One of the most popular stops during our tour of Guadalajara is the opportunity to enjoy the bronze sculptures of magical realist Alejandro Colunga in Plaza Tapatia. This is where his "Room of the Magicians" and "Universal Magicians" are located. They are an interactive and favorite site of locals and visitors who without doubt always take a photo of the site home with them among their memories of the city.
Born in Guadalajara in 1948, Alejandro studied Architecture from 1967 to 1971 and Music and Tourism from 1971-1973, but is a self-taught artist---painter and sculptor. He has gained international acclaim as one of a talented generation of visionaries. When one thinks of Mexican artists of the 20th century, Alejandro Colunga is always on that list. He has also been the inspiration of many young artists of the last century. Colunga is best known for the wonderful chairs "La Rotondo del Mar," which he created in 1997 for Vallarta's boardwalk "malecon" (pier).
However, when we go to the Instituto Cultural Cabanas, a Guadalajara landmark and major cultural center, to view the Orozco murals, we get to pass between these two "magical" groups of anthropomorphic bronze sculpture-chairs that are some of Colunga's most delightful creations. These whimsical "people-objects" come in all shapes and sizes, with grinning heads, pipes sticking out of jacket pockets and feet, big and small, some bare and other shod in sneakers, lace-ups and boots Some of the shoes even morph into snakes and lizards!
We're often asked what it's all about. It's hard for some of us to realize art is for art's sake...where an artist relies on individual imagination and originality ...nothing more! However, I finally took the opportunity to do a little research and found out that each object represents a magician (Mago) transforming himself into a sofa or chair. And the best part about it is that there are no rules about not sitting on these remarkable creations! In fact, it's more of a 'please sit on los objetos de arte!" Personally, I think you have to sit on some of them to experience their odd effect on your senses. Colunga likes his art to be touched, "I love it when people are drawn to one of my works and want to touch it or sit on it, since touch is the most intimate and universal sense we have."
I think it's unfortunate that with bronze sculptures, people are generally asked not to touch, because grease or dirt from their hands can affect the patina. Thank goodness Alejandro Colunga thinks that touching the surface can improve the look of a bronze sculpture, since people "tend to touch the high points, and you end up with a more three-dimensional look." Also, from what I understand, the frequent touching, caressing and sitting on these whimsical pieces of furniture produces a kind of regular maintenance in itself, which gives them a highly attractive and translucent look.
Furthermore, because the proportions of each piece are so unusual, a person may feel tall or short, fat or thin when sitting on them. No matter what their level of artistic sophistication, everyone seems to love the sculptures as they point, laugh, touch and finally sit on these unusual works of art. It's hard not to smile when you're in these delightful "rooms."
If you've seen these wonderful pieces in person, let us know what you think. If you haven't, you're in for a treat!