THAT TIME WHEN CEMENT WAS THE LAST TREND...

We suggest a tour of some amazing buildings and monuments at a time when cement was the building material par excellence. In the 60s and 70s, many avant-garde architectural projects opted for a resounding and forceful aesthetic, often with reminiscences of Soviet sobriety, which old Europe channelled into public buildings and monuments of great importance. The material was versatile, ductile, resistant and affordable. On the other hand, its final finish does not require painting for its conservation, and that lowers the costs of maintenance and production. Sometime later it was learned that cement of poor quality is irreversibly affected by "aluminosis", and this resulted in serious crumbles and cracks in many neighbourhoods in the outskirts of large cities.

“Tito’s fist”, by Boško Kućanski.

In fact, one of the cases we bring here is the monument to the partisans of the former Yugoslavia who, under the orders of Josip Tito, defended with their lives the bridge of the Neretva River in the battle of the same name, when the German and Italian troops threatened with the occupation in February and March of 1943. The tribute was a colossal fist, futuristic in style, made by the artist Boško Kućanski, winner of an open public call for projects for the memorial. The work was erected in Makljen and was officially inaugurated on November 12th, 1978, in an act attended by Josip Tito himself. The monument was popularly called "Tito’s fist". Today this work has collapsed due to lack of conservation.

L: Honoring the revolution of the people of the region of Moslavina against German occupation (Podgaric, Croatia) - R: Memorial to the fallen in the II World War (Niksic, Montenegro)

Among the most amazing constructions, memorials occupy a prominent place, because by not having a functional use, they leave more room for imagination and design. The sculptures that homage to the fallen in armed conflicts in Eastern Europe are the most enigmatic. They condense the aesthetic heritage of the Soviet period and the Cold War with a futuristic, cold and robust style that has already become the paradigm of an entire era and we must understand in their own context. These monumental works are known in Serbian as "spomeniks", a term widely accepted to refer to them, and means precisely that, sculptures of large dimensions created to commemorate an event.

L: Dedicated to victims of the Jasenovac concentration camp (Jasenovac, Croatia) - R: The fists-shaped Babanj monument, honoring fallen Yugoslavian fighters in World War II (near Niš, Serbia)

Most of these works are abstract and avoid including specific references to an individual or social group. Likewise, they do not incorporate recognisable elements or reproduce human figures. We must not forget that the societies affected by an armed conflict retain a repository of memory that extends over time and that goes beyond the specific events that took place, and in cases where there are also internal divisions for religious and ethnic reasons, besides the political ones, abstraction seems a good option. Its appearance, however, leads many to be ironical about the extraterrestrial influence of these designs.

Cultural Heritage Institute of Spain

In our country cement also boomed at the time. A good example is the headquarters of the Institute of Cultural Heritage of Spain, located in the university area of Madrid. This building is a project of the architects Fernando Higueras and Rafael Moneo, who obtained in 1961 the National Architecture Prize. Initially conceived to house the "Artistic Restoration Center", the final execution of the design in 1965, which counted on the collaboration of Antonio Miró, reduced its dimensions a little and maintained its circular structure. The building was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest in 2001 in the monument category.

 

The CEART opens this Thursday, November 14th in the room A an exhibition dedicated to this master of photography, which will be open to the public until February 9th. The show includes one of the artist's latest projects, focused on the hard work carried out by the miners of Serra Pelada, an open gold mine in the heart of Brazil where employees daily risked their lives.

Immigration, poverty, marginal life, slave labour, man's relationship with the land, the use of natural resources... are issues that have always fascinated Salgado. From the beginning of his career as a photographer, his work has opted to give visibility to the most disadvantaged groups and to create with his images a vivid and impressive visual story without fakes. With a raw black and white, this author's work transits between photo-reportage and naturalistic photography.

And the idea that permeates all his work is human dignity. Salgado portrays employees, miners and gatherers from a purely humanistic approach that wants to value their integrity, their strength and their resilience.

“If you photograph a human, so that he is not represented in a noble way, there is no reason to take the picture. That is my way of seeing things.”

Salgado entered this discipline long after completing his studies in economics between Brazil and the United States, and a doctorate in statistics in France. But in 1973 his life took a turn, and he decided to start his career as a photographer. He achieved to work at the Gamma Agency and Magnum Photos for more than 15 years until in 1994 he founded his own agency “Amazonas Imagen”.

With the “Gold” project, the photographer portrays a harsh reality that takes place in the Serra Pelada mine, a name given to a totally devastated and anarchically excavated mining enclave, the world's largest open-pit gold mine, through which more than 50,000 people have passed. In the heat of the legends about the mysterious “El Dorado”, the enthusiasm for this precious metal led to the development of strenuous exploitation practices for the workers and to originate tales of grief and glory, of human victory and defeat between the soil, the tunnels and the cargo baskets.

The CEART exhibition brings together Salgado's full portfolio in his characteristical black and white and large-format photographs that leave no one indifferent.