Stepping into the gallery, smooth jazz music is playing softly and five or so artists are hard at work covering a snaking frame of wood with layers of bubble wrap and black plastic trash bags. Arches, plastered in vivid blue and red stickers, stretch above like gateways. It feels like entering the set of Dr. Seuss's Oh, the
Places You'll Go!
Such is the work of design studio El Ultimo Grito, led by husband and wife team Roberto Feo and Rosario Hurtado. They have garnered international attention and won numerous awards, including the 2012 London Design Medal. Their work will be on display at Rice Gallery beginning Jan. 23.
El Ultimo Grito's sculptures utilize ordinary materials to generate sturdy frames that can be easily constructed and later recycled.
"For this sort of installation, we are basically using wood and packing materials," Hurtado said. "They give us a chance to improvise and to do this quite fast. They're something that can be easily put together, and we can decide shapes in the moment to do site specific installations. So that was the idea - trying to develop a system that would allow us to create these more
Hurtado and Feo have done sculptures over 100 meters long, but because they twist and turn like a snake, they are able to fit their work into
"We started doing it as a way of being able to work in a different scale," Feo said. "Slowly [the sculptures] progress and get more intricate. Each space, we use to test ideas. It's our way of creating a kind of prototype."
According to Feo and Hurtado, after the frame of the sculpture is created, it is covered in layers of stickers, which are specific
to each piece.
"We started developing the idea of stickers, because they can add a very graphic element," says Feo. "And then we start multiplying them, like a fractal." "You can generate the illusion of the colors," adds Hurtado. "So, for this one, the pattern is the same, but we have three different combinations of colors. You don't see the materials that it's made from. You have this other graphic layer, which makes it a totally different object from what you see. That's what you can do with the stickers - create the idea of one identity."
Feo and Hurtado want their work to be more than a piece of art purely for admiration; they want people to be able to interact with it and enjoy the scenery, much like how one would use a public space like a park or garden.
"We are making a sort of garden," says Hurtado. "We want it to be a space you can walk around. You can go there, use your computer, sit with friends or just engage with it." Feo adds, "Here it was important that it's not something you just look at from the window of a gallery. We try to do something that invites you to go in. That's the kind of feeling of a garden - a place where you can contemplate, but also sit down and do other things."
To enhance the effect of a garden, the gallery will project videos of birds on the studio walls. Visitors may stroll around the twisted paths outlined by the sculpture, use small tables protruding from the frame of the sculpture to do work, or simply stand and chat.
Take some time to stop by the secret garden and experience El Ultimo Grito's masterpiece personally. Work will be on display through March 16.