Diminutive triumphal arches, human-sized Playmobil figures, and model prison quarters (both to scale and miniature) are a few of the many forms Hugo Orlandini’s work has taken. For categorization’s sake, we could call Orlandini a conceptual sculptor; however, his work incorporates layers of visual and social research culled from public events that richly complicate this subject matter. Orlandini approaches each work by digging deeply into an image from the news, a monument in a city park, or even into the banal nature of what makes a working-class kitchen unique. The artist notes: “I usually start from actual historical events or from situations that have had great impact and visibility. These occasions become meaningful for me as they give me the opportunity to question and reconstruct them, in order to dig below the surface information and the obvious, in order to offer a new perspective.”
Altering scale, by increase or decrease, is a method that figures into much of Orlandini’s work. Victoria (2013) comprises a fireplace-sized replica of the Arc of Victory in Madrid, which was constructed in the 1950s to commemorate Franco’s triumph during the Spanish civil war. The concrete remake, while detailed and scaled proportionally—and altered to include a contemporary roll gate so commonly used to shutter closed businesses—confronts the hubris the triumphal arc embodies by manipulating the size down to a more manageable human scale. Orlandini strives to reclaim the monument itself, and the moment in history it marks, as less-than-triumphal, shifting the focus to the inevitably forgotten and personally felt human scale of suffering and loss of the Spanish civil war.
Adding other layers of depth, scale distortion, and coloration, Orlandini also created a set of eight even-smaller arcs, called Souvenirs, that offer not just variation, but a series of alternate realities in which the triumphal arc is manipulated within the tropes of everyday street life. These interventions include graffiti, tagging, and horse sculptures with patina in either green or gold, offering the viewer differing temporalities and spaces to imagine the arc in, and further rupturing the prescribed image of the arc as a symbol of everlasting commemorative power.
In an earlier work, Jean Jaurés & Sarmiento (1996), Orlandini takes a more restrained approach, at least conceptually. The work re-creates, in hyper-real detail, the corner of a typical kitchen of a working-class household in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The composition has formal resonance with Kurt Schwitters’ 1933 Merzbau, but is largely different in its aims. Where Schwitters was working on a kind of internalized and alternative aesthetically based world, Orlandini is more interested in describing the chaos and psychological characteristics of the atmosphere of the everyday person through a completely functional segment of home; the gas, water and electricity all work in Jean Jaurés & Sarmiento.
A recurrence in Orlandini’s work is his painstaking attention to conceptual and formal detail, and refreshingly so, for without spelling out his logic directly, he leaves so much to be read or seen in these sculptures and installations. His work also investigates challenging subjects, but with just the right amount of levity and formal inventiveness.
Hugo Orlandini was born in Santiago de Cuba in 1974. He currently lives and works in Barcelona, Spain. Orlandini studied plastic arts in Havana and in Buenos Aires at the Manuel Belgrano School of Fine Arts. In 2013, he was awarded prizes by the Gabarrón Foundation and the Murcia Futuro Foundation at the International Public Sculpture Competition. Since 2010 he has been an artist in residence at La Escocesa Creation Centre in Barcelona, and the following year was awarded a production grant by the same organization. His work has been displayed in solo and group exhibitions in Barcelona, Istanbul, London, Zurich, and Buenos Aires.