Eccentric art flourishes along outskirts of Buenos Aires

Nov 23, 2022, 6:55 PM | Updated: Nov 24, 2022, 9:17 am
Liliana Gutiérrez looks at the horse-shaped water tank built by her father in the San Jorge neighb...

Liliana Gutiérrez looks at the horse-shaped water tank built by her father in the San Jorge neighborhood of Florencio Varela, Argentina, Monday, Oct. 26, 2022. Nostalgia led Gervasio Gutiérrez, a peasant turned bricklayer from the distant province of Jujuy, to build the tank on the terrace of his daughter's house. Before the existence of GPS trackers, the horse-shaped water tank that many confused with a cow, was often used as a reference point for travelers. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

(AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

              Gardener Juan Acosta mows a front yard decorated with several robots resembling the Transformers of the American animated television series of the 80s, and a replica of Star Wars robot character R2-D2, in Adrogué, Argentina, Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. Passersby can see the Transformers from the sidewalk. “Curious people take photos daily," Acosta said of the robots made from recycled materials. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
            
              A giant head of Po the red Teletubby, transformed into a water tank lid, can be seen by motorists traveling along the General Paz highway, in Ciudadela, Argentina, Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. Ignacio Castro, who rents the apartment just below the tank, said that when he was about to move in, he found the head of the character of the television children's series in the kitchen. He gave it to his uncle but the owner of the building demanded it be returned. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
            
              A sculpture of Homer Simpson flashing a thumbs up and wearing a chef's hat, stands on the top of an aluminum roof of the grill that bears the name of 'The Simpsons' protagonist, in Ciudadela, Argentina, Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. Waiters said that the owner of the business which serves cuts of grilled meat, brought the sculpture in a truck from the coastal city of Mar del Plata. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
            
              The Argentine version of Paris' Arc de Triumph, which stands 36 feet high, features an embossment depicting comedian Carlitos Balá on one of its columns, in Ituzaingo, Argentina, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022. Created by the artist Rubén Díaz, who is considered a "generator of fantasies". He has several constructions around town inspired by European works, but that are Argentine, explained Diaz, who is a retired architect. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
            
              A replica of a leaning Tower of Pisa constructed by artist and architect Rubén Díaz, adorns a private garden in Ituzaingo, Argentina, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022. Replicas of several European masterworks in the municipality were carried out by Díaz, who is considered a “generator of fantasies.” Díaz's goal is in part to let his neighbors "travel” to places they would normally never see. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
            
              A water tank made to look like a large hand holding a soccer ball stands on the roof of a house recalling the famous goal Diego Maradona scored with his hand against England in the 1986 World Cup, in the La Cumbre neighborhood on the outskirts of La Plata, Argentina, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022. The structure, built by a bricklayer known as "Tiki" by the neighbors, memorializes Maradona's famous goal that came to be known as the "Hand of God." (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
            
              A dog walks past a sculpture of a dinosaur displayed in the front yard of bricklayer Daniel Niz, in the Sol de Oro neighborhood of Ezeiza, Argentina, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.  “My son wanted a rubber (dinosaur) and it was expensive, so I decided to make this out of recycled things and materials,” Niz said. He previously had the dinosaur on a patio inside his house but he decided to put it outside so people could take photos of the 1.2-ton structure.  (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
            
              A water tank towers over the town's public square in Monte Grande, Argentina, Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. The enormous water tank became a work of art in 2020 when, at the municipality's request, artist Leandro García Pimentel painted a mural on it depicting fire, earth, air and water. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
            
              A bust depicting Juan Domingo Perón, three-time president of Argentina, and his wife Eva “Evita” María Duarte, in an embrace, sits on a piece of wood atop a barrel, on the patio of the artist Héctor Duarte's family home, in San Miguel, Argentina, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. A cement tear runs down the cheek of Evita who was known as the "flag-bearer of the poor”, evoking the historic moment in which a cancer-stricken Evita tells the crowd gathered for a public act in 1951 that she will not accompany her husband as his vice presidential candidate. After her early death in 1952, she became enshrined in Argentina’s national mythology. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
            
