Tagged: concrete

The light of the many.


Untitled (5×5) (Sin Título [5x5]), 2006 by Alejandro Almanza Pereda at El Museo del Barrio. (Photo by C-M.)

Along with the rest of the world, I’ve spent the past week riveted by what’s happening in Egypt. Partially because both my parents come from countries where oppressive dictatorships have had their run of things. And partially because there is something exhilarating about watching people come together to say, Enough. Naturally, as today’s violent clashes showed, this will be no velvet revolution. Mubarak has run the country under an autocratic state-of-emergency fiat since he took office in 1981. Opposition members are routinely harassed, arrested and tortured. Mubarak, it appears, isn’t about to just slip quietly into the night.

All of these things were on my mind yesterday as I made my way around El Museo del Barrio‘s newly reorganized permanent collection galleries and came across the above piece by Alejandro Almanza Pereda: a row of light bulbs topped by a heavy concrete block. I’m not always a fan of his work (which can get grandiosely overwrought), but this piece seemed to speak to the protest zeitgeist.

Most interestingly, the museum has a program in which groups of local high school students develop the wall text that goes along with the works. Here is what Noel Vega, Rey Flores, Jordan Vega, Aaron Jones and Charmaine Sloan, from Emily N. Carey High, had to say about Pereda’s sculpture:

Alejandro described the light bulbs as the soul of the structure. Just like a building where columns hold up a structure, the bulbs are the columns and when lit it gives an allegory of stress and time. We feel that Alejandro’s pieces are very unique. They are interesting because of the way he sets up the heavy materials on top of lighter materials that anyone wouldn’t think would hold it up. The purpose of his work, we think, is to show that a single thing can’t hold up something heavy but if it’s in a group anything is possible.

Nicely done.

Pave the Planet: San Suzie reports on Alberto Burri’s land art installation in Sicily.


Yes, this is real. (Photos by San Suzie.)

If there’s one thing that abounds in Sicily – more than orange groves and vineyards – it’s concrete. True to stereotype, there are cement plants all over this Mafia-riddled island. And its once-beautiful capital, Palermo, is rife with hideous concrete buildings that hover next to Baroque palazzi. (These soulless structures are often constructed using pilfered funds intended to restore buildings bombed in WWII). Amid all of these mind-numbing edifices, we found what is considered the largest work of land art in Europe. And guess what? It’s made of the same poor-quality concrete as the buildings in Palermo.

Only here, it works. Titled Grande Cretto, by postwar Italian artist Alberto Burri, the piece commemorates the destruction of the Western Sicilian town of Gibellina in a catastrophic 1968 earthquake. In 1980, roughly twelve years after residents rebuilt their town 18 km away, Burri covered the hillside town’s streets and ruined buildings– an area roughly 900 x 1200 feet and about 5′ in height, with white concrete.  The streets look like the crackle pattern on Burri’s fabled paintings, only you can walk through these.  Or skate through them. (Not to give anyone any ideas.) But if you were to, no one would know: it’s in the middle of nowhere, a two hour drive from Palermo – and just a short stop from Castellammare del Golfo (birthplace of Joe Bonanno and Frank Stallone, Sr., father of Sly), where you can go for a swim at one of the pristine beaches at the nearby Zingaro nature preserve and then feast on a plate of pasta with sardines, pine nuts and raisins.

Find more information on Burri’s installation here.

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