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Our plan was bold because we had never made a video before. Besides, an autumn wind was blowing head-on, making our pulse (and voice) tremble.
It was also difficult to talk to the smart phone camera in the same way we did to our private tour clients.
Yet, it was a nice experience.
Especially in the Juan Carlos I Park, a prodigy of urban development. Here, converge sustainable nature and abstract art. The Park overlooks Ifema Madrid, a leading trade fair company, operating its own exhibition grounds.
Juan Carlos I Park. The Path of the Sculptures
Once upon a time, there was a huge degraded olive grove, years ago an old, noble property, abandoned to a sad fate. There, between 1980 and 1990, Ifema Madrid and the Juan Carlos I Park were born.
A large part of the olive grove ”was resurrected” and integrated into the new Park.
The architects, Mr. José Luis Esteban Penelas and Mr. Emilio Esteras Martín, created an innovative circular space to which they incorporated.
– the olive grove
– various trees areas.
– different water flows
– pleasant walk paths
– facilities for sports activities,
– an amphitheater
– and sculpture art masterpieces scattered throughout the whole park.
Nothing like this has ever been done in Spain.
29 years later, the transplanted trees of Juan Carlos I Park generate shade. More and more visitors enjoy its recreational options. Also, when its amphitheater opens again, it will attract a large audience, as in the past. In fact, the park’s amphitheater is the best place to attend in the city music concerts under the stars.
The year 1991 Madrid City Council commissioned 11 world-famous sculpture artists, macro- abstract art sculptures. These masterpieces would ornate the new Juan Carlos I Park. The sculptors themselves and the 2 architects would agree to their respective locations.
All sculptors testified afterward that their stay in Madrid was unforgettable. They strengthen personal ties and enjoy Madrid’s hospitality.
In 2020, the sculptures in Juan Carlos I Park are in good health, as we were able to see while filming our video.
Juan Carlos I Park offers today the most important exhibition of Open Air Art in Spain’s capital
To better understand a work of art it is convenient to know essential data about its creator. For example, the roar that a deaf Goya imagined, witnessing the Napoleonic massacres. He reflected it unsurpassable in ‘’The Ride of the Mamelukes’’ and the ‘’Executions of May 3rd’’. Or the different versions of Picasso’s Guernica. As soon as you delve into the artist’s life, you will discover some circumstances that affected the painting’s creative process.
So, let us walk through the Path of the Sculptures in the Juan Carlos I Park . I would like to share with you some essential information about some famous sculpture artists and their artworks.
The Song of the Crossroads. Leopoldo Maler 1991. Sculpture nº 11
Located in one of the several artificial mounds in the park. From a distance, it resembles a Mayan pyramid. We reach the top by climbing a narrow staircase that fills us with some somber emotions. The word ”NOS” stands on a large weathering steel base. It symbolizes, in our opinion, an immanent authority that rises above us. Below, there is a sinister rectangular alley. It seems to be a kind of reservoir for condemned souls. Please note that I base my assumptions on freedom. In fact, abstract art allows us to judge it according to its impact on us.
Leopoldo Maler ( Buenos Aires, 1937 – )
Don Leopoldo has found, like Gauguin in the Marquesas Islands, his own, private refuge. Far from the worldly noise and the vanities of the artistic environment. He lives in Altos de Chavón, a small village in Santo Domingo that is, at the same time, an important artistic center. Don Leopoldo defines himself as a self-taught and multidisciplinary artist. His trajectory is quite interesting. At the age of 24 he was a BBC announcer. He stayed for 17 years in London. He studied theater direction at the Royal Shakespeare Company. At the age of 27, his first short film won a prize at the London Film Festival. He made more movies in Argentina. He specialized on direction of theatrical performances where he combined: dance, photography and radio.
Mr. Maler created choreographies with actors, hydraulic machinery, slide projections, films, plastic arts, smoke and balloons. He presented installations and performances, too. In short, no form of artistic expression has been left out by his talent. Yet, Don Leopoldo defines his life ”as one single mistake”. Any young artist would like to have a life, for sure, as mistaken as illustrious abstract sculptor Don Leopoldo Maler.
