Barcelò’s Traveling Elephant Sculpture Defies Gravity in Union Square

by , 09/14/11

Gran Elefandret; upside down elephant; elephant; green space; public park; green park; Miquel Barcelo; Barcelo; public art; sculpture; bronze sculpture; bronze; natural cycle; nature

Brought to NYC by the Marlborough Gallery in conjunction with the Union Square Partnership, the upside down elephant graciously balances on its trunk with its four legs outspread above its sagging skin. The Gran Elefandret, completed in 2008, is a continuation of the zoological themes found in much of Barcelò’s former work. In addition, the detail of the textured skin recalls the artists’ highly tactile, layered paintings, many of which take the form of sculptures on canvas. He draws inspiration from nature, from artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, and from his time in West Africa.

Born in Mallorca in 1957, Barcelò has been an active artist since the 1970s. He was a part of Taller Llunátic which voiced its socio-political opposition to the Spanish government during the 1970s and also pushed the boundaries of the established art world. Barcelò now collaborates with the Fundación Vicente Ferrer and the Eyes of the World Foundation and participates in projects for Sahrawi refugee camps. He has received international awards and commissions during his expansive career as an artist.

Like Barcelò’s paintings which experiment with the interaction between paint, time and natural elements such as seaweed and volcanic ash, the large elephant is left to the mercy of the its surroundings — pollution, rain and the public gaze. Union Square Partnership Executive Director Jennifer Falk reports that “with thousands of visitors daily, Union Square is one of the busiest public art galleries in the world, and our ‘Art in the Park’ program reaches new heights with the installation of Miquel Barceló’s monumental sculpture Gran Elefandret, in the park’s triangle; we are proud that Marlborough Gallery has chosen Union Square Park as the backdrop for this incredible feat of engineering. Gran Elefandret is a reflection of the energy in this neighborhood and we look forward to seeing visitors’ reactions to the sculpture as they create their own unique experience in Union Square.”

The Gran Elefandret will be on view until May 2012. With humor and unprecedented elegance, it demonstrates what a public monument can be.

+ Marlborough Gallery

All images © Amanda Silvana Coen for Inhabitat