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Pepe Espaliú
(1955 - 1992) Spain

Pepe Espaliú

Artist

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Espaliú was born in provincial Cordoba, in Andalusia, in a period of profound sexual and political repression. The Church and other institutions made the atmosphere stifling for an adolescent exploring his sexuality. However, according to a provocative statement he made shortly before his death, the army seems to have provided some relief for this situation: as suspected, all-male environments encourage homosexuality even as they brutally repress it.

His personal growt was linked to two very diferent cities: Barcelona and Paris. Both provided opportunities and anonymity. The references to sexual acts in his work are informed by furtive experiences in cinemas, public toilets and cruising areas. Typically for a Spanish homosexual of that time, Espaliú only became sexually active in the dark; his experiences, as he tells them, were mostly fleeting, and this reflected a certain discomfort with his condition.

Espaliú moved between painting, drawing, sculpture and performance art. As he declared, his earlier works aimed to protect him against the world; they were, hesaid, "and alibi". His later works included tortoise shells and other objects that function as a reference both to his vulnerability as an AIDS patient and the shell that artists construct with their work. Direct homoerotic imagery did not find a place in his artistic production until his very last works. But before that, his experiences as a homosexual and HIV-positive person determined the meaning of many of his works.

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Source: excerpts from: Aldrich R. & Wotherspoon G., Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History, from WWII to Present Day, Routledge, London, 2001

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