22 may 2015

AIL Madrid Unveils New Artwork!

From the lights and shadows of Velazquez to the blues and geometrics of Picasso, Spain is more than just renowned for its artistic expression. Everyday Spanish culture holds references in its depths to religions, republics, dictatorship, discoveries, wars, and monumental works of literature. Unique above all these weighty topics is the Spanish people’s ability to express these clashes, triumphs, and differences with color, shapes, and canvas.

AIL Madrid is playing a part of its own with newly commissioned works created for our classrooms by local Spanish artist Raquel Portillo Caballero. These works represent the iconic city sites that our spaces are named after, such as Cibeles, Serrano, Puerta de Alcala, and more. Recently, we took the time to chat with Raquel about her interpretations and reasoning behind each piece and we hope you enjoy their rich symbolism as much as we do!


In this piece, the artist depicts the famous statue, given its title in 1895, that became a symbol of the growth and life force of the city. The goddess Cibeles, pulled by lions, appears to burst forth from the canvas with the full force of her legendary strength. In the upper left hand corner of the painting, the Palacio de Comunicaciones, represented by a postage stamp, reminds us that this great building was once the headquarters of the Spanish Postal system. With her trademark technique and color scheme, Raquel perfectly summarizes the majesty of the site’s past and the dynamism of its modern era, which is still felt by anyone who visits the Plaza de Cibeles.


The Paseo de Castellana is the main artery connecting the most important areas of Madrid from North to South. Here, the artist decided to feature the latest and most recognizable part of the thoroughfare, the KIO towers, and created an image with dynamic and emotional strength. The two towers, reaching towards each other, represent the magnetism between male and female and the strident, bold colors further establish these opposing strengths within the mind of the artist.


In this abstract interpretation, Raquel chose to represent the gateway to Alcala in its most essential lines, with only half of the iconic monument in full view. Representing the entrance to Madrid from the surrounding regions and countries, the colors and lines carry the symbolic force of its place in Spanish history and the street entrance reminds us of the division between the spaces of our public and private worlds.


Representing one of the most iconic points in history, these two paintings recall the discovery of the Americas. The separation of the two canvases symbolizes two continents that became interwoven because of an idea born in the mind of a sailor. The painter chose our planetary colors, ocean blue and an earthy brown, as an homage Columbus’ four previous voyages in search of Indian spices, and a bright yellow to represent the innovation and riches found on the new continent. The glass globe in the center of the two tables, held in the hand of the famous navigator, represents the importance of something so great in the hands of someone so small and how the decision of one dreamer changed entire civilizations. Columbus himself stands back in the painting, looking on with pride at the fruits of his courageous undertaking.


This corner of Retiro park, on which the artist has focused, is one of the most interesting: The glorieta del Ángel Caído (the Fallen Angel) stands on the ground where the Habsburg chapel of San Antonio Abad was built and subsequently demolished, followed by a porcelain factory that was destroyed during the war of Independence.
The current sculpture depicts God’s favored angel, Lucifer, who was banished from heaven to an existence of eternal suffering. Through curious circumstances, the statue was placed in Retiro, 666 meters above sea level, causing many to interpret its placement as a tribute to the devil.
The canvas stands in apparent calm and serenity, despite the vibrant colors that appear throughout the Madrid series. The fallen angel would seem to be in a state of acceptance of what has befallen him, if not for the wounded heart that contrasts so strongly with the yellow background.


Calle Serrano was once the home of many illustrious members of society, including Ruben Darío, who lived at number 27 during his tenure as the ambassador of Nicaragua. As both a politician and writer, Darío is considered to be one of the forefathers of modernism and his first work, Azul (1888), jumpstarted ‘precious modernism’; a stage characterized by visions of princesses, the distant cites, the ambiance of Versailles, and ancient symbols. The idea of preciousness connects the two paintings in this space with an almost sarcastic tone: one relates to the work of Darío while the other emphasizes the frivolous shopping that characterizes Calle Serrano today.


The spirit of Atocha, home to the largest train station in Spain and the site of one of its most devastating terrorist attacks, is conveyed here as the key developmental point in Spain, with its tracks spreading like veins across the country. The gray coal smoke transitions into vegetation, and the iron façade of the train appears to leap out of the canvas with strength and innovation, just as the country has moved and reacted when presented with new threats and challenges. Atocha, for the artist, is the life force, rebirth, and future of a people.

La Latina

La Latina is one of the best-loved neighborhoods in Madrid and offers a plethora of authentic Spanish food, art, winding streets, and open air markets. Raquel chose to represent this famous district with one of its best-known sites: the Teatro La Latina, home to some of the best music and theater in the city. The theater and its boundless art forms symbolize the cultural spirit of this area, which combines classicism and modernity, as well as the past, present, and future of Madrid.


Sol is by far the most famous and iconic square in Madrid, with a history dating back hundreds of years. It features some of the most iconic elements of the city, such as the medieval statue of the bear and the tree, the clock tower used to ring in the New Year, and the famous Tio Pepe sherry sign that has escaped bombings and change for almost a century. In addition, Sol is the starting point for all roads radiating out of the city and marks this with a ‘kilometer 0’ plaque in front of the clock tower. The artist chose to represent these famous icons in a triptych of violet, atmospheric symbols that catch the observer’s eye much like the pulsing city center itself.


The Colon skypscapers, designed in the seventies by the architect
Antonio Lamela, are among the highest buildings in the city and face the famous plaza of the same name. They were built at a time of economic revival, following the decline of the dictatorship, and are the most iconic element of the Genova neighborhood in the artist’s eyes: the towers symbolize Madrid taking its place as one of the most prominent European capitals and securing its power with the modernity of the interlocking

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