This Weathered-Steel Sculpture Distills a Form of Protest into a Minimalist Monument

Part of Alejandro Vega Beuvrin’s “Barricada” series, the work is a subversive tribute to the street smarts of citizen activists.

An artist’s inspiration can come from astonishing sources. In 2014, just as Venezuelan architect Alejandro Vega Beuvrin, then in his 30s, was beginning to pivot from designing buildings to creating sculptures, he received a commission from the same oppressive Venezuelan government he, his friends and many other average citizens had spent the past decade protesting in the streets of Caracas.

One of the most successful means of slowing down the vicious crackdowns by the police and soldiers was blocking the roads with garbage, old furniture, bicycles and any other impediments that might be available. The obstruction could be “a ragtag arrangement of wood or even cardboard shields held at varying angles” by demonstrators, says Beuvrin.

“But the protests became so frequent that eventually the people ran out of garbage,” the artist recalls. “I started thinking that it would be good to have a more durable structure on hand in the streets that could quickly be assembled to stall the advancing forces.”

Venezuelan artist Alejandro Vega Beuvrin's monumental weathering-steel sculpture titled "Barricada 2 L" seen oudoors
The sculpture, which is limited to an edition of five plus three artist’s proofs, is available in a variety of finishes, including weathering steel. The material develops a patina over time, giving each piece its own unique texture and color variations.

The idea of improving upon the makeshift barricades, known as guarimbas, informed his concept for the commission. “These precarious structures, symbols of resistance and protest, were emblazoned in my mind,” Beuvrin says. So, he “quietly and somewhat subversively” gave the government a trio of monuments representing its rejection by its own people.

Those works became the basis for his aptly named “Barricada” series of steel sculptures, objects of great beauty and simplicity forged from the hard realities of a long-suffering population. 

One striking piece from the series, Barricada 2 L, is more than seven feet high and 13 feet long. Despite the improvised nature of the assemblages that inspired it, the sculpture’s swooping, interlocking curves are precisely rendered.

Beuvrin, who now resides in Barcelona, Spain, launched his career as an architect in Caracas just as the miraculous capabilities of new drawing software began allowing architects to view their designs in three dimensions on the computer. The technology remains central to his practice, although there are drawbacks. “You can get a sense of the 3D visual impact of an object, but images on a screen have no mass or presence,” he says. “So, it’s no substitute for the experience of encountering and engaging with an actual sculpture.”

Barricada 2 L, limited to an edition of five plus three artist’s proofs, is available in a variety of finishes, including weathering steel, which oxidizes to form a protective patina with subtle variations and textural differences that lend visual interest to the work. According to Christophe Salet, of Artistics, the Paris gallery that represents Beuvrin, the richly detailed surfaces of his sculptures are just as important as their powerful forms.

“Alejandro’s works always invite interaction from the viewer,” says Salet. “Whether finished in this warm ocher, painted in a vivid mix of colors or made of mirror-polished stainless steel, his sculptures invite viewers to move around them, seeking to view all their elements, angles and colors. The spectator becomes part of the artwork and gives it a sense of movement and dynamism.”

Beuvrin says that what he loves about sculptures in general, and works like Barricada 2 L in particular, is that very sense of engagement as one moves around them. “To me, it’s like life — things change depending on how you look at them.”

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