In the Steps of Gargallo: Figurative Monuments in Metal Sculpture

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.

sculpture - Angel Orensanz

Monumento a la Jacetania. Ángel Orensanz. Monumental sculpture. 1969.

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.

sculpture - Angel Orensanz

“Monumenta a la Jota” – Angel Orensanz. Sculpture. 1970. Spain.

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,

sculpture - Angel Orensanz - Pablo Gargallo

“The Great Prophet.” 1933 (bronze) – Pablo Gargallo. Sculpture.

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.

sculpture - Angel Orensanz

“Monumento a la Jacetania.” Sculpture. Angel Orensanz.

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).

sculpture - Angel Orensanz

“Monumento a Joaquín.” Costa Monzón, Huesca, Spain. Angel Orensanz. Sculpture. 1978.

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.

Banksy Street Art: The End of an Era

The End of an Era: A month of Banksy Street Art in New York

by: Zoe V. SpeasThe Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

Banksy Street Art residence in New York City - from October 27 in Greenpoint.

Banksy street art residence in New York City – from October 27 in Greenpoint.

October has been a busy month in the art world. We had a government shutdown, a Banksy street art residence, and consequent reactions ranging from outrage to a revitalization of  the question of defining art.

It all ties together, really, and that’s what I wanted to talk about before Halloween hits us full-force tonight and it’s November before we know it or remember how it came upon us so quickly.

banksy street art

The shutdown. Remember when that happened?

(Hey.  Remember when THIS happened?)

The first piece I wrote for the Angel Orensanz Foundation was a discussion about the definition of art, creatively entitled, “What is Art?” I scratched it out in a pitifully banged-up notebook during the long train ride from Richmond, VA to Penn Station, NYC.

I talked about how art is fundamentally dramatic—there are countless full-length theatrical dramas and comedies featuring characters that are artists or connoisseurs of art because of this quality. Whatever definition you assign to art, I believe it must allow for the drama and the conflict that is created by putting brush to canvas, hands to clay, etc. We thrive off of this drama, we need it, and we live for it because it illustrates the constant questions that percolate beneath the surface in us from day to day.

banksy street art - angel orensanz

Tahir Square. Angel Orensanz. Politics in art.

Too bad our society isn’t crafted to allow for the necessity of art.

In fact, we spend a lot of effort and money marginalizing art into something to do with leisure or entertainment. But there’s a difference—a monstrosity of a difference—between leisure/entertainment and art. Leaving the theatre after a production of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal or Shakespeare’s Richard III, I’m certainly not at my leisure. Entertained? More like slapped in the face by humanity.

By the way, those productions I just listed? Totally playing right now in NYC. Check them out. You’re welcome.

So, of course, when the government shut down for the first time in seventeen years, what’s the first thing to be cut from funding?

banksy street art

Always the first thing to go: shutting down the museums, shutting down the government.

The National Endowment for the Arts. In other words, the museums—the culture hubs, the “non-essentials.”

And in the middle of that conflict, Banksy comes to New York City for a self-curated artist’s residence and stirs the pot for us.

Banksy - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts - New York City

Banksy street art at Yankee Stadium. October 30, 2013.

Banksy’s street art residency is called “Better Out Than In: an Artist’s Residency on the Streets of New York”, and beneath the stencil-outline header, a quote from Paul Cézanne triumphs the mission statement of the work.

All pictures painted inside, in the studio, will never be as good as those done outside.

I’ll say that perhaps the “outside” to which Cézanne referred might be of a slightly different context than the interpretation apparent in the Banksy street art, but in terms of impact? Banksy’s been spot-on.

banksy street art

“Better Out Than In” – Bansky street art residence in NYC. October 2013.

All of a sudden art—regardless of how you define it—emerges as a buzzword, a hot topic, the spark that ignites a city of people, young and old, desperate for a cause to impassion them enough to speak out.

It’s impassioned me, anyway.

I’ve spoken to gallery owners, artists, event planners, businessmen, and students about Banksy street art in New York this past month and I encountered no one who had nothing to say, no comment to add. In fact, the topic has served as a jumping-off point to larger issues of politics and society and the boundaries that divide generation from generation.

For myself, I have always been loath to discuss political leanings with friends and acquaintances—the ensuing arguments inevitably evolve into a loop of misunderstanding and personal affront. I prefer to stay within the realm of art and theatre where I feel comfortable arguing my beliefs—and yes, maybe that makes me a coward, being afraid of engaging in a dispute for fear of defeat or humiliation.

banksy street art

Banksy’s Greenpoint portrait being painted over by a masked woman. Which is the graffiti – the Banksy street art or the silver paint obscuring it?

