Exhibition of the COLLECTION series to commemorate the centenary of the birth of the photographer Francesc Català-Roca, whose collection is deposited in the COAC’s Historical Archive.
Català-Roca traveled most of his life. In the many trips he made throughout the country to illustrate regional guides, mainly during the 50s up until the 70s, he captured fragments of a pre-industrial Spain, but which contained that spirit far from the mechanisation that was being claimed from architecture. While he fulfilled his assignments to photograph vast regions of the Spanish territory, focused mainly on tasks in the countryside and cities, on monuments, landscapes and scenery, he found those architectures almost without wanting to, looking out of the corner of his eye. Ultimately, he captured landscapes shaped by the
human being and constructions for himself, for his crops, his tasks and his animals, which contained the genius of the “architecture without architects”.
However, also at that time, Català-Roca witnessed the abrupt changes that were taking place in a Spain that was emerging from the Civil War with hardship, where a good part of the country had barely been touched by the industrialisation. In his travels, he portrayed the last glimpses of peasant life in Europe, just before its disappearance.
The disappearance of the millenary tradition of farming – which in Spain could almost be dated to 1985 with its entry into the European Community – gave way to the businesses of agriculture and livestock, immersed in the dynamics of late capitalist development, which have left a very different landscape and architecture.
And, in addition to all the rural world he visited, Català-Roca also grasped how the life of work was gradually transformed into a life of leisure in some regions of the country. While fulfilling his photographic commissions for the most modern industry, architecture or design; while documenting the work of artists such as Joan Miró and Eduardo Chillida, he also recorded how that life of leisure and tourism was developing in Catalonia, leaving their own footprints on the landscape: pubs and campsites, leisure areas, those new architectures without architects that heralded a Spain that was advancing shyly towards modernity. Almost without intending to, Català-Roca was looking at some of the most interesting topics in post-war architecture prior to the advent of postmodernism. Matters that, without a doubt, have changed the perception of the architectural tradition in order to
incorporate any other material that does not come from the “official histories”, but that contains the entire legacy of popular wisdom, accumulated over centuries or only in a few decades; constructions, as Frank Lloyd Wright said, with “often beautiful and always instructive results”.
Almost without wanting to, with his camera, Català-Roca was able to capture that beauty.
Moisés Puente, curator of the exhibition