Manel Armengol: Seeing the world in a grain of sand
Manel Armengol began his career as a freelance journalist in early-1970s Spain, and by the 80s he had evolved into an important photojournalist, responsible for some of the most iconic images of the country’s political upheaval during those tumultuous transitional years–until a severe accident truncated his brief journalistic career in its prime.
This beautifully produced clothbound volume presents an exploration of Armengol’s postjournalistic oeuvre of the past two decades, with a focus on his Herbarium photographs, one of his more ambitious series.
Photos by Manel Armengol/ Text by Margaret Hooks; available in English, Spanish and Catalan editions.
Turner, Madrid, 2007, D.A.P. New York, 2008, ISBN-10: 8475067840, ISBN-13: 978-8475067841
Submerged in the unique space of his apartment in the Casa Mila, his imagination expanded to fill the white, womblike space, with its rounded, organic forms and surreal, three dimensional ceilings covered in patterns of diverse shapes and inscriptions. Moulded in plaster on the ceiling of his bedroom was inscribed just one awe-inspiring word — “Terrible” — it resonated throughout the space and spoke to him of profound change; of extreme difficulty and transformation in his life.
Built between 1906-1912, the Casa Mila was the last civic building Gaudi built. Many now consider it to be his best; certainly it was his most controversial. A triumph of great skill and imagination, the building was not conceived as a simple dwelling, but rather a work of major structural innovations. These coupled with the architect’s development of a ground-breaking, wholly organic concept of architectural creation, made it the first building to transcend architecture and take the form of an abstract sculpture, or perhaps more aptly — an early precursor of the three-dimensional, surrealist work of art.
An accolade to the curvilinear, progeny of a passionate affair with the rotund, the Casa Mila’s rippling, undulating façade wraps and rolls around an entire city block. And Gaudi had literally crowned his achievement with his most spectacular feat; a roof terrace of fabulous complexity with chimney pots, skylights and ventilators a pretext for the strange creatures and forms of his fantasy.
It was on this rooftop almost three years into his convalescence, with no income and few prospects of work, that Armengol had his “dark night of the soul” which resulted in an epiphany. He often ascended to the roof terrace at dusk to contemplate Gaudi’s disconcerting, grotesque landscape populated with life-like forms most of them macabre: warriors of past and future wars; armoured medieval knights, blank-faced killing automatons and perhaps most chilling; a ghastly, looming figure its head a gaping, petrified mask. This monstrous assembly mirrored the demons he did battle with daily.
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