Graffiti does ruin people’s property and it’s a sign of decay and loss of control,” the mayor said, “Art is art, and nobody’s a bigger supporter of the arts than I am–you running up to somebody’s property or public property and defacing it is not my definition of art. Or it may be art, but it should not be permitted.” 

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, October 2013.

And yet, this October, I found myself spewing fire over the contradictions arising between vandalism and art, between art as a necessity and our unhesitating cessation of its funding when goings get tough, between the opinions of the Mayor of New York and the arts community of his city.

Banksy’s residence brought me to a single, perhaps obvious conclusion:

If I argued before that art is fundamentally dramatic, then it also must be deeply political.

I’m going to risk sounding like a college sophomore writing a term paper and quote the dictionary at you here—a definition of the word political“relating to relationships of power between people in an organization; to affairs of the state or government.”

Relationships of power between people. Yup. Sounds about right.

Art becomes the venue through which people can argue rights of individualism and power upon a level playing field. There are no mayors, governors, nor presidents: only personal expression and paintbrushes. And regardless of what you think of the Banksy street art and its artistic merits, his residence challenges us to question our relationship to one another, to our government, and to the city walls that house and protect us. 

Call it graffiti or call it art.

It was swift, it was dramatic, and it defined the month of October for me and countless other New Yorkers. Happy Holidays, everyone.

Angel Orensanz for Art Palm Beach 2014

The Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts and Contemporary Art Gallery Returns to Art Palm Beach 2014

Zoe V. Speas; The Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

 

The Angel Orensanz Gallery and Museum is pleased to announce its participation in Art Palm Beach, January 23-27, 2014.

Art Palm Beach 2014

Artist Angel Orensanz exhibits permanently at the former “Norfolk Street Synagogue”, home to the Orensanz Museum and Gallery. Orensanz will attend the Art Palm Beach 2014 fair.

The Gallery will present The Collective Unconscious, a series of dramatic new sculptures and paintings by Spanish artist Angel Orensanz. Orensanz has been exhibiting internationally since the 1960s and has a permanent exhibit at the Orensanz Foundation, located inside the former “Norfolk Street Synagogue” in New York City’s Lower East Side.

Burning Bronzes

Art Palm Beach 2014, Angel Orensanz, Burning Bronzes

From the Burning Bronzes episode of the Collective Unconscious series, which Angel Orensanz will present at the Art Palm Beach 2014 fair.

Burning Bronzes, a series of miniature-to-middle scale sculptures, speaks to the artist’s journey from Earth and Land Art into his current medium.

Working with the bronze and stoneware, according to Orensanz, “brings me into closer communion with the earth through my art.”

The sculptures on display will represent a continuation of the artist’s study of the human form and its manipulation, while paying homage to a tradition of indigenous art from around the world.

Bodies

Bodies - Angel Orensanz - Art Palm Beach 2014

From the ‘Bodies‘ series by Angel Orensanz – an exploration of the human figure continues this winter at Art Palm Beach 2014.

Bodies consists of an incredibly diverse sequence of drawings in charcoal, graphite, ink, and, occasionally, coffee grounds. Angel Orensanz explores human anatomy through a highly vibrant mix of line weight and texture.

Angel Orensanz - Art Palm Beach 2014 - Sculpture

1961. Dinosaurio. Unknown location. Angel Orensanz.

The figures he depicts contort and bend in an expression ranging from agony to ecstasy.

Orensanz began his training in the 1950s at L’Ecole Superieure des Beaux Arts in Paris with in-depth, literal study of the human body. Over the decades, his use of “body” and “form” has become an abstraction and a metaphor for the human condition and for the current project, Collective Unconscious.

 

The Language of Fire

Language of Fire - Angel Orensanz - Art Palm Beach 2014.

Angel Orensanz presents the Language of Fire as part of the upcoming Collective Unconscious exhibit for Art Palm Beach 2014.

Language of Fire bridges the worlds of painting, sculpture, and photography. Through his use of fire, plastics, and vivid color, Angel Orensanz illustrates the universal language of creativity, which defies boundaries of nationality and race. The artist employs a range of scale and perspective in these living photographs, verging almost into the realm of optical illusion. The images are often reflections and, being taken from the artist’s perspective, the shadow of Angel Orensanz’s figure may often be found within the complex layers of each portrait.

A comprehensive catalog with accompanying essays will be produced for the purpose of the artist’s participation in Art Palm Beach 2014.

 

For more information on Art Palm Beach 2014:

Media Inquiries: The Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts, 212.529.7194. foundation@orensanz.org

Fair Hours:  Preview – January 23rd 6:00-7:30pm; Collectors Invitational 7:30-10:00pm; January 24th-27th 12-7pm (6:00pm on the 27th).

Location: Palm Beach County Convention Center, 650 Okeechobee Boulevard, West Palm Beach, Florida 33401