Eolos. Paul Van Hoeydonck. 1991. Sculpture Nº 15
Bronze pieces of ship’s scrapping, varnished with Zapon lacquer.
Sculptural – aquatic set of a family of 4 bronze robots, anchored to the bottom of the park’s estuary. The propellers on the heads of each robot symbolize the legacy of Aeolus, the God of Wind. But they don’t move. A sign of timelessness? We’d better stop wondering. Some interpret Aeolus as a symbol of generational continuity and an allegory of life. What a poor family of robots, anchored in the estuary, so lonely. Do they represent another futuristic threat from Mr. Paul Van Hoeydonck ? Do they belong to the entities that will replace us, humans? Thinking about it, instead of pity for the robots, I panic !
Paul Van Hoeydonck ( Antwerp, 1925 – ) takes care of his image with care. He always dresses up like a dandy. He graduated in art history and archaeology. But, his most relevant works are not based on the past, but on the future. He likes to analyze the synergies between human beings and new technologies. He defines himself as an ”archaeologist of the future”. In 1970, the crew of Apollo 15 placed his mini-sculpture ”The Fallen Astronaut” on the moon. Next to a plaque with the names of the American and Russian astronauts who died in the line of duty. At the age of 93, Mr. Paul Van Heydonck met again with his Aeolus, which was already put in the place he had assigned to it. 27 years ago, the artist agreed with the architects on the location of his sculpture. But the estuary was still unmade. At 95 years old, this ”archaeologist of the future”, works 10 hours a day. Undeniable proof that work keeps one young. May God keep him many more years. Let’s say goodbye to him with his ”Accident in Space”.
Space Mexico. Andrés Casillas and Margarita García Cornejo. 1992. Sculpture Nº 12
Red wheel with 12 concrete pieces and 8 m. diameter.
It is one of the most impressive sculptures in the park. Evocation of the pyramids where Mayans, Toltecs and Aztecs sacrificed their victims. Some authors say (others deny it), to venerate the gods or to implore their protection. Other interpretations refer to the sun, which the Mayans associated with a source of life. Possibly, the hoop of the Mayan ball game, or even the Aztec calendar. Anyway, the landscape around differs from the one of Tenochtitlan. But it helps to, optically, increase the size of the sculpture.
Andrés Casillas. (Mexico City 1934 – )
He was not given to explaining his work. Even so, one can appreciate his efforts to relate the interior space with the environment.
His artistic preparation is impressive. Graduated in architecture at UNAM and at the Superior School of Design in Ulm. He participated in the urban planning of Esfahan. And collaborated in the workshop of the prestigious Milanese architects Mangiarotti and Morassutti.
In his country, don Andrés Casillas is the great living genius of Mexican architecture. A humble genius, who marks his architecture ”by day-to-day life”.
Margarita García Cornejo and Santana
We have been unable to gather much reliable information about Doña Margarita. We liked her essay about ”Mexico City in 500 years of History”. On this publication doña Margarita, describes accurately the evolution of Mexico City. A metropolis that struggles from birth between destruction and resurrection.
Physicromy for Madrid. Carlos Cruz Díez. 1991. Sculpture Nº 5
Enormous ”metal track” of changing colors and curved elements. At one end, it appears almost to float in the air while, at the other, it rests on the floor. The sculpture generates admirable optical and chromatic effects. It summarizes ”the instability of the real” that the artist advocated during most of his life.
Carlos Cruz Diez (Caracas, 1923 – Paris, 2019)
He lived and worked in Paris since 1960. He was one of the leaders of the ”Op Art”, which promulgated that works of art originate movement. The colors of his installations, sculptures and paintings, produced changing physical states. From stillness to displacement.
Mr. Carlos Cruz Diez had a long life. He was a master of metamorphosis through colors. The Inspiration came to him at an early age. His father had a bottle factory. The reflection of light on the glass revealed him, his future artistic career.
2 reflections by Don Carlos Cruz Diez ( r.i.p..)
“There exists in the collective unconscious the idea that art is a painting hung in a museum, but art is life”.