              A cement sculpture of a gorilla named Pepe with a cup of mate, is chained to a wall to prevent it from being snatched, in San Miguel, Argentina, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. The creator of the boat-shaped house and the gorilla statue is sculptor and painter Héctor Duarte, who died in 2020. Duarte's family has received offers to buy the cement sculpture, but they refuse to sell. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
            
              Dogs frolic near a 49-foot replica of a Statue of Liberty, in General Rodriguez, Argentina, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022. The structure is a leftover from the “Liberty Motocross” circuit operated there years ago, according to the caretaker of the property, Pablo Sebastián. 
(AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
            
              On the terrace of a two-story house stands a large water tank in the shape of a kettle, like ones used by Argentines to make tea-like infusions known as mate, in the Villa Raffo neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022.  It was built in 1957 by Italian immigrant Victorio Smerilli and some relatives. “They decided to do it as a replica of the ‘Victor’ kettle they sold in a store located downstairs in this same house,” said Gustavo Smerilli, the immigrant's grandson.  (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
            
              A cardboard recycler pulls his cart past the home of Miguel Muñoz, where a replica of the Eiffel Tower, stands on a rooftop, elevated on a pile of bricks, in La Tablada, Argentina, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022. Muñoz, 58, proudly explains how his father, a blacksmith, built it out of leftover iron with the guidance of brochures from the French embassy.  “He gave it to me on my birthday, that's why I don't sell it,” Muñoz said. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
            
              Liliana Gutiérrez looks at the horse-shaped water tank built by her father in the San Jorge neighborhood of Florencio Varela, Argentina, Monday, Oct. 26, 2022. Nostalgia led Gervasio Gutiérrez, a peasant turned bricklayer from the distant province of Jujuy, to build the tank on the terrace of his daughter's house. Before the existence of GPS trackers, the horse-shaped water tank that many confused with a cow, was often used as a reference point for travelers. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Why build a rooftop water tank in the shape of a Teletubby? Or go to the effort of installing a replica of the Eiffel Tower atop a semi-abandoned building?

It’s often difficult to explain the proliferation of unusual artwork dotting the vast urban belt of some 11 million people outside Argentina’s capital of Buenos Aires.

In this immense swath of tree-lined neighborhoods co-existing with areas of chaos — apparently built with little if any urban planning — many residents have erected grandiose, eyebrow-raising surprises.

The creators are usually construction workers or shop owners, although some artists are seeking to leave their signature in their neighborhood.

Pedro Flores defines the outskirts of Buenos Aires as a “post-apocalyptic paradise” close to the capital’s center. He and two friends run an Instagram account, “The Walking Conurban,” a play on the words “conurbano bonaerense,” as the roughly 40 municipalities are known in Spanish.

The page publishes images daily of these suburbs, often tinged with a bit of magical realism: a dinosaur on the dirt streets of a poor neighborhood; two Minions dolls greeting people from a home; a Statue of Liberty in the middle of a pasture.

Here are some of the works The Associated Press visited.

THE EIFFEL TOWER

On a rooftop at the corner of a street in the town of La Tablada stands a replica of the Eiffel Tower. Miguel Muñoz, 58, proudly explains how his father, a blacksmith, built it out of leftover iron with the guidance of brochures from the French embassy.

“He gave it to me on my birthday, that’s why I don’t sell it,” Muñoz said.

The tower is a symbol in the neighborhood. “I took it down once to paint it and the neighbors went crazy thinking someone had stolen it,” Muñoz said.

THE KETTLE

On the terrace of a two-story house stands a large water tank in the shape of a kettle, like the ones used by Argentines to make their beloved tea-like infusions known as mate. It was built in 1957 by Italian immigrant Victorio Smerilli and some relatives.

“They decided to do it as a replica of the ‘Victor’ kettle they sold in a store located downstairs in this same house,” said Gustavo Smerilli, the immigrant’s grandson.

Adriana Paoli runs an art workshop in the building and she is pushing a project to restore the kettle.

“If I say, ‘I have my workshop in the kettle,’ everyone knows the place,” she said.

