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 Eusebio Sempere  (1923 - 1985)

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Lived/Active: Spain      Known for: painting and sculpture

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Eusebio Sempere (Onil, Spain, 3 April 1923–10 April 1985) was a Spanish sculptor, painter and graphic artist whose abstract geometric works make him one of the more representative artists of the Kinetic art movement in Spain. Sempere's work is defined by the abstraction of its elements, geometric repetition and linearity, all of which evolved into his synthesis of Op Art and constructivism with elements of kinetic art.

His personal contribution to the development of kinetic art is his series of abstract geometric constructions which demonstrate the perceptual effects of optical vibration and the illusion of motion. Light also plays an important role in his artistic work. Perhaps influenced by Levantine sources, Sempere uses it as the main element to organize his creations harmoniously. His paintings are considered as two-dimensional surfaces where the artist plays with visual elements—the light, the colors and tones—using perceptual and optical effects to create suggestive forms in repeating geometric shapes.

Sempere worked in many different media, from drawings, gouaches, oil paintings, and silk screen prints to sculptures of iron and stainless steel. Two of his works can be seen in the Museum of Outdoor Sculpture in Madrid, for which he created the rails, now painted blue, which suggest a curious moiré effect when walking beside them, and a mobile which he had loaned to the museum.

Sempere began his studies at the School of Fine Arts of San Carlos de Valencia where he studied painting, drawing and various etching techniques. Due to a childhood disease he had almost no vision in his right eye.

In 1948 Sempere went to study in Paris, where he met Pablo Palazuelo, Eduardo Chillida and other avant-garde artists such as Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. Here he came under the influence of Georges Braque, and improved the screen printing technique he used frequently in later years. In 1955, his work was noticed by art critics at the Denise Rene Gallery and in 1956 he showed two works at the Salon des Nouvelles Realites Paris. In this period he was greatly impressed by Victor Vasarely’s theories of kinetic art. In Paris he also met Hans Arp and was friends with Nina Kandinsky, the painter's widow, and Roberta González, the daughter of sculptor Julio González. In 1957 he made the acquaintance of Martin Abel who worked with him years later to produce limited editions of his serigraphs.

Returning to Spain in 1959, he moved to Valencia, where art critic Aguilera Cerní, editor of Arte vivo (The Living Art) magazine, introduced Sempere to the Group Parpalló, a cultural movement not limited to the visual arts. Formed in 1957, it included artists such as Castellano, Genovés, Navarro, Soria, Michavila, Andres Alfaro, Manolo Gil, Amadeo Gabino, Isidoro Balaguer, and others striving to renew the cultural landscape in Valencia. The group published a magazine, called at first Arte vivo and later Parpalló, and began group exhibitions.

In 1964, Sempere was granted a Ford Foundation fellowship, which allowed him to travel to the United States and put on an exhibition at the Bertha Schaefer Gallery, and to show his work in the Spanish Pavilion at the World’s Fair in New York. His exhibits at the time included the Fogg Museum, Harvard University, the Museum of Modern Art in Atlanta, and the Museum of Modern Art MOMA, New York.

Still exhibiting regularly at the Denise Rene Gallery in Paris, he participated in some notable public projects; the best-known examples are the sculptures and carved railings at the Museo Esculturas al Aire Libre (Museum of Outdoor Sculpture) in Madrid. Sempere persuaded his artist friends, including Pablo Serrano, Miró, and Chillida, to donate their work, much of which is spectacular, especially his own cascade that forms a centerpiece of the assembly. Sempere’s work in the gardens of the Fundación Juan March (Juan March Foundation) also in Madrid, next to the concrete sculpture by Chillida, is highly regarded as well.

In 1980 he won the Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts, awarded by the Ministry of Culture in Madrid, and in 1983 he was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for the Arts. He was officially named a favorite son of the city of Alicante and awarded an honorary doctorate by the University.

He died in April 1985 in Onil, Alicante, after a long illness.

The Alicante Museum of Contemporary Art (Museo Alicantino de Arte Contemoraneo) contains the collection of 20th-century art donated by Sempere to the city in 1978. It is located in Alicante's oldest civil building, the Casa de la Asegurada, which dates to 1685. The nucleus of the collection contains works by major Spanish artists of the 1950s: Feito, Alfaro, Canogar, Chillida, Joan Castejón, Mompó, Saura, Tàpies, Zobel and Viola. Overall, it includes these and more than 500 pieces comprising paintings, sculptures, mixed media and lithographs by other great Spanish and foreign artists such as Dalí, Picasso, Millares, Serrano, Miró, Gris, Kandinsky, Chagall and Vasarely, and covering all stages of Sempere's own career.

Written and submitted by Steven Fernandez

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