“I won a place in the world of arts, thanks to working in a context of full freedom. And freedom is only achieved in a democracy. A freedom without prejudice or dogma”.
Homage to Agustín Rodríguez Sahagún. Toshimitsu Imai. 1991. Sculpture Nº 16
An installation that symbolizes the eternal and spiritual, as Japanese gardens ( ”Gogan-Ishigumi ). Two separate groupings of rocks covered with gold leaf rest like islands in the water.
The oldest Japanese gardening manual, called the creation of gardens “ishi wo taten koto” = to erect stones.
The arrangement of the stones is one of the most important elements in creating a Japanese garden – zen. The reduced colors and the scarce vegetation give rest to the eyes and calm to the mind.
Mr. Toshimitsu Imai had the courtesy to dedicate this installation to Mr. Agustín Rodríguez Sahagún, Madrid’s mayor. Under his mandate started the construction of the Juan Carlos I Park.
Toshimitsu Imai ( Kyoto, 1928 – 2002 )
He cemented his fame with monumental abstract paintings. A mixture of thick fillings and ink lines that slid down the canvas, in Morris Louis manner. Chaotic compositions, ”like life itself”.
Mr. Toshimitsu Imai inspiration came from :
– The medieval history of his country.
– Zen ( which is the case of the installation in our park).
In France, he became a respected member of Informalism. This classification, conceived by the critic Michel Tapié, unified all kinds of abstract painting.
Homage to Galileo Galilei. Amadeo Gabino Úbeda. 1991. Sculpture Nº 8
A sculpture of weathering steel, constructivist type, of Mr. Amadeo Gabino. Located in a zone of the park (viewpoint prow, on the estuary) that reflects its silhouette in the water. Depending on the hour, the solar light rests, with diverse tonalities, on the monument.
This sculpture of Don Amadeo Gabino composes a rare amalgam of poetry and metal. The sinuous and sensual forms of the work soften the weathering steel-cut.
At first sight, you can see 3 totemic blocks, solid and coriaceous. But, walking around them, their dynamism and versatility come out. Another successful example of the spirit that inspires the park’s open-air art exhibition. To combine abstract art sculpture with sustainable nature. ( On this occasion, under Galileo’s protection).
Amadeo Gabino Úbeda. (Valencia, 1922 – 2004)
The artistic career of this brilliant abstract sculptor has nothing to envy to that of his park colleagues.
He was a prophet in his own land, Valencia. In 1980 the city awarded him the national prize for Industrial Design. He also received in 1998 the Alfons Roig prize. The IVAM tributed him a great retrospective, in the first year of the 21st century.
He represented Spain at the Ibero-American Biennial in Havana (1953), the Alexandria Biennial (1954), the Venice Biennial (1956 and 1966), the New York World’s Fair (1964), and the Schwäbisch Hall International Sculpture Competition (1987).
Mr. Gabino Úbeda, passed away 1 day before he would become an academic at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts.
Manolona Opus 397. Miguel Berrocal. 1991. Sculpture Nº 3
Installation of 8 thick steel ringed pillars painted in ”light green”.
Things I imagined looking at Manolona:
– A voluptuous sculptural set, or
– An abstract family of Botero, or
– A conglomerate of exhibitionist curves, or
– The Saraghina of Fellini’s 8 ½ practicing yoga.
All this and much more, floating with miraculous lightness on a shiny carpet of grass. Pitiful, though, are the stains of dirt on the wonderful sinuosities of the rings.
Miguel Ortiz Berrocal ( Villanueva de Algaidas 1933 – 2006 )
He began by studying mathematics and chemistry. Then, he moved on to architecture. And from there, to sculptural art.
At the age of 33, Mr. Miguel Berrocal won the first prize for sculpture at the Paris Youth Biennial in 1966.
The claustrophobic artistic environment of Franco’s Spain did not disturb the entrepreneurial and independent character of Don Miguel. He decided to organize and promote his own exhibitions. He also designed the corresponding catalogs. Soon after, he opened his own printing workshop. He made it available to many European artists.
Don Miguel Berrocal was a master in creating sculptures through the interlocking of various elements. The mastery of this artistic assembly technique opened don Miguel the doors to a well-deserved success.
