José María Cano (born February 21, 1959) is a Spanish composer, a former member of the Spanish pop group Mecano, and more recently a conceptual artist.
Biography as a musician
Cano was born in Madrid, and gave his first concerts as a university student there. There he met Ana Torroja, who would become the lead singer in their pop band Mecano. Their first album, also called Mecano (1981) and produced with the financial backing of his father, included the hit "Hoy no me puedo levantar". Both José and his brother Nacho composed songs for all their albums.
In 1984, José began to play piano and changed his method of composition. He began to compose for other singers, such as Ana Belén, Amaya Uranga, Sara Montiel, Julio Iglesias, Miguel Bosé, Alaska, Françoise Hardy, Sara Brightman, Simone, Mario Frangoulis etc. He composed songs that would become well known in the Spanish-speaking world, such as Hijo de la luna,Lia, Mujer contra mujer, Me cuesta tanto olvidarte, Aire, Tiempo de vals, Cruz de navajas, Naturaleza muerta, Una rosa es una rosa and several others, which were covered both by Spanish and Non-Spanish-speaking singers.
After Mecano separated in 1992, he composed an opera, Luna, which was recorded with Plácido Domingo in the leading role. It was not a commercial success.
In 2002 he composed the anthem for Real Madrid sang by Placido Domingo.
In 2007 José participated, with his brother and Ana Torroja, in a festival held in Madrid during an anti-drug campaign, in which one of José's paintings, the named Take a walk on the wild side, was auctioned. The artwork depicts the actress Sonia Martínez, who died 1994 as a result of her heroin addiction.
In 2012 he conducted the orchestra at the last concert of Monserrat Caballe in Madrid.
Biography as an artist
José María Cano began drawing at a very young age. From the age of 10, he attended the Rafael Hidalgo de Caviedes academy, followed by the Artaquio academy, in order to learn how to draw and paint in preparation for an architectural career. During his first-year architecture studies he learned to master encaustic with his shape analysis professor, who was a painter. He began to work professionally in 2002, although his first exhibition came in 2004 in Craig Robins’ Private Space, commissioned by Ambra Medda. Mexican gallery owner Ramis Barquet saw this exhibition and commissioned his first commercial exhibition.
That exhibit, entitled, "This Is Just Business", appropriated its imagery from the letters of his divorce and mixed with drawings of his son. He painted the most aggressive letters from his wife's lawyers on backgrounds, which resemble desert or icy landscapes, that, when combined with drawings of his son, attempted to re-contextualize the lawyer's letters, the purpose of which were to damage Cano's reputation in the midst of a contentious divorce. This work, painted meticulously by him and hung on the wall took, attempted to undermine the power of those letters. In other words, a letter on his desk which might make you think he was a despicable person, when painted and hung on his dining room wall might made you consider whether the person who wrote it who was despicable, rather Cano himself. Because his divorce took place at the same time as the Iraq war while he painted the letters of his divorce he also painted pictures about the war. He saw a rhythmic parallelism between the two events which coincided in time, namely a confrontation with economic undertones against a so-called enemy and where innocent people suffered the consequences, especially children. His paintings with drawings of his son are also from this era. Monochromatic drawings on a sheet of paper. Simple but conceptually very interesting.
Work influenced by his son
Around the same time Cano started on a series of work where he projected drawings done by his son Daniel, who hasAsperger's syndrome. Cano copied them meticulously on a large scale, viewing these works as an exercise in humility, where the father understood that he had to copy the son as opposed to the son copying the father. Later he began to paint newspaper headlines and articles, continuing to explore his perspective that the truth is only true until someone tells it. He has pictures, for example, with titles such as "Immigration Brings More Crime", where the expression of what is most likely a verifiable fact hides a xenophobic attitude of some of the heads of the English press.
Work influenced by finance
His first exhibition on the world of finance, "The Wall Street 100"', took place in early 2006. Based on newspaper clippings taken directly from the Wall Street Journal, Cano painstakingly reproduced the small hedcuts portraits and surrounding column text in each clipping in large scale using colored waxes (encaustic painting). Reproducing these generic looking mass-produced portraits in wax was Cano's attempt to create authentic monuments with a three-dimensional effect and ironically express his opinion that these people were the new Venus-Aphrodites, and therefore he as a painter was obliged to affirm this beauty. As Hugo Rifkind wrote in an article in The Times newspaper art pages, "Cano's pictures surface has a translucent depth so that they are more like sculptures than paintings".
At the same time as painting characters from the financial world, he also painted statistics of the performance of the financial markets and the stocks of specific companies. He called this series of statistics "Mountains", considering them to be the new landscapes a painter should paint. Painting characters from the financial world and statistics instead of Venus-Aphrodites and landscapes allowed him to reconcile himself with traditional painting, which he does not renounce in spite of the conceptual nature of his work. In fact his series of bullfight etchings called "La Tauromaquia" had been shown at the Fine Art Museum of Hanoi and at the Picasso Foundation in Málaga with the Goya and Picasso series of the same name, in the show "La Tauromaquia".
