Thursday, May 8, 2008

Manolo Valdez at the Civic Center

I remember seeing some of his paintings at the late Campbell-Thiebauld Gallery on Chestnut Street. Then, as now, he was Interpreting Velazquez's Las Meninas and the Infantes of 17th Century Spain. I don't know if he intended his paintings to reference the largely tragic lives of these little girls, unhealthy from birth due to centuries of inbreeding. If so, he didn't succeed - or at least - not in my opinion. The paintings worked better in reproduction than in reality for the ones that I saw were very crudely painted on burlap canvas. At the time, I thought that the crude presentation didn't work with the subject but since I only saw them once, this could be quite a superficial impression. In any case, we now have several huge bronze sculptures at the Civic Center; I understand that they have been nicknamed "The Cowbells," and I can see why. I see traces of cubist influence in the angled face of the first image but the others have these wild headdresses which expand and dissect the space around each piece. No 17th century Spanish Infante wore a wig like that but it's a marvelous and inventive device to add more visual interest to a rather stylized sculpture. I like the straightforward face of the woman in the middle whose wig reminded me of those worn by Ancient Egyptians.
They are fun and a nice addition to the rather bleak plaza. When I googled Valdez's name, I found pictures of these images from cities all over the world so we are part of a international show which extends from Helsinki to Barcelona and now, San Francisco.

SF Mike has a great write up at his blog (Civic Center) about the ribbon cutting ceremony, which was attended by a ton of local politicians. The day I went, the huge bulky sculptures were being "guarded" by a couple of SF's finest - to keep them from being stolen? If they want to prevent any tagging, the cops would have to be out after midnight and I'd hate to think of the overtime bill for that.

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