Colorful Sculptures Dot Drab Downtown Plaza

18 Oct

Sebastian's vivid sculptural oasis in downtown Mexico City

 “Sebastian in the Tower” is the name of a current public art exhibit of well-known modern Mexican sculptor Sebastian.  A series of 13 signature medium and large format sculptures, produced from 1980 to date, dot the otherwise drab open courtyard behind the Latin American Tower, hence the name of the show, which shares space with the side atrium of the San Francisco Church in bustling downtown Mexico City.  The elastic, colorful figures are on open-air display in this high pedestrian traffic zone in attempt, according to the artist, to bring his work closer to those who do not habitually frequent museums.  And given that these vibrant, free-form steel and aluminium structures can be appreciated free of charge, are easily accessible, and are hard to miss, they certainly have attracted many on-lookers.

The sculptures to the backdrop of Sanborn's House of Tiles

The names of the works are as animated as the pieces themselves: Conspicuous, Arch of Torus, Shuayo, Tzompantli, the Scorpio, etc.  Among Sebastian’s latest monumental pieces (NOT on display here) is a 60-meter tall X-shaped sculpture to be placed on the Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua – El Paso,Texas border, which will double as a look-out tower.  Why an “X”?  According to the sculptor, the letter X carries an important historic weight. It was Benito Juarez who changed the official spelling of the country from “Mejico” – which, by the way, is still used in Spain today – to “Mexico,” thus giving the nation a new identity, to reflect its true nature of a mixed (mestizo) or assimilated race.  With this latest project, the sculptor attempts to integrate observers into his art work by allowing them the option to climb the X-shaped object de art.

Perhaps Sebastian’s most recognized work is El Caballito, which crowns the busy intersection of Reforma and Avenida Juarez.  Replacing Manuel Tolsá’s famous masterpiece equestrian sculpture of Charles the IV (which was moved in front of the MUNAL Museum, gracing the plaza named after the Spanish neoclassical architect and sculptor), el Caballito doubles as a chimney for the city’s updated deep drainage system, and often spouts white billows of smoke.

The world's most elegant (and expensive) chimney!

The Chimalli Warrior, another work in process, made headlines in August, when it slipped as it was being hoisted to its new home in the Mexico City suburb of Chimalhuacán.  The 60-meter, fire-engine red sculpture, weighing 500 tons, suffered minor dents and scuffs which will require touch up work before its inauguration in 2012.  Again, as is the tendency of Sebastian’s oeurve, it will serve a double purpose – acting as an artistic landmark as well as a light beam to illuminate the zone. Costing 30 million pesos, the Chimalli Warrior required creative financing – aside from funds underwritten by the local government, donations were collected and miniature scale models of the piece were sold to cover expenses.

No need to wait till next February to see the Chimalli Warrior.  Take a stroll down Madero Street, half a block from the Eje Central and check out Sebastian’s vibrant repertoire to the backdrop of the Latin American Tower, and Sanborn’s House of Tiles.


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