Be it a building, a body of water, a field of corn or a city park, Angel Orensanz is known for transforming anything that he touches into a work of art. In his recent exhibition Reflectant Universe at the Mãe d’Agua das Amoreiras Reservoir, one of the Museu da Agua’s three Lisbon exhibition spaces, the Spanish-American artist, once again practicing the sorcery that he is known for, transformed the entire museum into his own version of the Cirque du Soleil.
The Magic of Angel Orensanz – Edward Rubin
Be it a building, a body of water, a field of corn or a city park, Angel Orensanz is known for transforming anything that he touches into a work of art. In his recent exhibition Reflectant Universe at the Mãe d’Agua das Amoreiras Reservoir, one of the Museu da Agua’s three Lisbon exhibition spaces, the Spanish-American artist, once again practicing the sorcery that he is known for, transformed the entire museum into his own version of the Cirque du Soleil. Given carte blanche by Margarida Ruas, the museum’s daring director, Orensanz—adding some 90 of his paintings and drawings, a bevy of brilliantly colored sculptures, photographic blowups, and a continuously running video of his installations from around the world—turned the museum’s mid-18th Century building, with it grotto-like reflecting pool, high-vaulted ceilings and cathedral windows, into an otherworldly galaxy.
For the past four decades Orensanz has been constructing his installations the world over. From Venice to Brazil, Tokyo to Russia he has magically transformed and redecorated parks, city squares, plazas, streets and airports. A man of many talents, the artist has performed, presented videos, exhibited and lectured in numerous museums around the world. There is also a Museu Angel Orensanz y Artes de Serrablo in Northern Spain and an Angel Orensanz Foundation in New York, which recently opened the Angel Orensanz Museum at its headquarters. On top of this there seems to be a catalogue for every project that the artist has tackled. Still, despite Orensanz appearing to be everywhere at once, he has yet to garner the attention he so richly deserves. Luckily, the obsessively productive artist, a combustible mixture of volcanic bravado and extreme self-effacement, as long as he is hard at work, is perfectly content to be creating under the radar of the so-called art world.
Reflectant Universe is a unique example of Orensanz’s creative talents. It’s also as close as one can get to a visual catalogue raisonné of the artist’s multi-media oeuvre. Using the building’s cathedral-like windows and the ivory-brown hues of its surrounding walls to both highlight and embrace his fantasia, Orensanz strings his circular, Day-Glo fabric and his neon sculpted creations across the reservoir’s reflective and shimmering waters. Other sculptures resembling fantastic creatures—flying white cow and a shocking-pink caterpillar straight out of Alice in Wonderland—rest both above and on the surface of the water itself. A large and bobbing translucent, space-age sphere, one of the artist’s signature pieces, slowly moves with the flow of the pool’s water. On the four walls surrounding the pool are examples of the artist paintings and drawings, mostly on paper, from the past 15 years. In painting after drawing—many of which echo the artist’s love of the old masters, from Goya to Tiepolo, Bosch to the early Japanese landscape painters—we come face to face with Orensanz’s struggling individuals and writhing masses of people. They are at war, mourning, celebrating, making love, being born and dying. Both awesome and reverent, the entire exhibition is a near-perfect melding of art, artist and space. It is also an extremely accurate portrait of humanity in its fullness.
Ironically, at the age when most artists start to slow down, Orensanz, somewhere in his mid-60s, with numerous exhibitions up and running and more projects on the boards, is going full-steam ahead. Currently drawing attention is the artist’s large-scale landscape sculpture that he created just outside of Madrid to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Cervantes’ Don Quixote. “Wanting to release Don Quixote himself into the very land where his creator placed him,” Orensanz convinced both local authorities and the public to allow him to create a large landscape sculpture of Don Quixote and his fabled horse Rosinante. From a low flying plane the artist, during several trips to Spain, supervised the plowing of the fields and chose what seeds to sow so that the finished image of the Errant Knight and his faithful horse—essentially “a living work of art”—with each change of season and emerging crop and wild flower would slowly come into focus. While the landscape sculpture was supposed to end by January 2007, the local officials, ecstatic with the national attention that they are getting, are thinking of making Orensanz’s Don Quixote creation, a permanent year-round celebration.
It is obvious that rest and relaxation are not part of Orensanz’s vocabulary. Taking his cues from the hardworking Renaissance masters that he so loves—for Orensanz, art is truth and work is love—when the globetrotting artist is not actually creating with his hands, maneuvering an army of people to mount his installations or planning his next “art attack”—and he does this daily—he can be found on a plane flying to his next project. This summer Orensanz’s work, a large sculpture installation titled Sails of Departure, Sails of Arrival, will be on view at the Marble Palace of Ludwig/National Russian Museum in St. Petersburg throughout the months of August and September. In May and June of 2007, the artist will be having a retrospective and giving a lecture at the Museum of Modern Art Wales in Cardiff, Wales. With boundless energy and an unquenchable wanderlust, it is a safe bet to say that sometime in the near future, the highly prolific Angel Orensanz will be at your local museum, park or airport. He might even be found camping out on your doorstep.