In spite of his technical preparation, Cano's work up to the present day has basically been conceptual. He works academically with a variety of labor-intensive art technics such as encaustic on canvas for his paintings, watercolor on paper for his drawings, or aquatint on copper plate for his etchings. Writing about him in the Architectural Digest, Cristina Gimenez says: "At a time when almost no artists draw, he converts this discipline into the central tenet of his work: black lines on a white background: With ink on paper or encaustic on canvas (an ancient technique using wax as a pigment binder) his production is impeccable and the effects are spectacular." Based on images which are originally newspaper cut-outs or photographs, he uses the contemporary techniques of appropriation as an aim to navigate the space between reality and truth. His favourite saying is by the painter Torres García, who said, "Reality has three dimensions, whilst truth has only two." The majority of his works are in black and white, and he extends Torres García's phrase in the sense that reality is multicoloured, whilst we tend to represent the truth in black and white. For him it is a scale of greys. He does not see black and white as a bi-chromatic reality, but as intervention and non-intervention. He converts the white background of his works on wax into an ether, a void on which he intervenes or does not intervene, in such a way that the three-dimensional or multicoloured reality becomes his work, not just in the two-dimensional reality, but in a one-dimensional reality consisting of intervention or non-intervention. As said by art critic Anthony Haden-Guest in his Financial Times column, Cano recreates the images meticulously applying seven layers of wax, in a process that may take up to a thousand hours per work.
José María Cano
José María Cano
1959 Born in Madrid, Spain
a Spanish composer, a former member of the Spanish pop group Mecano, and
more recently a conceptual artist.
2013 Arrivederci capitalismo!, Pallazo delle arti Napoli, Curated by Maurizio Bortolotti, Napoles 2012 Divorce Papers and Expensive Postcards, Kristy Stubbs Gallery, Dallas, Texas, USA Principles of Composition, Munichmodern/12, Curated by Dr Isabella Goebel, Munich 2011 Charles Riva Collection, Brussels The Murdoch Principle,Caprice Horn Gallerie, Berlin Orientale, 54th Venice Biennale, Curated by Maurizio Bortolotti and Shwetal Ashvin Patel, Venice. Les Fleurs du Mal, Munichmodern, programmatic exhibition platform for contemporary art Curated by Dr. Isabella Goebel and Dr. Alexandra von Stosch, Munich 2010 Cartel de las Ferias de San Isidro, Feria del Aniversario y feria de Otoño para la plaza de toros de Las Ventas de Madrid La tauromaquia. Goya siglo XIX, Picasso siglo XX, Cano siglo XXI, Grabados de toros
Museo de Bellas Artes de Vietnam (Baotang Mythuat), Hanoi Tauromaquias, Fundación Picasso, comisariada por Lourdes Moreno, Málaga. Viewing City—Shanghai Intl Printmaking Exhibition 2010. Organizing: Guiding unit: China Artists Association Printmaking Art Committee Shanghai Hongqiao Contemporary Art Museum, Shanghai, China 2009 La tauromaquia, Riflemaker, comisariado por Tot Taylor, London God Sell the Queen, Sotheby's, London The Wall Street One Hundred, The Dairy, comisariado por Virginia Damtsa, London 2008 Welcome to Capitalism,DOX Centre for Contemporary Art, Exposición inaugural, Prague Mural para la Moscow World Fine Art Fair, Comisariado por Teresa Mavica, Moscow Art Is a Waste of Time, Artists Anonymous Gallery, Berlín London Calling, Kristy Stubbs Gallery, Group exhibition of London based artists, comisariado por Elaine Ferguson, Dallas, USA Heroes of Our Time, Regina Gallery, Moscow 2007 Materialismo-Matérico, Comisariado por Julieta Manzano, CAC Málaga, Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga Avatar of Sacred Discontent, Group Exhibition,Comisariado por Wolfe Lenkiewicz & Flora Fairbairn,9 Hillgate, London Captain Thunder, Allsopp Contemporary, London 2006 Mural de la sufragista Clara Campoamor, para el Senado español, Madrid Materialismo Matérico, Galería Project B, Milán José-María Cano: Paintings, Comisariado por Huang Azhong, Urban Museum, Shangai, China Performance at the Jason Rhoades Memorial, Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles WS 100, Comisariado por Carlota Alvarez Basso, Palacio de Sobrellano, Comillas, Spain. Arte Urbano, Comisariado por Fernando Francés, Fundación Coca Cola, Arco 06, Madrid. Masturbation, Allsopp Contemporary, London. 2005 Todos Somos Diferentes, Galería Ramis Barquet, Monterrey, Mexico (solo) 2004 50 Shark Teeth, Craig Robin's Private Space, Miami, FL, USA (solo)
Selected Public Collections
Elena Forster Collection
DOX - Centre for Contemporary Art, Prague, Czech Republic
Yageo Foundation, Taipei, Taiwan
Fundación Banco Santander, Madrid, Spain
Iwan and Manuela Wirth Collection
Barack Obama Collection, USA
CAC - Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, Málaga, Spain
Mugrabi Collection, New York, USA