Nuevos monumentalismos

Kepa Garraza Kaplan Gallery
March 2024

The exhibition Nuevos monumentalismos invites the viewer to reflect on the function of the public monument within the urban environment, as well to consider questions related to the representation of power and authority in our collective imagination. To this end, Kepa Garraza has devised a game of substitution that invites the viewer to rethink concepts related to the very nature of the monument, its raison d’être and its usefulness.

The proposal is simple. It is about developing a series of models for imaginary sculptures that will never be made, but that are presented as fictional alternatives to a certain typology of statues that is very common in public spaces: the portrait of figures that symbolize present and past power, in the form of portraits of monarchs, soldiers, and a wide spectrum of political, social or religious leaders. This form of representation of power structures, personified in those who have exercised or executed it, is a regular part of the urban space and we can find countless examples of this type of monuments throughout cities around the world. Although these types of monuments commemorating authority and power seem to be vestiges of the past, their permanence within public space raises very interesting questions about how we perceive them and how we live with them.

Taking these questions as a starting point, Garraza has created a series of works that recreate imaginary sculptures. These fictional sculptures show us different scenes, from hooded protesters carrying Molotov cocktails to others confronting the police or holding protest banners. All of these sculptures have been generated through digital 3D modeling, thus obtaining virtual models that allow you to play with their scale, finish, texture and lighting. These fictitious sculptures are introduced into well-known public monuments, replacing the figures of leaders, generals or kings. This impersonation exercise affects only the portrait of the figures of power, keeping the rest of the architectural structures that are part of the original monument unchanged. Some of these settings are easily recognizable, as in the case of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., where the famous sculpture of President Lincoln seated has been replaced by a monumental statue of a hooded man carrying a baseball bat in a threatening attitude.

A second group of works present fictitious sculptures on a black background, with highly contrasted lighting. These works are conceived as a kind of preparatory studies, where the artist tests different solutions related to their finishing and lighting.

The intention of the project is to present a type of simulation that questions concepts related to the role and function of the monument in public space, while raising the close relationship between art, power and propaganda. These fictional variables are not presented as possible or desirable alternatives, but as a kind of parody about the personification of power and authority. Furthermore, they aim to rethink issues related to the representation of violence and the symbols used when representing a certain type of authority, be it political, military or religious. Being conceived as parodies, these works show attributes very similar to the originals that they want to replace based on an outdated aesthetic, without being considered interesting alternatives at any time. In some way, they are presented to us as scenarios of a parallel reality where the portraits of the powerful have been replaced by those of anonymous heroes. Perhaps the protagonists of a revolutionary process that, as so many times throughout history, seem incapable of offering an alternative to the classic ways of exercising and representing authority and power.