Centro de Arte Contemporaneo

Another remarkable afternoon funded by the good citizens of Málaga specifically for our entertainment and enlightenment. For us, this was an exhibit of extraordinary things Stephan Balkenhol can do to a tree stump, without chainsaws or sandpaper. The five carved-wood figures shown in these three pictures range in size from about a foot to two feet to six feet to ten feet. (Doré aspires to be 5’1″ and three quarters.) The 6′ man, white shirt, black slacks, background center picture, is standing on a tree stump and appears to have been carved from the same piece of the tree. I’m sure he starts with chainsaws. The 10′ woman is holding a miniature (for her) version of the same man.

The bottom row above is apparently one piece of accordion-pleated plywood, ask for it at your local home store. The figure changes from back to front and male to female as you walk around it. Layers of veneer were removed to achieve the color changes and to put the figures in relief.

The white shirt and black slacks are a recurring theme and say something to Balkenhol, and presumably the curator. They might be Balkenhol’s answer to the Zuloagan Question, if he weren’t German. He doesn’t seem to know about sandpaper; the wood is all rough, appearing unfinished. I’m sure there’s a message there.

The featured picture at the top is my photograph of someone else’s painting of someone else’s mural on someone else’s building next door. They were able to get a better angle and better lighting than I could manage. Málaga seems to have made an effort to control graffiti by encouraging street art. This district, called Soho, which is Centro but not Historico, in particular has many large murals like this and many, many smaller ones on the metal screens that cover the fronts of shops when they are closed. Even taggers show some respect of others’ work in spray paint on steel.

The museum also includes several rooms of abstract paintings and installations by contemporary artists, hence the name of the museum, but you’ve seen those. Or if you haven’t, you’ve seen things like them. (‘Art is either plagiarism or revolution.’–Paul Gaugin; or somewhat more pejoratively, “Abstract art: a product of the untalented sold by the unprincipled to the utterly bewildered.” Al Capp; I’m not sure about the first two groups but I know about the third.) The ones included below are not so abstract but definitely contemporary. The first one is called “Man with Fish,” but it could have been “Man in White Shirt and Black Slacks with Fish.” The trompe d’oeil on the right is a tiled bathroom floor falling into a red void.

The trick of the eye in the last two photos on the right is that they are not shadows but cut-outs. (While ‘trompe d’oeil’ translates literally from the French as ‘deceive the eye’, it is usually translated as ‘trick of the eye’ and refers to a two-dimensional surface made to look three dimensional. So these technically don’t belong to the ‘trompe d’oeil’ genre. (You have to be born in Paris to pronounce it.))

This autostereogram (I won’t call it ‘Magic Eye©’ again, because those are patented and copyrighted ‘random dot’ autostereograms.) features carved wood, with two halves of a sphere, one obviously male, one obviously female. It was hard to find a decent angle for this picture. The spheres appear translucent but are solid wood. The shadows are on the outside, not inside. This may be another metaphor, but I don’t think the two halves are meant to fit together.

Nor do I know how to contrast it with the man in the white shirt and black slacks, except the sphere people didn’t get them.

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