern us. We all have the right not to suffer any form of discrimination. We have the right to education, the right to health and to have economic prospects and a decent standard of living, as well as the right to respect for our privacy and the right to justice.
Since the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, violations of human rights have not ceased. However, it is thanks to this founding text that countless people have been able to live more freely and in better conditions.
While progress is undeniable, the main principles of the Declaration are being tested in all regions of the world. We are seeing a backlash against human rights and growing hostility towards human rights defenders, often stirred by individuals seeking to profit from division. We see how hatred and intolerance continue to prosper, and witness atrocities and crimes of all kinds around the world. These acts represent a danger for each of us.
I would like to salute Cristobal Gabarron who has worked tirelessly for the defense of human rights all around the world. He showed us the powerful manner in which art can convey the values that the Universal Declaration represents. By linking up with the artistic passion, talent, and expression of young people, the message passes often better than through words.
In addition, I commend all the young people who took part in this campaign: they showed us, through their drawings and paintings, what the rights of the person - whether civil, cultural, economic, political, or social rights – mean to them. Through their art, they taught us the deepest and most beautiful message, namely that human rights do not only exist for others, but that they protect us all. We are all protected by human rights.
Dean of the School of Fine Arts, Complutense University of Madrid
We artists are well aware of how colors mark our visual artworks because of their ability to elicit an emotional response. That is why I thought the title of this contest and its culminating exhibition was so fitting.
Our work over the last several months has ended with the compilation of an immense collection of drawings and paintings created by children from all over the world. During this time, children and adolescents aged 10 to 14 have internalized some of the 30 rights that humanity duly expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which just turned 70.
The artworks revolve around the representation of one of the human rights or the characters specifically related with them or the defense thereof.
The show triggers a certain vertigo because it is made up of a group of works chosen from the over 17,000 creations produced by our children in more than 70 different countries. Here we will only be able to enjoy 40 of them, but after sinking into us and settling on our retinas for a few moments, they will forge a colorful image, an artistic expression of suffering and human injustice, that will enter and become part of our sentimental collections.
And, of course, once again art… Art reclaims its role in communicating and expressing our most intimate feelings… The simplicity of our littlest ones is what again causes us to defend those rights embraced by all 70 years ago. Today we must engage and passionately demand, in the face of danger and threats, that these rights be rigorously upheld and respected.
In hosting this show the School of Fine Arts feels great pride mixed with a deep feeling of transcendence and shuddering from the 40 cries made by the compositions of our youngest ones. In making their way through our souls these cries become a deafening howl that melds with our students' passion only to converge and cry out its condemnation in unison.
Listen… They are all screaming together. A shriek of protest, commitment and solidarity. Solidarity with the millions of people who today endure assaults on their human rights.
On the heels of its tour from the Palace of Nations in Geneva and the Kanal Pompidou Center in Brussels, is gives me great satisfaction to introduce in Spain, and more specifically at the School of Fine Arts of the Complutense University of Madrid, The Color of Human Rights, an extraordinary and significant show. It is an exhibition that displays 40 works by boys and girls from all over the world as the result of the "One Right, One Drawing" International Drawing Contest organized in early 2018 by the Information Service of the United Nations Office in Geneva, the Gabarron Foundation, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
One of the main activities of the Pinacoteca Infantil Reina Sofía (Queen Sophia Children's Art Gallery) of the Gabarron Foundation—which has been developed through its historic international children's art contest—is building awareness and sensitivity through art about universal topics of special importance for our societies, topics that point to a Humanity without borders.
Together with the United Nations, we have developed several collaborations and contests, the most recent of which is precisely this one, held to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and that generated over 17,000 works representing every continent. The drawings are a pure testament of how the littlest ones among us perceive human rights on occasions that reveal injustice as seen through their eyes, images that at times do not match the views of adults.
I wish to express my deep gratitude to the hundreds of people and institutions that have worked selflessly to make the program reflected in this catalog and in the exhibition itself a success. I am especially referring to all children participants; the general coordinator for the United Nations in Geneva, Rhéal LeBlanc; and the members of the international jury. The jury panel included the Syrian-Palestinian cartoonist, Hani Abbas; Kate Gilmore, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights; Susanna Griso, Spanish journalist and TV anchor; my father, artist Cristobal Gabarron; Jenna Ortega, a young US actress; Tomas Paredes, president of the Spanish Chapter of the International Association of Art Critics, and Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary General's Envoy on Youth.
