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Notebook

Notebook, 1993-

APPROACHES - In The Words Of . . . .

From: Ferrier, Jean-Louis, Director and Yann le Pichon, Walter D. Glanze [English Translation]. Art of Our Century, The Chronicle of Western Art, 1900 to the Present. New York: Prentice-Hall Editions. 1988.

Antoni Gaudí

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Forms and Symbols
1926: Architecture


Barcelona. Legend appropriately turns Gaudí into a dreamer. His accidental death seems to confirm this, as do some of the claims in which he gladly presented himself as a man with instinctive skills. A man operating with the automatism that is so cherished by today's Surrealists, a man who considers it sufficient "to know whether a thing must be higher or lower, flatter or more curved. It's merely a matter of the gift of vision and I, luckily, can see." Yet, Gaudí was also a man with deep roots in his native country, in his time, and in a tradition that he vigorously prolonged. He pushed far ahead as the Futurist he was without perhaps realizing it.

If their training had not been so different, the death of Gaudí could evoke the name of that amateur of genius who died two years ago, mailman Cheval, who built a stupendous palace and tomb for himself. Both men shared certain features in their overall work, and in the details, for example, a preference for animal and plant forms, for inscriptions, and for recycled materials. However, Cheval's trashy verses cannot possibly be compared to the formulas decorating the towers of the Sagrada Familia, nor Cheval's gathering of pebbles to the studied use of ceramic shards in Güell Park.

Moreover, the animal and plant forms used by Gaudí are not merely decorative. Erected as pinnacle turrets or slapped against walls, they preside over the profound movement of the structure. From leaves, a system of vaults and corbeling is born in Güell Park. Ramps yield to the configuration of the Sagrada Familia. From the scaly uneveness of some saurian, the tile coating of the Casa Batlló emerges. Gaudi designed a system as a function of mechanical and achitectural engineering. His work is anything but the creations of an autodidact.

His long and wide-ranging studies are revealed in his first projects. Medieval art--the Violet-le-Duc angle, for example--marks the episcopal Palace of Astorga. Moorish art prevails in the forms and colors of the Casa Vicens. His work also shows traces of African architecture. Other elements are reminiscent of factories. The inspiration Gaudi found in native Catalan traditions should never be underestimated--his slanted columns and famous parabolic vaults are derived from the traditional Catalan "revoltó." The Ample use of ironwork in balconies is a reminder that no other craftsmen can work iron as well as they do in Catalonia.

The animal and plant forms are not sentimentalized. They generate new forms. They carry with them a whole world of symbols in which mythology, and probably psychoanalysis, are reflected, as in the turtle bearing a column. Gaudí is a painter, sculptor, and poet as well as an architect. And what the architect leaves to the decorator, he takes, molds, reveals, sublimates. Chimney pipes by Gaudí are actual structures of a rare shape and ornamental value.

[An Excerpt From: Ferrier, Jean-Louis, Director and Yann le Pichon, Walter D. Glanze [English Translation]. Art of Our Century, The Chronicle of Western Art, 1900 to the Present. New York: Prentice-Hall Editions. 1988. p. 255]




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