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Manolo Valdés was born on March 8, 1942, in Valencia, Spain. In 1948 he attended the local Dominican school, and in 1957 he enrolled in the fine arts school of San Carlos, Valencia, leaving after only two years to devote his life entirely to painting. In 1962 he had his first solo exhibition at the Nebli Gallery in Madrid and, in 1964, along with Rafael Solbes and Jean A. Toledo, he formed the Equipo Cronica group. The group’s work combined elements of English and American Pop Art with the figurative aestheticism of the 1960s Nueva Figuraciòn movement and took a critical stance toward Spanish politics and art history. The group fostered self-criticism and sought inspiration from other artists’ work, especially that of great masters like Pablo Picasso and Diego Velásquez.
Though Toledo left the group in 1965, Valdés and Solbes continued to collaborate, and the same year the first show of the Equipo Cronica took place in Reggio Emilia, Italy. They subsequently took part in many other exhibitions, such as Kunst und Politik in Karlsruhe, Wuppertal, and Cologne in 1970. The group dissolved after the death of Solbes in 1981, but Valdés persevered, continuing to use images associated with specific historical and artistic movements but choosing not to infuse them with political implications as he had done in his previous work.
In 1991 he showed at the Marlborough Gallery in New York, and in 1995 he had his first solo exhibition in Italy at the Il Gabbiano gallery in Rome. In 1999, along with Carles Santos and Esther Ferren, he was invited to represent Spain at the Venice Biennale. In 2002 the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, presented a retrospective of his work. Valdés’s artistic practice can be seen on the one hand as an exploration of the specific qualities of painting. On the other hand, however, it reveals the meticulous job of ‘taking’ elements from other artists’ work; that is to say, by examining details of such masters as Francisco Goya, Éduard Manet, Henri Matisse, and Picasso, he has developed an individual style that reviews history without detracting from the original subject. Valdés, who also practices sculpture, lives and works in New York.