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ÁLVARO DE LA VEGA. The Tree of Life [METROPOLIS. An Urban Perspective of Galician Art III]


22 February 2019 - 2 June 2019
MARCO, exhibition rooms on the first floor
Tuesday to Saturday (including bank holidays) from 11am to 2:30pm and from 5pm to 9pm / Sunday, from 11am to 2:30pm
MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Vigo
Rubén Martínez Alonso

METROPOLIS. An Urban Perspective of Galician Art

The METROPOLIS cycle, curated by Rubén Martínez Alonso, was conceived with a double objective: making a trip to the past, to Vigo in the Roaring Twenties, when Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis premiered in town; and, at the same time, offering a perspective of the current Galician art scene. The proposal consists of several individual exhibitions as a view of the present, together with a common section for all works as a look to the past.

The project comprises two clearly differentiated areas, both with regards to staging and to contents, laid out within the spaces of the first floor: on the one hand, the area corresponding to the past, consisting of a room where, as a reference or homage to the movie Metropolis, the spirit of Vigo during the 1920s is relived through vanguard architecture plans and images together with photographs and documents of that time, as well as art déco furniture, objects, clothing and decorations.

In this third stage of the METROPOLIS series, the general part focuses predominantly on the era of the great Universal and Industrial Exhibitions and its parallelism in Vigo during the 1940s, together with examples of the post-war architecture in Spain, and Galician historical photography.

On the other hand, the third individual exhibition of this cycle —Álvaro de la Vega’s solo show— is shown in the front galleries from the 22th of February.

ÁLVARO DE LA VEGA. The Tree of Life

Under the title The Tree of Life, the exhibition brings together a large number of sculptural pieces from the artist's collection that make up a large installation, produced specifically for this project, and gives its title to the exhibition.

In line with the objectives and characteristics of the METRÓPOLIS series, Álvaro de Vega’s exhibition searchs for a contextualisation of his work, taking into consideration the characteristics, dimensions and lighting of this particular space, and the way in which it can be explored.

Álvaro de la Vega considers The Tree of life,  the montage being exhibited in the MARCO and which the artist has been working on for a decade — to be a single piece of work, an essential idea which has been materialised in a single piece, made up of 375 individual ones.


‘Galician Historical Photography. The country as the setting’

Throughout the duration of the exhibition, MARCO’S Library-Documentation Centre will play host to a bibliographical exhibition which contains a selection of historical photography publications in which Galicia takes the centre stage. It will also be possible to look up the catalogues from other exhibitions which have previously been held in the MARCO, in which, while on a more general basis, historical photography remains the fundamental axis.


Our museum staff is available to help the visitors regarding any question or information about the exhibition, as well as during regular guided tours:

Every day at 6pm
Personalized visits for groups available, for bookings please call: +34 986 113900/11


Álvaro de la Vega

Álvaro de la Vega
(Paradela, Lugo, 1954) studied fine arts in Barcelona, and the style of painting that he learned during this training phase is his usual means of expression. Back in Galicia, he has begun to explore sculptural language, using human and animal figures as his point of departure. The use of paint as a way of boosting the sculpture’s expressive value will be a very characteristic element of these first wooden pieces. As the artist starts to consolidate his sculptural language, he has also begun to experiment with other materials including iron, ceramics and stone, all of which are tied to nature and traditional professions. The space-work-spectator interrelation will form the core concept of his artistic discourse. His work is exhibited in important galleries and institutions, and his pieces also form part of highly-renowned private and public collections.

Curatorial text

ÁLVARO DE LA VEGA. The Tree of Life

Without a doubt, the Tree of Life constitutes one of the main archetypes or mythemes of the great mythologies. In addition, the inherent sacredness of the concept is rooted in –or is connected to- a long philosophical-religious tradition; one that brings together the Eastern and Western civilisations. The alchemical philosopher’s stone and elixir of eternal youth; the Tree of Life symbolises in Catholicism this unscathed humanity, of flawless men and women, still oblivious to the original sin that will precipitate their fall. Its fruits: the bread and wine, which, through the transubstantiation of the Eucharistic consecration, will become the body and blood of Christ.

But, Álvaro de la Vega’s depiction of the Tree of Life differs greatly from the tree of life mentioned in the Book of Genesis. Because his is in fact a fallen tree. The branches no longer scrape the sky, but are diabolically confined to the earth. However, Álvaro de la Vega decides not to make firewood from this spiritually fallen tree. And in this way, his axe will savagely strike this wood, in whose heartwood, original sin is hidden. It is almost as if he has assumed the role of an executioner, who, by divine mandate, has executed this exemplary punishment: to unmask those responsible for the misrepresentation of humanity.

Wooden sculpture

To Álvaro de la Vega, wood is much more than simply an alternative material. It is the ideal substance, the optimum material, the perfect raw material for transformation. Consubstantial. By birth, experiences and culture.   Vertebral. Only through its rings may these fundamental ideas circulate. Relationships are getting narrower and the affections are intensifying. Consanguineous. Filling up, gaining this three-dimensional character, taking over the space, striking the audience with its ligneous nature.

The material, first. Always. Inert. And the artist, the spectator, the route, the idea and life, follows. Cuts which are the lines of this floating drawing that bears witness to the process, this courtship, copulation and labour. And this relationship between the wood and the axe always turns out to be so honest, the main tool of the betrothals.

The memory of the material

All of the pieces of this opus magnum share this memory, this journey. After the eucalyptus have grown in the forest, their trunks are chopped down by the experienced hands of the woodcutters, before subsequently shaping the mussel platforms which are found anchored in the estuary. The weather, the sea, the rusting of the iron nails, naturally dye the raw materials which the sculptor has to work with. Blackened wood, purple. And once again, more axe blows, perhaps not always well-aimed, yet nonetheless managing to speed up this labour, in pursuit of the artistic designs imbued by a muse.

