Elegia al Che is a poem by Joan Brossa reinterpreted by Xavier Olivé in 1969 as an exercise in the Colour and Composition Workshop subject taught by Albert Ràfols-Casamada.
Elegia al Che (1967) by Joan Brossa, created to commemorate the assassination of Argentinian revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara
Despite already having had some success, Joan Brossa still had little work published and was not as well-known an author as he would be from the 1970s onwards. However, his Poemes civils (1961), and especially the visual poems, were already starting to gain a reputation among young people.
Before presenting his work at EINA, Olivé visited Brossa in his legendary penthouse studio on Carrer Balmes, famous for its floor strewn with papers and newspaper cuttings that meant you had to walk over them to get in, and showed him a version of his poem for his approval. Brossa’s love of magic and games was the starting point of the puzzle that Olivé presented.
Comprised of twenty-five loose pages, the work has two completely blank covers, with no title or indication of the author. The reverse of the front cover shows the portrait of Che Guevara.
Each of the square pages contains a letter of the alphabet painted on fragments to create the flag of the Republic of Cuba. The letters C, H and E, which make up the guerrilla’s name, are missing. When assembled, the puzzle forms both an alphabet and the Cuban flag.
Although at that time the use of Letraset (a process of letter by letter transference by rubbing the typographic sheet onto the original) was already widespread in our country, for this work Olivé used the popular trepa or template, more commonly known as a stencil nowadays.
The technique he used consisted of using alphabets perforated on zinc sheets on the surface to be painted, over which you had to pass a roller impregnated with paint. It was also a very popular technique for painting pictures and slogans on walls and as a resource for messages by both the far-right and the left, and by social movements on the street, up to the present day.
The Colour and Composition Workshop by Albert Ràfols-Casamada focused on the theory of colour based on the study of chromatic circles and the attributes of colour such as value scales, intensity and tone, part of the programme that was complemented by basic picture composition concepts. In the subject, students had to prepare their own colour palette, from which they did various painting exercises with gouache. Albert Ràfols’ classes were characterised by the great freedom he gave students in interpreting the exercises he set them.
Handwritten programme by Albert Ràfols-Casamada for the Colour and Composition Workshop subject (1970).
A donation by Xavier Olivé himself, the work reproduced is part of the EINA Foundation art collection.