Shade between rings of air : architecture, sculpture, replication : Carlo Scarpa/Gabriel Orozco, 1952/2003

Adamou, Natasha (2016) Shade between rings of air : architecture, sculpture, replication : Carlo Scarpa/Gabriel Orozco, 1952/2003. Sculpture Journal, 25(3), pp. 401-419. ISSN (print) 1366-2724


In 2003, the artist Gabriel Orozco produced a sculpture entitled Shade Between Rings of Air for the 50th Venice Biennial. The work was a full-scale replica of La Pensilina (1952), an architectural structure that functioned as a pergola, designed by the Italian architect Carlo Scarpa. Scarpa’s construction was part of his Sculpture Garden situated at the inner courtyard of the Italian Pavilion in Venice. La Pensilina, however, was itself deemed to be so sculptural that it proved difficult to exhibit other sculpture there, and as a result the project was abandoned soon after completion. Orozco’s Shade Between Rings of Air, described by the artist as a ‘platonic pavilion’, was fabricated in birch wood and placed in an interior space adjacent to the patio where La Pensilina was situated. It was presented thus in contrast to Scarpa’s concrete structure which stood outdoors like a modern ruin, already deteriorated by time and weather. Shade Between Rings of Air was subsequently exhibited in diverse sites and contexts as an independent sculpture, raising issues about site-specificity, cultural memory, and the dialectical relation between architecture and sculpture. This article explores, first, how Orozco’s work negotiates ideas related to architectural sculpture (and sculptural architecture), while drawing particular attention on the role of the replica and its spatiotemporal relation to the original architectural construction; and secondly, it examines how the artist internalizes with this work, aspects of modernist architecture and its often utopian aspirations, in order to recast his own identity as a sculptor at the turn of the twenty-first century.

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