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Manglano-Ovalle, Iñigo locked

(b Madrid, Spain, 1961).
  • Susan Snodgrass

Chicago-based American sculptor also working in photography, video and installation. He received a BA in art and art history and a BA in Latin American and Spanish literature from Williams College in 1983. In 1989 he earned a MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Manglano-Ovalle’s hybrid practice emerged with Tele-vecindario: A Street-Level Video Block Party, a public art project created for Culture in Action, a community-based art program in Chicago in 1992–3. Working with Latino youth in Chicago’s West Town community, an area often challenged by substandard housing, drugs and gang violence, the artist facilitated a multimedia portrait of their lives in which these youth constructed their own images and concept of self. Issues of identity, community and migration, as they relate to both cultural and geographic borders, have been explored throughout his prestigious career that includes collaborative modes of working, as well as individual works sited within the museum or gallery. For Manglano-Ovalle, culture encompasses a broad network of systems—artistic, political, environmental, scientific—in constant dialogue, negotiated by both artist and viewer.

Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle: Robert, Kelly, and Lydia (from The Garden of Delights), C-print of DNA analyses, edition of 3, 1.52×1.88 m, 1998; image courtesy of the artist

The artist questions genetic definitions of identity in his DNA portraits, Cibachrome prints displayed as triptychs, originating with the project The Garden of Delights (1998). Collaborating with geneticists, the artist created digital images of DNA sequences taken from fingerprints of family members, colleagues and friends (see fig.). The resultant images recall passages in painterly abstractions; individuality and racial classification give way to abstract patterns of vibrant colour that suggest unity rather than difference across groupings.

These works challenge scientific authority and at the same time embrace new possibilities for image making that scientific technologies hold. The artist sees art and science as parallel forms of inquiry by which to understand the physical world. ‘The creative process for me,’ he stated, ‘whether it’s scientific or artistic, is driven by a number of forces. And one that I’m most interested in is desire, a desire for something that will change us. I often think that science and art are both contending with the desire for the new’. (See interview from Art:21—Art in the Twenty-First Century)

Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle: Cloud Prototype No. 1, installation view at the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, fibreglass and titanium alloy foil, 3.35×4.47×2.44 m, 2003; image courtesy of the artist

This quest for the new drives several works that merge aesthetics of beauty and the sublime with complex feats of engineering to address environmental issues, such as global warming, climate control and nuclear threat. In his Cloud Prototypes (2003; see fig., 2006) and La Tormenta (2007), the artist, working with scientists, engineers, meteorologists and architects, rendered atmospheric phenomena into massive, suspended three-dimensional forms (realized in fibreglass and titanium alloy foil) that also intimate an atomic plume. His Icebergs, a group of related works made between 2004 and 2006, conversely transform masses of ice into seemingly weightless forms. Built from permeable networks of interlocking aluminium tubes they acknowledge R(ichard) Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes while questioning modernity’s utopic ideals.

Working collaboratively across disciplines led to several design projects, including a proposal for rebuilding the World Trade Center site (2002–2003). He is the recipient of several awards, among them fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2009) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (2001).


  • M. Brenson, E. Olson and M. Jacob, eds.: Culture in Action (exh. cat., Seattle, 1995), pp. 76–87
  • Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle: The Garden of Delights (exh. cat., Winston-Salem, 1998)
  • Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle (exh. cat., Barcelona, 2003)
  • S. Snodgrass: ‘Exhibition Review’, Art in America [cont. as A. America & Elsewhere; A. America] (November 2005), pp. 187–8
  • K. Douglas, ed.: Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle: Blinking Out of Existence (Rochester, 2008)
  • W. Baker, L. Dorin and D. Markonish: Gravity is a force to be reckoned with (exh. cat. North Adams, MA, 2010)
  • ‘Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle’, Art:21—Art in the Twenty-First Century: [essay and video of 2007 interview with artist] (accessed 9 Sept 2010)