Monument to Peace . Yolanda Lins D’Augsburg Rodrigues. 1992. Sculpture Nº 18
This abstract monument, 2 meters high and 9.50 meters wide, has a very concrete and willful message: Peace in the Middle East. Such was the laudable commitment of the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991. The agreements reached did not prosper. Though, the monument remains standing and firm. It extolls the mediation of Spain in the peace negotiations between Israel and the main Arab countries that participated in the Gulf War. Mrs. Yolanda d’Augsburg represents Spain through an imposing mass of weathering steel. 2 stainless steel rings (the contenders who negotiate peace) embrace Spain. Knowing this information beforehand, the monument to peace makes sense. And it looks a lot like the message of peace that Ms. Yolanda D’Augsburg gave to her work.
Yolanda Lins D’Augsburg Rodrigues (Rio de Janeiro. 1942 – )
Countess Yolanda Lins D’Augsburg and Ulm, such is her noble title, is a designer, painter, and sculptor. Graduated in Rome in Etruscan Art and in Art History in Madrid. She completed her artistic studies at the Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. She started in sculpture art with the famous Italian sculptor Giacomo Manzù.
The sculptural work of the illustrious Countess D’Augsburg characterizes by voluminous circular forms, affectionate sensations, and good vibes. Some of her paintings are reminiscent of Joan Miró. Others, of a Monet on the road to abstraction. In several, she uses a judicious choice of colors to make nostalgic winks at her native country.
My Sky Hole. Bukichi Inoue. 1991. Sculpture Nº 14
In 1979, Mr. Bukichi Inoue presented his first of 2 ”My Sky Hole” that adorn the outdoor museum of the beautiful city of Hakone in Japan. Two more ”My Sky Hole” followed in Hiroshima, one in Tsu/ Mie, the smallest prefectural capital of Japan, one in Tokyo, another in the Gori Sculpture Park of the charming village of Celle-Italy, one more in Itami, province of Hyogo and the last one, in the Juan Carlos I Park of the capital of Spain.
The name “My Sky Hole” was an idea of an American friend of the sculptor. Mr. Inoue created a series of works of the same name, using metal and stone. Most of the ”My Sky Holes” have the shape of spheres that stick out from the ground, like the one in the Juan Carlos I Park. Their surface reflects the surrounding landscape and the sky. Don Bukichi Inoue created a kind of concave mirror in which the viewer saw the immensity of the world and nature. The 4 cypresses that frame the reflective cap are a tribute to the cypresses of Nara’s Todai-ji temple, which is the largest wooden construction in the world.
Bukichi Inoue (Morou-Nara, 1930 – 1997)
Mr. Bukichi Inoue was a cross-border artist who was one of the first to tackle three-dimensional metal modeling. Mr. Inoue testified that his first ”My Sky Hole” symbolized” a person’s desire to escape a chaotic and incomprehensible world”. Escape where to ? To my personal utopia, stated Mr. Inoue. And added, ”My Sky Hole” is my search of ”a sky where I could live,” ”a space where I could feel the universe” and at the same time, ”a hole where I could hide”.
Mr. Inoue finally found his hideout. A very “suigéneris” one. Not in space, but in ”Road” and ”Labyrinth” which were his last exhibitions. In them, the artist expressed his last Zen reflection : “A labyrinth in the void in which one is a nothing. Without thinking anything, a fullness of nothing. Then, that labyrinth and that person appear as makers of nothing. One nothing that repels the other. The labyrinth and the person are already nothingness”.
Mr. Bukichi Inoue passed away in Yokohama, from an acute myocardial infarction on September 26, 1997.
Blue Passage. Alexandru Arghira. 1991. Sculpture Nº 7
Architectural sculpture. A beautiful metaphor about nature, the passage of time, and the inevitable deterioration of human creations. To mitigate a possible sense of distress in the viewer, Mr. Arghira discards the ascetic severity of the straight line. He draws instead 3 paths of faint sinuosities, separated by a narrow blue passage. This way, viewers aren’t confronted with symbols of decline. But rather with a path of ups and downs, as our life and works get ravaged by the action of time and nature.
