The Forest for the Tree: Artist Wily Taboada and the Galician Transition to Neoliberalism

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This text seeks to study the cultural transformations that took place in Galicia at the end of the twentieth century in the context of the transition from Franco’s dictatorship to neoliberal democracy. To do so, it will take into account the works and life of a singular artist, Antonio Taboada, a.k.a. Wily (1962–2006). His early end and the bohemian legend around him have complicated the contemporary reception of his art. However, here I will defend its understanding as a collective document with political implications for the cultural, economic and ecological metamorphoses that occurred in contemporary Galicia. It is thus possible to read Wily’s trajectory in relation to a time marked by the construction of the Xunta de Galicia and by the birth of a new development model, based on cultural tourism—Xacobeo 93—and ecological extractivism. Within this frame and from Lalín (a small rural region in the province of Pontevedra), Wily’s art tells us about an alternative project, of a countercultural nature, which animated a generation born of the transition from Francoism to democracy. This counter-project was shaped through a series of complex artistic dialogues, driven from at least four areas: first, in an intense conversation with the popular tradition—of carnival, festivals and peasant art—second, with the local artistic tradition—and in particular with the painter Laxeiro—third, with the remains of the Galician republican heritage broken by the Civil War and, finally, with brut and outsider art. In this way, I propose to see the forest for/from the tree, an expression especially suitable for the sculptures that made Wily popular, manufactured with a chainsaw on the deadwood of the rich local forests, historical common lands, and by that time subjected to ferocious economic speculation and environmental degradation. Thus, I propose that from a supposedly minor work it is possible to observe the major transformations of a culture (in this case, contemporary Galicia), and to ask ourselves about the costs and victims of a model of economic and ecological exploitation named progress, today unsustainable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGender, Displacement, and Cultural Networks of Galicia
Subtitle of host publication1800s to Present
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9783030988616
ISBN (Print)9783030988609
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


  • Ecological catastrophe
  • Galician and Spanish transition to democracy
  • Neoliberalism
  • Outsider art
  • Popular culture


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