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Monday, December 05, 2011

Three-Toed Smoth

The elephant looms large in the lives and minds of children. After all, children do naturally gravitate to the big, and what suits that better the world's largest living land animal? Here, at Union Square, we have Gran Elefandret by renowned artist Miquel Barceló.* I'm sure many a child and parent have been enjoying Barcelo's 26-foot sculpture.

Marlborough Gallery is pleased to announce that the monumental sculpture Gran Elefandret, 2008, by renowned artist Miquel Barceló will be on view at the Union Square Triangle beginning September 13, 2011 through the end of May 2012. It is with great pleasure
that the Gallery brings this monumental bronze sculpture to Union Square, a place that epitomizes New York’s unrivaled energy and serves as both a transportation and cultural bridge between uptown and downtown Manhattan. Barcelo’s immense Gran Elefandret, balances upright on its trunk, its four massive legs outspread searching for equilibrium. At twenty-six feet tall the sculpture brilliantly portrays an extraordinary, if not impossible physical and cultural feat; this contemporary monument believably captures with humor, scale and Spanish courage the essence of what a public monument can be today.

To further communicate the gravity-defying feat beyond the surprisingly slim trunk and large body, Barceló imparts the mass and weight of the creature through the downward sag of the heavily wrinkled skin, the off-kilter positioning of the huge legs, and the complete overturning of the floppy ears. The highly textured surface of the elephant recalls the artist’s tactile paintings, in which he creates rich topographic, sculpted surfaces on canvas.

I never had children, but I do love them. Not having them, many things are a novelty to me, like the spongelike absorption often found when children are exposed to new things. One of my most memorable examples of this behavior was subsequent to a class trip made to my business - see Little Burnt Out.

I once made an acquaintance of a very learned and educated couple whose children had a frightening knowledge of things that I, as a child, barely had a cursory knowledge of. I recall going through a book of dinosaurs with one of their children, who was able to identify every one by name. At the time, I had read an article on the three-toed sloth and was fascinated by many of the facts surrounding this remarkable animal, such as its odorless nature and the extraordinary length of time it actually requires to make a journey down a tree, truly befitting its name being used as a metaphor for the slow.

As the child attempted to elaborate on her knowledge of dinosaurs, I endeavored to communicate my newfound enthusiasm for the sloth. She appeared uninterested; I was not making an impression. Or so I thought.

Some weeks later, a friend was on the phone with the mother of the child. At one point, she told me that someone had something to tell me. When I took the phone, the young girl whom I had met was on the other end. I don't recall the conversation exactly, except that she was quite intent on telling me of her new found interest in the Three-Toed Smoth :)

*Miquel Barceló was born in Mallorca in 1957. After studying briefly at the Arts and Crafts School of Palma and the Fine Arts School of Barcelona, he became involved with the conceptualist group Taller Llunátic, which opposed the stagnation of both the socio-political climate of Spain during the late 1970’s and the “official” art scene. Originally focusing on painting, Barceló worked at first in a non- representational style, influenced by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Cy Twombly. As his career progressed, he began to integrate figurative elements in his paintings, and started creating sculptures in both ceramics and bronze. The artist collaborates with the Fundación Vicente Ferrer and the Eyes of the World Foundation and participates in projects for Sahrawi refugee camps. He divides his time between Paris, Mallorca, and Mali.

Related Posts: Kids, Childhood's End, Bronx Zoo


Anonymous said...

I've met this nice elephant during my journey in Barcelona two years ago..
And now I'm going to meet it again in NY on April.

Sometimes our world is very little :)

mouse said...

oh i haaaaate this sculpture. i walk by it every day and it just looks gross.

Boye By Red said...

When i saw your post and the elephant, i was reminded of the wonderful Louise Bourgeois and her big spider Maman. Not planning on visiting NY, but would love to see the sculpture.

Mary P. said...

Apropos of nothing, have you met Katie Balloons yet? You should. I met her Sunday night when she barged into Limerick's. She's a very original performer, and SO energetic!

(This elephant annoys me, too!! I drive next to every day. I was hoping it was papier mache! Now I know it's bronze, I won't ride in the lane next to it!!!)

Leslie said...

I think this elephant is silly and delightful. When I first saw it a few weeks ago I was very amused by the idea of balancing such a large and heavy creature on such a thin instrument. It's just playful art, and fun it is!! Who knows, it might provide a bit of 'levity' to patients coming out of the medical clinic across the street. Whodathunk Union Sq would get such a gift?