Mistos (Match Cover)

La Vall d'Hebron, Barcelona

Steel, aluminum, fiber-reinforced plastic; painted with polyurethane enamel
Overall: 68 ft. x 33 ft. x 43 ft. 4 in. (20.73 x 10.1 x 13.2 m)
Five detached matches:
(1) 9 ft. 2 in. x 37 ft. 1 in. x 9 ft. 7 in. (2.8 x 11.3 x 2.9 m)
(2) 14 ft. 10 in. x 30 ft. 3 in. x 10 ft. (4.5 x 9.2 x 3.1 m)
(3) 7 ft. 6 in. x 28 ft. 4 in. x 18 ft. 9 in. (2.3 x 8.6 x 5.7 m)
(4) 7 ft. 11 in. x 25 ft. 10 in. x 19 ft. 2 in. (2.4 x 7.9 x 5.8 m)
(5) 17 ft. 4 in. x 35 ft. x 14 ft. 5 in. (5.3 x 10. 7 x 4.4 m)

Commissioned November 1989 by Institut Municipal de Promoció Urbanística, S.A., Barcelona
Installed October 1991
Inaugurated April 2, 1992

Mistos (Match Cover), 1992 Mistos (Match Cover), 1992

Statement by the Artists

Mistos (Match Cover), 1992 For many years Barcelona has had one of the world's most ambitious urban planning programs, interrelating architecture, parks, plazas, and outdoor works of sculpture. When we visited the city in 1986 in response to an invitation to become part of the program, we toured installations by Eduardo Chillida, Richard Serra, and Ellsworth Kelly. By the time we joined the program, it had been expanded for the 1992 Olympics to include work by an international array of architects, among them Arata Isozaki, Gae Aulenti, Richard Meier, and Frank O. Gehry.

Mistos (Match Cover), 1992 Most of the new projects were located near the waterfront and the city center, but we were more interested in the residential areas being developed for the Olympic Games that would afterward become new neighborhoods. As our site we chose an open space in the Vall d'Hebron section in the hills overlooking the city. The only other cultural landmark in the vicinity was to be a reconstruction of the pavilion for the Spanish Republic designed by José Luís Sert for the Paris World's Fair of 1937, the building in which Picasso's Guernica first was shown. Our proposal was a 68-foot-high sculpture based on a matchbook cover. Folded back so that the cover formed a base, the matches were bent, as if by use, with the exception of one erect, flaming match. Loose matches, some "burnt," were scattered over the site.

The front view of the Mistos is reminiscent of the facade of Antoni Gaudí's cathedral of the Sagrada Familia, while the base recalls the underpinning of the untitled "Chicago Picasso."

Interview Excerpt with the Artists

Claes Oldenburg: It was early 1987 and, as usual, we were working on several projects at once, especially on pieces that would become The Haunted House. After Il Corso del Coltello, Coosje had formulated a new approach, using discarded, fragmented objects freely floating in space or brought together by the forces of nature, which she called "flotsam." One of the first sculptures in this direction was a wooden match about half burnt that had been made at Coosje's suggestion for an AIDS benefit at the Leo Castelli Gallery. This had led to a larger, room-scale version, which I was in the process of carving out of Styrofoam in Brooklyn. As a result, there were fragments of matches in various stages of use all over the studio and studies of matches for projects under development in Vail, Colorado, and Middlesbrough, England. Coosje's response to the commission in Barcelona was a field of paper matches torn from a matchbook, some burnt, some not. The concept had an affinity for a sketch made in Madrid the year before of shoes dancing on a stage among dropped fans, which lent support to the image.

The composition needed a focus and Coosje proposed placing the remaining match cover -- the source of the scattered matches -- in the center. The profile of a half-opened fan on the Madrid stage suggested the position of the match cover seen from the side.

A little model was made out of clay and painted paper in which the small object of a match cover showed itself surprisingly capable of monumental scale. Coosje then set down the mostly unconscious intuitive reasons for our attraction to this image for the site in Barcelona, some of which she included in the lines of a prose poem she wrote on a drawing of the proposal we first presented shortly afterward while participating in a symposium on projects for the city.

Coosje van Bruggen: The symbolic subject of fire is concealed within a simple, everyday object in the form of a matchbook, passing from hand to hand and carried around in a pocket, a communal object. Within the small paper packet, rows on rows of matches stuck together, each a slender piece of wood or paper with a red phosphor tip, exude the rigidity of perfection yet contain the potential for momentous chaos leading to both illumination and negation. The individual touch creates infinite variations of form: the user's mood and skill in striking any given match against the rough surface of its cover, through the force of combustion, determines the appearance of what is left of the original. The idea of the individual gesture and explicit style leaving traces of how the disposal of each match took place defines the end result of the Mistos: torn-up, unlit, single matches, bent and crumpled, lie on the ground along with partly burnt ones, scattered over the site in order to humanize the otherwise foreboding scale of the matchbook.

Only one match is aflame, like a beacon, its contour transforming into a lance or a fiery pen, recalling the words of Cervantes' Don Quixote of La Mancha: "The lance has never blunted the pen nor the pen the lance." The matchbook, like the typewriter eraser, over the years has become an archetypal object on the verge of disappearance, subject to a telescopic perspective that shifts between the emotive intimate hand-held object and the detached nearly abstracted large project with an architectonic structure and scale.

Taken from an interview with Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen by Ida Gianelli: 'Solitude for Two, Shared: A Walk with Ida Gianelli', as printed in Claes Oldenburg Coosje van Bruggen: Sculpture By the Way. Castello di Rivoli, Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Torino, 2006, pp. 18-21. Exhibition catalogue.



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