Light touches of paint on the underwear and female lips, that is all. The subtle lighting does not mask the scars of this work, the blows inflicted by the tools, the lines of a path which we can trace with certain ease. A finished result which, without a doubt, represents the authenticity of the experience.

The field of the party

These exhibition rooms now play host to a sexual party, celebrating the “good” life, which of course we are invited to. In this way, the spectator joins the ranks of the passive individuals. But their indifference is relative. Because, unlike the ligneous characters, when facing their dull, frozen cry, our pulsating nature will revel in the privilege which has been granted to us by this sculptural work.

This free movement through the different exhibition spaces, through this fourth dimension, will certainly offer the audience unique pieces of work at every step that they take. Personal perceptions, and unique perspectives which exponentially multiply the value of these pieces. Experiences that will remain within us as memories. An image and idea reserve which we can return to when looking for inspiration or when simply driven by nostalgia.

The Garden of Delights

Welcome to this particular Garden of delights! A pseudo-paradise in which the inhabitants succumb to sin. A lustful humanity plunging into emptiness, into perdition. The madness which has already seized some sick minds. A sexual pleasure which is as ephemeral as the life of those fruits, from our Tree of life. Lecherous fruits at the doors of putrefaction.

A sculptural re-interpretation of a famous and historical triptych. A review and update of the central panel of the extremely well-known painting by Bosch. The main and only scene of this theatrical representation in which the Garden of Eden is the virginal prelude and Hell is the foolish apotheosis.

But why presuppose the impending embarrassment and shame of our characters? Why not bring an end once and for all to the misogyny of this story in which Eve is portrayed as the nauseating incarnation of sin? And what if we were in front of a human paradise, free from biblical guilt and Christian penance? Rather than this dystopian future recreated by Saramago in Death with Interruptions, with its joyful destruction of a church which consolidated its prosperous and millenary business on the figure of that Death, that, inexplicably, took leave. No. The authentic Promised Land. The promise of an immortal and implacable goddess named Liberty, the lifetime ruler of her growing dominion. This is the only way that the Tree of life will finally be able to become The Tree of GoodLife.

Primitive expressionism

Since the end of the nineteenth century, a certain fascination for primitive cultures has been evident in Western art. Expressive visual forms of ancestral peoples form part of Historical Avant-guard art such as Cubism and Expressionism: masks from faraway African tribes, ancient Egyptian paintings, enigmatic Iberian sculptures, archaic Polynesian totems… Drawn in by this extraordinary freedom of expression, the vanguardist volumetric and chromatic conceptions and even the ritual transcendence of objects in direct contact with natural forces and spirits, some of the most revolutionary artists would go on to incorporate some of these references into their work. 

Álvaro de la Vega’s approach to primitive presuppositions of an expressionist nature responds to two fundamental causes. On the one hand, his connection and fondness of the sculptural past, and on the other hand, this ideological militancy which advocates a return to basic impulses and materials, instead of the sophistication of art centred in knowledge. Through this approach he has demonstrated his commitment to this art which is transversal to time.

Childhood and the interior landscape

The future of the human being develops in childhood. This is at least the opinion of psychoanalysis, a Freudian discipline in which this stage is decisive, allowing for the structure of the individual’s personality to be determined. Álvaro de la Vega draws his main influences from his childhood, his particular way of filtering reality and this is the key to his sensitivity.

Relocation of ideas without too much geography. A silent physical map. Interior landscape. The culture of a woodcutter. The child who fuelled the oven at home. Regression to childhood. Childish curiosity. The engine which makes the artist move forward.

Rubén Martínez Alonso
Exhibition Curator


Rubén Martínez Alonso

Rubén Martínez Alonso
(Vigo, 1980) holds a degree in History of Art from USC University of Santiago de Compostela. He later completed his doctorate program in Language, Science and Anthropology at UDC University of Corunna. The beginning of his doctoral thesis Recreational Societies in Urban Galicia (1850-1936) coincides in time with his teaching lessons in the Faculty of Geography and History at USC. He currently teaches Geography and History at “Fin do Camiño” High School in Fisterra. His first steps in the world of literature led him to write poetry commissioned by DORNA magazine of Galician Poetic Expression during the first decade of the century. His primal novel 1980 (ano cero) was published in 2011, and right afterwards A saudade do caracol [The Snail’s Melancholy] in 2012. With As escaleiras do Gran Hotel [The Grand Hotel Stairs] he is awarded the XIV Edition of the Risco Award in Literary Creation. His latest novel, Vila Suárez, recently published in 2019. In the field of research, several studies came to light: Ligneous Imagery at Nuestra Señora del Carmen Parish Church in Ferrol and Vigo Social Club. Illustrated Chronicle of the Historic Leisure Society (1847-1936), in 2006 and 2013 respectively. In the world of art, Martínez has collaborated in various exhibitions of paintings, such as Paisaxes [Landscapes] (House of Galicia, Madrid, 2009); Paisagens da Galiza [Galician Landscapes] (House of Culture - Casa Barbot, Vila Nova de Gaia, Porto, 2010); El bosque de favilas [Forest of Embers](Afundación, Vigo, 2011); Post Industrial (Marcos Valcárcel Cultural Center, Ourense, 2012); Naturezas [Still Lifes] (Maritime Command at Baiona, Pontevedra, 2012); Mostrarte (City Hall, City of Vigo, 2012); Xosé Luis Otero (European Parliament, Brussels, 2013); Ephemeral. The Intensity of the Ephemeral (AXA, Porto, 2014); Atmosferas (Fundación Vicente Risco, Allariz, Ourense, 2015), among others.