UNUSUAL CONTEMPORARY SCULPTURE

The urban space appears as an immense blank canvas that offers a multitude of options to accommodate surprising, ingenious and, above all, large proposals. The visual strength of these pieces is capable of modifying the environment and generating a great attraction, in addition to energising the activity and serving as a way to channel global messages that seek a direct change in the community. In this panorama, the urban sculpture reveals itself as the great winner. The riskiest and voluminous works claim their share of prominence by living with other disciplines that also make their way into the cities. We bring you some of the most curious works conceived for the public space.

Richard Jackson, “Bad Dog”, 2013 (via publicdelivery.org)

Richard Jackson made this temporary sculpture outside the Orange County Museum of Art, in Santa Ana, California, on the occasion of the retrospective that the centre dedicated to him in 2013. The author wanted to open the debate about the role of humour in art, and of course, he got it. "Bad Dog" achieved a significant impact. The work of this artist is very focused on the double meanings, irony and the fight against stereotypes in art. The result is eclectic and challenging to define work that breaks moulds.

Ugo Rondinone, “Seven Magic Mountains”, Las Vegas, Nevada, 2016 (photo by Gianfranco Gorgoni)

Other authors prefer to place their proposals in natural spaces where asphalt and cement are far away. This is the work of Ugo Rondinone, which is committed to using elements of the environment, such as stones and giving them a layer of colour to create his compositions. As assembled pieces of large format, its columns of painted rocks rise as beings from another world and remind us of the indigenous totems that evoke the ancestor's spirits. His work swings between the landart and the popart taken to desolate and diaphanous places, as with his famous "Seven Magic Mountains", located in the Nevada desert.

Eduardo Catalano, “Floralis Genérica”, 2002 (via www.craiglotter.co.za)

Urban works are also vehicles for symbolic values. "Floralis Generica" is a huge flower-shaped sculpture made of aluminium, stainless steel and concrete. The architect Eduardo Catalano donated it to the city of Buenos Aires in 2002. Since then, it is installed in the United Nations Plaza, in the centre of an artificial lake. Thanks to an electric mechanism, the flower opens its 23-meter petals every morning and closes at dusk. With this simple gesture, this work represents the hope of each new day and the rebirth of life, and today has become a symbol of the city.

Costas Varotsos, “Dromeas”, 1994

In a review of the futuristic movement that triumphed in the first decades of the twentieth century, the work Dromeas ("The Runner") is a 12-meter high sculpture made entirely of superimposed green glass sheets. The Greek Costas Varotsos wanted to represent the strength, momentum and speed of the racers and pay homage to the start of the Olympic games, where athletics was one of the first disciplines to consolidate. In the middle of the Marathon’s Way, in Athens, this work seems to gain speed and erase its contours to the wind.

Charles Robb, “Charles La Trobe”, 2007

In this list, we cannot forget the sculpture of Charles La Trobe made by Charles Robb in 2007 that we can see in Melbourne. Charles Joseph La Trobe was a public figure in the Australian colony of Victoria driving several cultural projects between 1839 and 1854, a period in which the Royal Botanic Gardens, the State Library, the Victoria Museum, the National Gallery of Victoria and the University of Melbourne. Robb's decision to create a piece by presenting the figure face down was a way of questioning the meaning and purpose of contemporary monuments dedicated to celebrities or people of public interest. Today this work made of plastic and fibreglass can be seen at La Trobe University in Bundoora.

 

We embark on a journey that crosses our country from end to end, which crosses the capital as an obligatory step, as one who threads the needle and tight its ends towards the corners of our territory to die to the sea. From the coast to the nerve centre of this vast space we travel asphalt and dirt ways, paths transformed into roads that attest to the passage of time and the evolution of our history. We pass through villages that were once the cradle of the great events of a common story. We recognise the names of places we study as essential enclaves of our legacy. Others arouse rather surprise and perplexity, curious, strange and bombastic, but already devoid of a genuine sense as a population.

José Manuel Navia, La Alcarria de Cuenca, parada coche de línea en Olmedilla de Eliz, “Alma tierra”, 2019

The desolate places of a progressive and unstoppable rural exodus resist oblivion thanks to road signs and an isolated tavern that remains open to quench the thirst of the traveller. The kilometres and the time surrender to our passage and throughout the route we see a bitter reality: the depopulation affects today 80% of the territory, while the big cities attract more and more people and concentrate 80% of the entire population. The image has certain similarities with the metaphor of "The Nothing" of The Neverending Story, where the emptiness was invading the kingdom of Fantasy because children did not read or let their imagination fly, which is what feeds the stories of the fairytales. In real life, these same stories are lost in the domains of oblivion, confined in a past that seems remote and obsolete, subjugated to the impositions of progress and urban life.

José Manuel Navia, Angelines en Susín, Sobrepuerto (Huesca), “Alma tierra”, 2019

However, it should be borne in mind that the place we are in today is in debt with our villages. The evolution of events cannot be explained without a shared history marked by milestones that have taken place throughout our land. We also face a serious social problem that must respond to the need to reconquer our spaces, preserve our traditional culture and take advantage of the resources that our land offers.

With the desire to value this immense wealth, unknown and helpless, Acción Cultural Española AC/E has launched the Alma Tierra project. This photographic journey through the work of José Manuel Navia offers a wide panorama of landscapes, situations and environments where there is always room for feeling, nostalgia and hope for the future.

José Manuel Navia, Belén, ganadera del valle del Corneja (Ávila), “Alma tierra”, 2019

“These villages died so that we can live and from their misfortune comes our luck. The rich manage differently, the poor are always guilty." Luis Mateo Díez, “El espíritu del páramo”, 1996.

The project brings together a total of 158 works, gathered in a book with texts by Julio Llamazares, who explains that the initiative is "an elegy, a plea against the marginalisation of some Spaniards by the rest and a call to reflection." An exhibition in the Diputación de Huesca collects a selection of photographs and gives us some of the most poetic images of interior Spain.