Dispatch from the Field: Singular Spaces, Volume 2
Midway through my extended trip to Spain documenting additional art environments in preparation for the second volume of my Singular Spaces book, I remain astonished by the amazing artists in this country and the range of their unique works. So far this season I have traveled down the east coast of Spain and also journeyed to the north and west, and by this writing I have visited 26 “new” sites (that is, new to me) and has also revisited several that I had documented in earlier years. The sites, ranging in scale, medium, aesthetic, and technique, include architectural fantasies, monumental stone and wood sculpture, paintings that cover every surface within the home, concrete menageries, prolific inscriptions, and more.
Two of the architectural marvels that I visited this month include the Centinela tower by Santiago Nava and the complex of innovative works by Carlos Salazár Gutiérrez (known as Salaguti), both of which are currently in process in central Spain. Both artists are smart, thoughtful, and innovative in their works. Nava, however, who is building in a small city, has faced repeated problems with the municipal authorities, and has even had to tear out a portion of the upper levels of his construction in order to comply with mandated demands. In contrast, Salaguti, working in the country in the middle of vacant or agricultural lands, has been able to work in relative peace.
Nava’s five-story monolith fits snugly into the triangular intersection formed by two diagonal streets, towering over the smaller buildings on both sides. It is being constructed of fine stone, marble, concrete, copper, ceramic bricks and untold different species of wood, creating the impression of an imposing yet almost fairytale fortress. At the very top of the structure, steel walkways connect the points of the corners, with elaborate finials of eagles, angels, and figures, each attached in such a way that they can be swiveled to catch the sun.
The top level of the interior reveals an intricate and sophisticated masterpiece of wood joinery, with “floating” stairs leading to the rooftop terrace.
Nava’s windows are particularly of interest: each has a completely different shape, and each requires a distinct treatment on the interior to allow them to actually open. This one is in the shape of an eagle, often used to represent the Spanish state:
In contrast to Nava’s rectilinear geometries, Salaguti’s work – both his discrete paintings and sculptures and the buildings he is constructing – focus more on organic and curvilinear forms. His studio, the exterior façade of which includes a self-portrait of himself, looks out over the low hills of Castilla León. Within the cupula is an exhibition of his discrete works.
While the visible architectural elements have been in place for over twenty years, he continues working inside, most recently in a subterranean basement area:
Salaguti is constantly sketching, designing, and building, dreaming of additional structures and ways to explore innovative aesthetic treatments on both interior and exterior, reflecting his visions of how humankind interacts with all natural elements in the cosmos.
This fieldwork has been both extremely fruitful and extremely gratifying so far – I have met smart, creative people who, on their own, without help or academic training, are changing their own spaces in ways that none of us have yet experienced. Stay tuned for my next report on some of Spain’s other “new” sites!
Jo Farb Hernández
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