The beginnings as a ceramist

 The predestinations keep appearing. García worked as a sculptor for a while; ceramics, as he says, was something that happened by chance:

G: In August of ’94 I had the chance to work with some clay with a ceramist.  The first thing that occurred to me was to make a bull’s head, which I finished in more or less a quarter of an hour. When he saw it, the man made a comment about how I had done it so quickly; it took him all day. This made me enthusiastic and I spent a month making heads out of clay. In Medellín I did the demonstration that had been planned in Mi Casita, of don Alberto Uribe, an aficionado “de solera”.

He passed from the heads, which he had already dominated, to entire bulls. During his shifts in the veterinary clinic in Barranquilla there were times that he changed the off hours, and a night when he couldn’t sleep, to entertain himself thinking about the defenses of a “condecito”. Gabriel says: “I’m going to make the body and the legs; I took a model, number 59 of the “Count of the Court”, one of the ones that went to San Fermín, from the magazine Aplausos.

J: So you began as a sculptor without a teacher?

G: The truth is that I never went to the School of Fine Arts; it might have been important, but fortunately I’ve been able to hire people that know about the subject and that taught me how to make the molds and about the technique of clay.

First exhibits

He had to deal with the “cañazo” of exhibits. He thinks seriously about this; he gets ovens and someone teaches him to make molds out of silicone plastic. And he adds that this was the person that really got him started.

J: So was this when you really got started?

G: From here on I had to invest not only time, but materials and the equipment as well. I had to make these ceramic figures and three months later I had my first exhibit at the Hotel El Prado in Barranquilla, at the beginning of December. “El maestro” Rincón was my “alternate godfather”.

J: Was this start considered a success?

G: We only invited 120 people and more than 300 came. The matador Rincón said that the paper hadn’t only run out, but there was a resale.

J: With any artist, especially when he is starting out, there tend to be critics.

G: Of course, and I have a story: Juan Gabriel “Aranguito” invited me to exhibit some ceramics in the Inter in Cali. The “maestro” Puente, from Spain, came. They told me that he said, in a pejorative way, that the exhibit “was nothing”.

J: But he’s a painter.

G: The painter was his father; he’s a sculptor, the one that made the bull in the plaza in Cali. And it was like a “puya” that makes bulls……gets used to punishment; it’s better than flattery, which doesn’t make you get any better. I got used to the “punishment” of the critics.

J: I understand that at this time there was a show in the Country Club in Medellín.

G: Yes, the manager, Arboleda Halaby, invited me. I also sold some things there. I already had had the honor of my first piece sold going to a magistrate of the supreme court. Then I went to the Hotel Caribe in Cartagena in ’95, where the Spanish rancher Borja Domecq visited. He told me that he admired me by saying this: “I see you as a future sculptor because of the feeling that you put into it”.

J: In all kinds of art, this feeling is important; in drama, painting, “toreo”; nothing should be mechanical.

G: Yes, he admired the way I had captured the bulls’ movement; above all in the rejoneo. He added that he admired my concept of making things seem natural. He has said that the sculptor that never picks up a bullfighter’s cloak will never have these notions about feeling the pleasure that is… I don’t know how to describe it, about “cómo se embarca” a heifer and then you dominate it.

From acrylics to metal

 As a preamble to what we can call the period of metals, we have to first talk about acrylics.  As we said at the beginning, it is the only material that can be called new in the “epidermis” of the art of sculpting. In search of perfecting his technique, García passes through stages.

 J: How did you begin with this style?

G: I took advice from people that tried to find out how to make molds from these things, going as far as talking to dentists. I saw that people really don’t know much about this aspect of making molds in an artistic form; but industries get whatever they need.

J: You have mentioned dentists, who make true works of art with dental pieces; but keep explaining.

G: Well, I found the person that showed me how to make molds with silicone rubber; we made them with this material and also polyurethane, but they were very expensive. Before I would spend in one “cursilón” five times more than what they cost me now. This changed when I emptied the first bull molds in silicone rubber into acrylics. I remember that I called the first one I made like this Cesarino, because of the coincidence that in this precise moment Rincón called me to confirm that he was coming to my first exhibit.

J: Explain the process to us.

G: You model the sculpture, then you make some silicone rubber molds with it with “contratapas” made of fiberglass and some wedges so there isn’t any retention; so the “contratapa” comes out well and the mold is conserved. What happens? By making the sculpture that you take out of this, an empty space remains that you fill with the acrylic. They can also be made with resin, meque, etc.

J: Can you make the acrylic with different colors?

G: You can give it any color that you want; you can paint it with tar, which with gasoline gives it a beautiful “patina”. Also with oil, but never with vinyl.  Of course the paint doesn’t have as nice a finish as with earth, rust or metals.

From another melting style to his own, the old method of lost wax.

Those molds that serve to cast the acrylic also work for melting metal. As an observer of the process of the bull of the Macarena it occurs to me to ask the artist, why did he move to the capital of Antioquia to work with melted works of art?

G: Here in Barranquilla I didn’t find anywhere that did the melting process to my liking. As a coincidence, the paisa architect Eduardo Suescún came and he said that he knew someone, Raquel Sierra from Medellín, and there we started to cast sculptures in metal.

J: Was that the workshop where they started La Cacerina?

G: Exactly, although long before that they had made about 80 works.

J: So the move from acrylic to bronze was rather fast?

G: Fast in the sense that the only thing I had to worry about was that with these molds you need to use lost wax. 

J: I see that the majority of the works are being made now with the system of lost wax.

G: A lot of them, yes; but the truth is that there are various styles of melting.

J: Let’s go through the steps so people can understand.

G: Well, it depends on the size and form of the work. We’ll start with the small ones; with the smooth parts, or bases of the bulls. For this the best system is melting the bronze and casting it in sand. Here in Barranquilla you can get some really good ones. Ones is “egg yolk sand”, which only requires adding water and it copies perfectly. There’s another one that is special to the coasts, and that is the sand bank with a mixture of ventonita. This is done in such a way that the rubber is preserved and well-compacted to later cast the bronze. Before this the insulator should already be put on, like graphite, talcum, etc, which should be fireproof.


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