Earlier this month in the city of Valencia, Spain, the annual five-day Falles Festival hosted the construction and burning of some 400 sculptures in neighborhoods across the city amidst constant displays of fireworks, parades, and enormous bubbling skillets of paella. The festival is so large it requires year-round preparation for communities to raise money to hire artisans to build each falla, and plan for eardrum shattering pyrotechnic displays called Mascletà that occur daily at 2pm.
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For 2018, the Falles Festival invited Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel (previously) to build the Falla Mayor, the largest and last falla to be burnt during the celebration. With the help of renowned falla designers Pepe Latorre and Gabriel Sanz, the team submitted a winning design that incorporates the artist’s trademark colorful geometric style. Okuda says the 25 meter (82 foot) tall piece loosely addresses the relationship between people and animals, while incorporating various symbols the local community might find familiar.
“I’m inspired most by surrealist Salvador Dali and by Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights,” Okuda shared with Colossal. “I mostly describe my work as surrealism.” In an interesting twist, Dali designed and built a falla during the festival in 1954. Instead of indulging in surrealism’s darker side, Okuda’s work seems to shine a bright, happy light on the creatures and figures who populate his multicolor murals and canvases.
The festival may date back to as far as the middle ages when carpenters and woodworkers burnt wood scraps at the end of winter to celebrate the spring equinox, though it is now generally known as a celebration of Saint Joseph. In its present day form the trash heaps have morphed into elaborate artworks that feature celebrities, various current events, and even abstract conceptual works. Caricatures of political figures like Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Kim Jong-un appeared frequently this year. Two years ago the event was designated as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
During the festival Okuda also opened a large retrospective of work titled “The Multicolored Equilibrium Between Humans and Animals” at the Centre de El Carme in Valencia that gathers paintings, sculptures, photos, and video works from the last 20 years and runs through May 27, 2018. Video courtesy Chop Em Down Films.
The annual Las Fallas Festival ends with a grand display of fireworks and the burning of hundreds of elaborate sculptures in neighborhoods all over Valencia. Okuda’s Falla in front of city hall was the last to go up in flames after midnight to the cheers of a huge crowd that had waited in the street for hours. Swipe for fire photo. Thanx to @diegobarrachina16 and crew for the best balcony view! @okudart @inkandmovement #streetart #fallas2018 @instagrafite #lacrema