Postcard from Valencia, Spain: A metropolis in which to happily get lost

Cities are the spearhead of the most outstanding experiences and the most daring behavior, the places where the greatest development of the arts takes place. Consequently many artists choose life in the city as one of the central features of their work, with the city (often) being understood as a collage of a host of discontinuous, fragmented memories and experiences, a confused labyrinth in which the inhabitants cross paths with one another but remain immersed in their own thoughts.

Jose Miguel G. Cortes, director of IVAM

From the balcony of the apartment we are renting in Valencia, we have a personal portal into Valencia’s Institute of Modern Art, better known as IVAM. Unfortunately, all this portal permits us to see is one of the museum’s stairwells; we have to walk around to the main entrance and pay to enter.

But “Lost in the City,” an exhibition drawn from IVAM’s extensive permanent collections, was a worthwhile place to begin our stay in Spain’s third largest city. Organized around themes, the show portrays more than a century of artists’ positive and negative reactions to the growth of metropolitan areas. The snapshots below capture a few of the included works, but I was derelict in recording many of the artists’ names.

IVAM also introduced us to the works, “Corpus,” of Helena Almeida, a Portuguese artist renowned for her performance and conceptual art.

The original core of the institute’s huge collection of sculptures are by a Spaniard, Julio Gonzalez (1876-1972). Born into a family of craftsmen working in metal in Barcelona, Gonzalez yearned for more artistic expressions than construction projects allowed. Traveling to Paris to immerse himself in the thriving art community, he collaborated with Pablo Picasso in the 1920s on a series of metal sculptures that involved a mutual exchange of their creative expertise.

The harsher depictions of metropolitan scenes captured in many works in “Lost in the City” and our stark view of the museum’s portal stand in contrast to our current experiences in Valencia. The heart of this city is pedestrian and bicycle oriented. Our neighborhood is crisscrossed by a rabbit-like warren of winding narrow streets constantly interrupted by intimate plazas filled with lively cafes.

Despite its population of 800,000 residents, even strangers feel welcome in the warmth of such a walkable environment. Becoming lost under the stimulating spell of Valencia is an urban journey beckoning us daily.

Fortunately, the 1927 version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is not what life has become…. at least not here.

 

Between the mind that plans and the hands that build there must be a Mediator, and this must be the heart.

Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang, 1927

Postcard from Guanajuato, Mexico: Statuesque silhouettes against the sky

It’s hard to resist focusing on Guanajuato’s landmark people perched up high. Muses grace the roofline of Teatro Juarez. Father Hidalgo, famed for his grito igniting the revolt against Spain, stands near the city’s presa, or dam.

The giant statue of El Pipila lords over the city. As pipila means a female turkey, the nickname given to Juan Jose de los Reyes Martínez Amaro (1782–1863) probably was not meant as flattery. But El Pipila earned respect as a hero of the Mexican Revolution when he strapped a large stone on his back for protection against weapons above to storm the Spaniards holed up in Alhondiga de Granaditas. He slathered the granary’s large wooden door with tar and set it ablaze, allowing the citizens of Guanajuato to overtake the forces inside.

The woman representing peace who presides over Plaza de la Paz, the city’s main plaza, was commissioned by President Porfirio Diaz in 1903. Her peaceful reign soon was interrupted. President Diaz did not care for his opponent in the 1910 election so he locked him up in jail. When Diaz declared himself victorious, the citizenry sensed the election results were rigged. Diaz was forced from power, and years of civil war marked by frequent violent changes in presidents followed.

Wish the threat of locking opponents up and talking about rigged elections did not sound familiar.

Postcard from Madrid, Spain: Showstopping Toppers

They are like architectural banana peels.

It’s as though the designers want to make you trip as they entice your eyes upward to the tops crowning their creations.

The streets of Madrid are lined with countless of these dangerous distractions demanding your attention.

You long to amble along her boulevards awkwardly gawking for hours day after day after day.