On October 24, 2015, the United Nations celebrated its 70th birthday, and the world celebrated with it by lighting up 200 monuments and landmarks in the organization’s trademark bold blue. And in New York City, in Rumsey Playfield on the side of Central Park, a smaller yet more permanent visual was unveiled to commemorate the anniversary.
Enlightened Universe is an arrangement of 70 life-sized figures, one for each year. The figures look like children’s cut-outs, linked at the hands and standing in accordion folds in a circle, all brilliantly and abstractly colored. Their circles surround a large globe made of mirrored triangles. The globe is 6.371 meters across, precisely one one-millionth of the average radius of the globe. To add to the collection of significant numbers, the artist also turned 70 this year.
This artist is Cristóbal Gabarrón, born in Murcia, Spain in 1945. He’s had the UN as a patron before. He designed a chapel and a poster for the Millennium Summit in New York in 2000. More personal works have dominated his recent shows, mostly in China, but he says that this UN project ran parallel to that personal work. Despite the different focuses, he says that all art is, at heart, about freedom.
That is, he says, the reasoning behind the abstract themes that dominate even his most obvious art, like the brilliant paintings on Enlightened Universe’s figures.
“I wish I would have that child’s soul for the creation of color,” he says about his painting style. “I attempt to give sense to my inner doubts using colors that are fresh, those colors that a fearless child would use with confidence on a sketch. That confident freshness is one of the most challenging abilities to develop because those insecurities engraved in the adults generate a rigid outcome.”