26 November 2011

A visit to El Ingenio

This piece was published on shopikon.com.

El Ingenio

Tucked away in the heart of the gothic quarter just a stone’s throw from La Rambla, El Ingenio has been trading festival-related goods for the people of Catalunya since 1838. Beyond the cacophony of puppets, poi, gargantuan festival heads, Carnaval masks and joke-shop paraphernalia lies a family-business spanning generations, with a passion for tradition and the timeless art of entertainment. 

Rosa Cardona is part of this lineage and the driving force behind the wall-to-wall artisan products that continue to be crafted by hand in a hidden workshop at the back of the premises. “We have seen generations pass through these doors: children come for toys and years later return with their own children. There is a lovely atmosphere in the shop because people come to enjoy themselves, to find a piece of nostalgia... it’s as simple as that.” Over the years, the family has counted the likes of Salvador Dalí and the Cirque du Soleil as clients and the Catalan artist Joan Brossa found inspiration in El Ingenio, famously calling it “poesía visual,” visual poetry. It is easy to see why. There is an undeniably magical presence about El Ingenio that even the most hardened adult would find difficult not to feel.

C/Rauric 6, Barcelona

02 November 2011

Happy Day of the Dead

El día de los muertos with live Mexicans at Cosmo galería

“For an inhabitant of New York, Paris or London, death is a word that is never spoken, because it burns the lips. The Mexican however is on good terms with her, sleeps with her, courts her; she is one of his favourite playthings and his most lasting love.” 

Octavio Paz. The solitary labyrinth, 1961

The Mexican pursuit of death in all its cadaverous glory makes El Día de los muertos a colourful occasion and something that Barcelona (with its large Mexican and Latin American population) has been keen to get involved with in recent years.

Opening on 28th October, the cryptically titled exhibition, Día de Muertos will showcase the finest new artistic discoveries in the way of skulls, bones, flesh and flouro-folk art. As a testament to the nation’s obsession with death, this collective exhibition of live Mexicans will be looking death squarely in the eye, and (hopefully) surviving until 27th November.

The inauguration begins at 20:00, with complementary Mexican beer on tap. See you at the bar. C/Enric Granados 3

Brangulí was here - CCCB

This exhibition has already passed now, but I thought I'd add it anyway. It was really beautiful.

Brangulí. Barcelona 1909-1945 
7th June – 23rd October

Josep Brangulí (1879 – 1945) accompanied Catalunya throughout monumental socio-political changes during the first half of the twentieth century. During his impressive career as a documentary photographer, Brangulí gave equal weight to the ordinary and everyday as he did to significant historical events.

To photography buffs, he is comparable to the likes of Robert Doisneau and Henri-Cartier Bresson, French humanist photographers who enchanted us with their candid, inky black and white images of street-life. They brought us the decisive moment, the notion of capturing a split second in time through the lens – immortalising that moment forever, as if by an act of alchemy. 

Brangulí’s sensitivity towards his subjects bring us official portraits in formal environments; factory workers pause to stare into the lens, seamstresses work alongside their newborn babies and endless rows of school children study obediently at their desks. 

The timeless black and white images also offer us a powerful insight into an altogether mysterious Barcelona that would otherwise be unknown to us; of now-extinct Gitano neighbourhoods and celebrations-no-more, of lantern-lit watering holes staffed by elegant, be-suited waters; of primitive fire-engines, mummified nuns perched upright outside churches, Fascist marches and Nazi propaganda, of thick, black pools of blood in dark alleys and faded smudges of figures that almost eluded the camera’s immortal gaze completely.

The curators selected a mere three hundred photos from the archive of over a million images for the exhibition and created thematic blocks to make better sense of the broad areas of society, industry and politics that Brangulí covered. The exhibition runs until 23rd October and is a testament to the critical changes of Barcelona not to be missed.

- CCCB Contemporary Art Museum website

08001 Barcelona