Alexandru Arghira Calinescu (Bucharest. 1935 – )
The personality of Master Alexandru Arghira Calinescu is of a subjugating nature. His phrases, simple and accurate, define the wisdom of the Romanian sculptor. He perfectioned his skills in Paris and Mannheim (Germany). He is an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid. His work of art establishes a direct relationship with the environment. Mr. Arghira himself explains it better:
”Sculpture should make sense. Sculptures should be in a public space. This is how it should be”.
There are, let’s say, two ways of conceiving a sculpture. One, in which the material suggests what you should do. Let’s say, you have a rock that has a certain shape. You give it a hammer blow, you make the eyes, a mouth, and it came out, I don’t know what … Then the material dictates what you have to do. Whether it’s wood, whether it’s stone, matters a lot. The material emphasizes the idea, one thing is to do a work in wood and another in stone. They are two different things.
The other option is the preconceived one. When I come with a sketch, in which I go and choose my material according to what I want and give it dimensions. I cut it to size. The rest is up to me.
“In Blue Passage I combined several materials. And I added the blue color. I don’t know why, I like blue so much…
Beam. Jorge Du Bon. 1991. Sculpture Nº 7
Monumental architectural sculpture on the only natural hill in the park. 3 diagonal elements, positioned from highest to lowest. In each one, a pair of rectangular concrete triangles hold immense, flying weathering steel beams. The geometry predominates in the compositional set. The sculpture’s elevated position, confirm an harmonious assembly between art and sustainable nature. That, without a doubt, is the predominant character of the Juan Carlos I Park.
Jorge Du Bon ( Chiapas. 1938 – 2004 )
Don Jorge Du Bon was an artist who, from the beginning of his career, moved away from the official line of the Mexican government. The PRI leaders, demanded that young artists develop a type of abstract art sculpture in yellow colors. Formalism was not welcome at that time. Yet, don Jorge became known with a series of formalist ”mini-sculptures”. Pretty soon, he became a master of formalist techniques.
Mr. Du Bon was a three-time Guggenheim Foundation scholar. He won the first prize in the International Architecture Competition of the Sinaloa Cultural Center. Afterward, the Grand Prize for Sculpture in Middelheim. He got as well, honor mentions in the Biennial of Contemporary Mexican Sculpture and the Paris Biennial. He was also a guest artist at the New York School of Visual Arts.
As can be immediately seen in Beam, Mr. Jorge Du Bon gave importance to geometry. And to harmonize his sculptures with their surroundings. His career began with the creation of mini-sculptures and finished with monumental architectural art masterpieces. All, of amazing design that stood out in the landscape, but without violating it.
No Name. Dani Karavan. (Gateway to the Olive Trees). Sculpture Nº 10
3 wide and stylized rectangular broken porticos point out the entrance to the olive trees field. The three, arranged in the form of a scalene triangle, with the axes pointing N-S and E-W, alluding to 6 signs of the zodiac. The section of stairs is for children to play on. A gift to the little ones that Mr. Karavan like to add to his monuments.
Dani Karavan. (Tel-Aviv-Yafo.1930)
This prestigious nonagenarian sculptor is a strong advocate of peace agreements with Palestine. He has always rejected proposals to make sculptures in Israel’s settlements. Israeli politicians, whatever their sign, respect his coherence and integrity.
Don Dani Karavan, when explaining his creative process, says that he always “listens to the place”, and then decides what to do. His sculptures are all over the world. From France to Japan, from Tel Aviv to Berlin. Also in Madrid.
Mr. Karavan defines himself as a man who “makes places talk” and listen to them, before he carries out his work.
His sculptural monuments at the entrance to the olive grove in the park is an example of his work in public spaces. “To relate to the environment, to create a special atmosphere, but without showing off”.
The formal vocabulary of his works is recognizable from the distance. Precise proportions, well-calculated location of the engineering bodies, axes, and latitudes. The peace that emanates from the chosen material, the white glow of his monument in the park…
In most of Dani Karawan’s works, there is a place for children to play. He would be happy to know that children enjoy going up and down the stairs of his ”No Name” sculpture set.