This international exhibition of children's drawings cannot be understood unless you consider the passion that Cristobal Gabarron (Mula, Murcia, Spain 1945) for decades has been arousing in the world. Convinced that art is the great universal language, from the very beginning he has bet everything on a dream: that humanistic education will move us toward a better world where values like liberty and respect for diversity lead to a fair society.
These ideals are an atmosphere, as well as a metaphorical landscape, that his art has managed to create in various drawing, painting, sculpture or public art projects. It all takes place in connection to a powerful and original poetry that achieves an intertwining of abstraction and figuration, line and surface, empty space and visual saturation.
In late 2016 he introduced his most recent tightrope performance: balancing on that thin, almost invisible wire, he produced 30 works inspired by as many articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948. (This series and Gabarrón's unconditional support for children's art gave rise to the wonderful idea of this group, a selection of which is on display at the School of Fine Arts of the Complutense University).
Whoever seeks a merely iconic support for the Articles of the Declaration in Gabarron's works will be let down. They do not emerge as his visual correlate, either, no matter how attractive that idea may be. Instead, they display so much freedom in their composition, so much power in their use of line and color that they can only inhabit a different world. It is as if they had barely brushed the tips of their feet on the Declaration's ink surface only to suddenly take off in every direction. Those transparent bodies—whose silhouettes are occasionally purely an electric stroke—are melded together in love or slashed with pain, depending on the case, as those strips of paper are fiercely ripped off by the artist. From our perspective, therein lies one of the keys to this series because this rough encounter between imperfect geometries gives birth to a voice that could be a whisper, murmur, shout, clamor… or even unbearable silence.
We see these stark figures, bodies endowed with art, suffering every sort of injustice—discrimination, slavery, loneliness, torture—but we also know they are persistent, despite it all—or precisely because of it all—in an absolute search for justice and freedom. They inspire a strange gust of life that seems to guide them to the adventure of that struggle between good and evil. The four works where a terrifying black background dominates the artist's interpretation of articles 5 (freedom from torture), 13 (right to free movement), 19 (freedom of expression) and 29 (community duties). However, even in these compositions nothing is completely lost. A white, blue, yellow, or pink neon line casts an intense light; an irregular piece of paper is suggested as an antidote to darkness. This work reveals reality and dreams up utopias, just as always done by Art with a capital A.
In The Painter of Modern Life, Baudelaire includes a reflection—well known yet nonetheless opportune—regarding the condition of the genius, which he describes as childhood recovered at will, now equipped with an analytical mind for ordering the sum of materials involuntarily amassed until then. This thought achieved little other than to reflect, to what was still a small group of people in those early years of modernity, what would amount to a new vision about children's artistic creations: that their freshness, spontaneity and creativity made them worthy of being included in the term "art." This new way of approaching children's art was not only based on academic works like that of Corrado Ricci, who coined the term, but also and especially on the avant-garde artists who defended it as a new aesthetic model free of earlier educational trappings associated with the prevailing anti-academic trends of the time. Consequently, artists like Klee, Picasso, Kandinsky, Matisse, Gauguin, Cézanne and many others wrote about their admiration for children's artwork because of the aesthetic values they aspired to recover, in line with Baudelaire's ideas on the topic (Picasso said that it took him a lifetime to be able to paint like a child). From that point forward, children's drawings have been a subject of interest not just for artists, but also psychologists, educators and other scholars whose studies entered a new phase because of the intertwining of art and education, thus producing many works that are relevant to this day. In the field of teaching this led to the emergence of pedagogical handbooks about drawing that stressed this phase in life and analyzed the development and progress of children's drawings, exhibitions and collections and museums about this art. In Spain, through the establishment of the Chair for Drawing Pedagogy at the recently reformed University of Fine Arts at the university level, and the initiative of its holder, Manuel Sánchez Méndez, the Pedagogical Museum of Children's Art (MuPAI) opened its doors in 1981 with a open focus: not only as a repository for children's artworks (many of which were ephemeral), but also as a pedagogical resource to improve teacher training for the future graduates from the program in the "new" discipline, which were had to provide teaching, and as a center for documentation and research of those graduates, who could experiment in situ the behavior and creative processes of children in the workshops held at the museum ever since then. MuPAI has continued to perform this work during all these years and has added new activities, organizing conferences about children's art and pushing forward new lines of research, like the one developed in recent years about art and health through various initiatives and projects with hospitalized children and teens, thus showing that the relationships between art and childhood continue to enjoy still a broad and promising area of activity, not just in the purely aesthetic realm, but also from the social point of view.