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Exhibit runs through Nov. 2 in the David A. Portlock Black Cultural Center

As part of Latino Heritage Month, artwork by Chilean artist Jose A. Balcells will be featured in the exhibit “The Poetic Dimension of a Country,” running through Nov. 2 in the David A. Portlock Black Cultural Center.

The exhibit, which is sponsored by the Office of Intercultural Development, is free and open to the public. The center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The artist will present a talk titled, “An Afternoon with Jose Balcells” 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30.

Balcells is also a featured speaker in the upcoming “Public Sculpture in the Community and its Responsibility to the Environment” symposium, which will explore the implications of public art. The symposium will be 4-7 p.m. Nov. 1 in the Grossman Gallery of the Williams Visual Arts Building.

“Balcells’ presence is important in that it represents a need to reach out to a global community and seek artists and scholars who reside outside of the United States,” says Michael Benitez, director of Intercultural Development. “This allows students to gain a particular intellectual insight and perspective into expressive culture within Latino America, the way others view the world within our borders, and how they interpret their cultural context in relation to United States cultural expression.”

Alastair Noble, assistant professor of art, installed the exhibit and wrote the text for the exhibition catalogue. Art major Peter Huntley ’08 (Westport, Conn.) helped Noble assemble the sculptures through an independent study project. Students in Noble’s First Year Seminar class, Fact or Fiction, also assisted him with the installation.

The sculpture exhibit depicts a series of 13 sperm whales constructed from flat irregularly shaped pieces of aluminum fastened together at certain points. These sculptures are transpositions of a collection of 13 poems about the sperm whale written by Balcells’ late brother and renowned poet Ignacio Balcells titled, “Thirteen Sperm Whales for the Sculptor with thirteen Springboards for the Architect.”

Balcells pulled the flat aluminum shapes comprising his sculptures directly from the typographical shapes of the text of each poem. When the text was overlaid with paint during the creation of a series of preparatory watercolor drawings of the poems, these typographical forms emerged and inspired the irregularly shaped, flat pieces of aluminum that comprise the sculptures. These watercolor drawings of the poems are being displayed with the sculptures.

“[Balcells] is perhaps one of Chile’s most important sculptors. His artistic approach integrates poetry in a very unique way. This relationship to the poetry is characteristic of Jose’s work,” Noble says.

Balcells intends to fabricate 13 monumental replicas of these modest-sized sculptures to be positioned along the entire length of the Chilean coastline and will employ an architect to design sites for each of them. He hopes that his vision for these 13 monuments spawned from his brother’s legacy will come to fruition in the next few years to coincide with Chile’s bicentennial celebration.

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