STATUE OF LIBERTY

In the municipality of General Rodríguez, behind a humble house, a replica of a Statue of Liberty rises above a field where horses and cows graze.

The 15-meter- (49-foot-) high structure is a leftover from the “Liberty Motocross” circuit operated there years ago, the caretaker of the property, Pablo Sebastián, said.

GORILLA OF THE BOAT HOUSE

Sitting peacefully on a rock, next to a door of a boat-shaped house in the town of San Miguel, the gorilla Pepe drinks from a mate gourd. The creator of the house and the gorilla statue is sculptor and painter Héctor Duarte, who died in 2020.

Duarte’s family has received offers to buy the cement sculpture, but they refuse to sell.

BUSTS OF EVITA AND JUAN PERÓN

In the patio of the same house where Pepe the gorilla presides, Duarte’s busts of Juan Domingo Perón, three-time president of Argentina, and his wife, Eva María Duarte, can be seen embracing.

Duarte’s family lends the sculptures out for official ceremonies.

MONTE GRANDE WATER TANK

The enormous water tank in Monte Grande’s main plaza became a work of art in 2020 when, at the municipality’s request, artist Leandro García Pimentel painted a mural on it depicting fire, earth, air and water.

The water tank has become a meeting point and public ceremonies, and newlyweds pose in front of it for photos.

DINOSAUR

On a street in front of bricklayer Daniel Niz’s house, in the poor Sol de Oro neighborhood in Ezeiza, a dinosaur greets visitors.

“My son wanted a rubber (dinosaur) and it was expensive, so I decided to make this out of recycled things and materials,” Niz said.

He previously had the dinosaur on a patio inside his house but he decided to put it outside so people could take photos of the 1.2-ton structure.

HAND OF GOD WATER TANK

A water tank made to look like a large hand holding a soccer ball stands on the roof of a house in the La Cumbre neighborhood on the outskirts of La Plata, recalling the famous goal Diego Maradona scored with his hand against England in the 1986 World Cup.

It was designed by a deceased mason who was well known to locals.

COLOSSEUM, TOWER OF PISA and ARCH OF TRIUMPH

Replicas of these European masterworks in the municipality of Ituzaingó were carried out by artist and architect Rubén Díaz, who is considered a “generator of fantasies.” Díaz’s goal is in part to let his neighbors “travel” to places they would normally never see.

The Colosseum, which is 200 square meters (2,153 square feet) and 8 meters (26 feet) high, recreates the Roman amphitheater.

The Argentine version of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris is 11 meters (36 feet) high and has the late comedian Carlitos Balá immortalized on one side.

Meanwhile, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is located in the front garden of a private property. Díaz has proposed building the Great Wall of China in 2023.

HOMER’S GRILL

Homer Simpson, the father from the TV series “The Simpsons,” smiles and holds up his thumb from atop the aluminum roof of a restaurant in the town of Ciudadela. On the front of the restaurant, which serves cuts of grilled meat, is the silhouette of Maradona running with a ball.

TELETUBBY WATER TANK

Po, the red Teletubby with the circular antenna, smiles as she surveys a long and busy highway. But Po isn’t just there for decoration — she is the lid of a building’s water tank in the town of Ciudadela.

Ignacio Castro, who rents the apartment just below the tank, said that when he was about to move in he found the head of the character of the famous children’s show in the kitchen. He gave it to his uncle but the owner of the building demanded it be returned.

FIGURES OF IMMIGRANTS

Also in Ciudadela, some 20 human-scale figures appear in a row in the entrance garden to the home of Antonio Ierace, an Italian immigrant who arrived in Argentina in 1949 and worked as a bricklayer.

As a hobby, he designed statues dedicated to migrants, including a man carrying two suitcases, and homages to workers such as hairdressers and blacksmiths.

HOUSE WITH THE TRANSFORMERS

In the town of Adrogué, gardener Juan Acosta cuts the grass in his yard where there are six robots that resemble Transformers from the 1980s U.S. television program. Passersby can see the Transformers from the sidewalk.

“Curious people take photos daily,” Acosta said of the robots made from recycled materials.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

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Eccentric art flourishes along outskirts of Buenos Aires