Katrina Chairs

Arrechea’s homage to New Orleans in the Coachella Festival

/ 1 September, 2016

(…) Months before holding the Coachella Festival, Paul Clemente, its artistic director, had been in Havana and visited Cristina Vives, the author of the monographic book[1] on the artist published by Turner in Spain. Impressed by his work, particularly with the watercolors made after the Katrina disaster, Clemente visited Arrechea in his studio in New York and suggested him to materialize, in sculpture of large proportions, the watercolor A few days before Katrina to exhibit it in the Festival. The image reproduced two chairs facing each other supporting on their seats a horizontal building, whose ends rested on the chairs, as a bridge rising over the waters. After the usual technical consultations reported certain constructive problems, Clemente requested Arrechea to reformulate the piece and the building be supported by only one chair. The result leaves him enthusiastic and he asks the artist to replicate it. This is how the project Katrina Chairs comes to life, materialized in four chairs with their respective buildings.

(…) In the Coachella Valley, during the day, the enormous chairs gave refuge to the participants, who took shelter under their shadow before the inclemency of the sun; a functionality that, according to the artist, became one of its greater attractions. And in the night they shone brightly under a scenographic work of color lights that made possible that the chairs changed from yellow to blue, then to violet and later to pink, and in this way they became a substantial part of the show in the Festival. The audience wandered about among them, as the tiny characters of the Gulliver story, impressed on their surreal size, with a sensation mixing aesthetic enjoyment and satisfaction.

(…) Liberated from the contaminations and significant links its location on the urban space would have added, this enormous sculptural complex located in the Coachella Valley entrenched its contents per se. There were no reinterpretations of any architectonic referent, or winks at other artistic marks, only the evocation of an event that had taken place in a geographical space nearby. All the attention was centered in the idea that inspired this sort of symbiotic piece in minimal lines and Pop gigantism. Although many art critics hierarchize the sophistication of his production as to its ideo-aesthetic configuration, its materials and the way these materials are treated, it also highlights how it dimensions a physical, episodic, urban, cultural, subjective, social, global, domestic, geographical or contextual space. Katrina Chairs is a work dedicated to New Orleans which grew when locating next to the context inspiring its creation, although its architectonic aesthetics, appreciable in any city, induces to think on the ubiquity of this type of disaster. The Festival offered it a splendid stage, an abundant public and invested it with a festive tone, without losing its human and social intention at all, a meaning it will always have. It is a decisive contribution of this artist from a public art illustrating how architecture should be conceived according to the geophysical characteristics of a city for the shelter of its life.

 

[1] Vives, Cristina: El espacio inevitable. The inevitable space. Turner, Madrid, 2014.

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