Postcard from Valencia, Spain: Contemporary art transforms former convent

Soon after King James I of Aragon secured Valencia from Moorish rule in the 1200s, work began on the Royal Convent of Our Lady of Carmen. It and the adjacent Church of the Holy Cross are at the heart of the neighborhood referred to as Carmen, but, no matter that we frequently crossed the plaza in front of them, we never found the church doors unlocked.

Today, contemporary art exhibitions fill the interior of the former convent, with spacious galleries surrounding two large open-air patios of the Carmen Cultural Center.

Characterized by its explosive fireworks and papier-mache figures set ablaze at the end of the festival, Valencia’s Las Fallas seems a natural partner to get into the spirit of the Burning Man Festival in Nevada. In 2016, artists from Burning Man visited Valencia in the spring, and artist representatives of Las Fallas visited and contributed a major art installation to Burning Man in the summer. Instead of burning it, though, the Valencians returned with their “Renaissance” piece, and the openwork one-room “building” was displayed in the middle of one of the courtyards of the Carmen Cultural Center.

The cardboard structure of “Renaissance” echoes the architectural details of the windows of Valencia’s Silk Exchange, and the outer skin was decorated with faces made from molds of masks created years ago for Las Fallas. The mosaic flooring was composed of 25,000 pieces assembled by volunteers from the Torrent neighborhood in Valencia. The photos above of “Renaissance” in the desert setting of Burning Man are photos of photos from the exhibit. To see better and more interesting images from the cultural interchange, visit Pink Intruder.

While visiting the Carmen Cultural Center, the Mister spotted the clever W.C. sign for me. It was quite a welcome sighting, as the cross-legged figures captured my feelings perfectly.

Quinze’s “Wind” to blow on the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River

A month in the searing desert sun building a huge wooden structure.

A mere four days to enjoy it. Then setting it ablaze.

“It is not that easy to burn your own installation down,” said artist Arne Quinze during a June 2013 lecture sponsored by the San Antonio River Foundation at the San Antonio Museum of Art. “I still have goosebumps from it.” While an estimated 50,000 people witnessed the conflagration at the 2006 Burning Man Festival in Nevada, “The day after, nothing was left over.”

The Belgian artist’s first public art took the form of graffiti, but his work evolved into large-scale three-dimensional structures, often installed in urban settings, including Nice, Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, Brussels, Rouen and Beirut. Quinze views cities as “open-air museums,” with art teaching “you to look at the world in a different way.”

Many of his installations are temporal, although not as fleeting as the one in Nevada. His installations sometimes spark controversy, but, by the time they are removed, there are public protests. “When we take it down, the space is more empty than before,” he said. “It makes them realize the importance of art in their lives.”

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example of a “pillar” of wind

The artist is drawn to strong hues of red and orange because they are “full of contradictions – a fire burns or warms; blood means life or death.” His series of “Wind” sculptures seem to follow that predilection. On his website, he describes the elements he installs in the landscape as representing “the frozen movement of wind going through a grass field, a sculpture waving like leaves in the sun.”

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Berg’s Mill

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Mission San Juan Capistrano

Perhaps that is what makes “Wind” most fitting for the rural river setting chosen by the River Foundation for his installation. His monumental blades of wind will serve as a gateway transitioning and leading people up from the river to the area where the ruins of the historic Berg’s Mill community are perched on the left and Mission San Juan Capistrano lies ahead on the right.

“Wind,” according to Quinze’s website, is designed to: “evoke emotion, spark conversation and make people stop in their tracks. They will be attracted to explore this surreal experience of the shadow and sunlight shining through the fixed pillars….”

To contribute to public art projects along the Mission Reach and the development of Confluence Park, visit the website of the San Antonio River Foundation.

Looking forward to being stopped in my tracks in 2015.

April 20, 2015, Update: Noticed that Arne has more site-specific renderings for his “Wind” installation posted online now.

And this is from the April 2015 River Reach, published by the San Antonio River Authority:

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October 20, 2015, Update:

Artist Lecture: Arne Quinze will talk about “Wind” installation, his first permanent public art piece in the United States, at Blue Star at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 22.

Sculpture Unveiling: Mission San Juan Portal will be unveiled at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, October 28.