In the Steps of Gargallo: Figurative Monuments in Metal Sculpture
By: Al Orensanz, PhD., Director - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts
Abstract or figurative? This was the disjunction with which all the artists of the time were faced, and even though pictorial modernity in Spain had for some time already been inclined to informalism, sculpture artist Angel Orensanz followed the cautious steps of his admired Pablo Gargallo and Julio González, and those of so many other more recent sculptors that also vacillated between the abstract or figurative.
This was especially true if such artists aspired to dedicate themselves to monumental sculpture, since this type of commission is almost always given by the authorities, who in the Spain of that time were not as open and modern as some more advanced private or corporate patrons.
It is thus not at all surprising that it was for a private collector, owner of a sculpture park in Bellaterra (Barcelona), that the first totally abstract exempt monument erected by Angel Orensanz emerged in 1969: a menhir of 7 meters in height which he executed in two blocks of stone, working by carving directly into grooves and irregularities, which this time were not reserved only to the upper parts, but also extended throughout the lower parts.
In contrast, on September 25, 1970, feast day of the patron saint of the village, Angel ORensanz inaugurated in Albalate del Arzobispo (Teruel) his Monumento a la Jota (Monument to the Jota), in which for a change the abstract geometries remained confined to a tall poured-cement podium.
This serves simultaneously as a backdrop for the ground level statue of a well-built singer of jotas, and as a podium on which are raised those of a pair of young dancers: they are once again hieratic figures —something striking in the representation of joteros, even though the dance of Albalete is known for its grace. They are formed of geometric planes, like those of the Saragossan monuments to the Mother and to Tío Jorge; but this time Orensanz uses for the first time cut and welded steel plates, marking out planes and hollows in a style derivative of the cubism which was so widespread in the Spain of the transition and the start of democracy, one of whose most tenacious exponents would be the Aragonese José Gonzalvo. This said, the model for this solemn mastery in the evocation of volume based on plates and striking hollows was none other than Pablo Gargallo, Aragonese sculptor well known to Orensanz, since he had dedicated to Gargallo,
We can say that Gargallo’s splendid Gran Profeta (Great Prophet) has, as adopted sons, two colossi of imposing beards and manes made by Angel Orensanz for the cities of Jaca and Monzón. The Monumento a la Jacetania (Monument to the Lands of Jaca), raised in 1969 in the square of Biscós in Jaca, is a gigantic titan 7 meters in height and more than two tons in weight, which represents in concrete and steel a pilgrim of the Road to Santiago. The figure’s facial expression shares the limelight with a model of the cloister of the monastery of San Juan de la Peña carried in an offertory gesture with arms outstretched, also in steel. In the lower part, below an oculum of Romanesque reminiscences, the pillars that evoke his body have on each side of a split which represents the Aragon river crosssing the Jacetania in vertical alignment, four sculptural vignettes decorated with fired-enamel gold paint, in which are paid homage other typical elements of the region.
These include the Holy Grail of San Juan de la Peña, the Cathedral of Jaca, The Book of La Cadena and musical instruments—and also a modern industry as well as an skier (of which he also made a larger version, with welded iron plates, which has been in the exhibition Los Orensanz de Orensanz).
His Monumento a Joaquín Costa (Monument to Joaquín Costa) in his native city of Monzón is also colossal: in this case the homage to Gargallo’s largest and most well known sculpture is even more evident, since the celebrated deputy raises his arms like a prophet preaching. This imagery is not typical in any picture of Costa, but is very appropriate for the staging of the “Grito del Agua”, when every September 14th social groups of all kinds gather before the monument in homage to the great apostle of regeneration and irrigation. His strange gesticulating figure in plates of enameled steel presides over the Avenue of Lérida from a podium of coffered concrete, before some pillars, also of concrete, which serve as a visual backdrop on the other side of the fountain.
Once again then, a very stage-like composition in two parts, like in the monuments to Tío Jorge and the Jota, although the style here is already very different, much more abstract than figurative, since it is of much later date, for it was inaugurated by the local authorities on September 21, 1978, as is stated on the identifying plaque. This same plaque alludes to the financing of the work by CAMPZAR, a savings entity which a few years later would place works by Ángel Orensanz in front of their Saragossa headquarters.