The unprecedented works of sculptor Aurel Vlad reflect his “search for the truest expression of life” and a belief in the “power of gesture to become art”. Vlad’s sculptings are prominently displayed throughout Bucharest, and the beauty of their graphic facial and body expressions is unforgettable.
“Gestures transmitted from the beginning of life expressing emotions, feelings, passions, states, and limits, become living beings who are frightened, enlightened, gifted, suffering, or rejoicing. Such gestures become symbols of joy or pain, fear or courage, blessing or destruction.” Sculptor Aurel Vlad
Aurel Vlad was born in 1954 in Galați Romania, situated along the Danube River near Moldova. From childhood, he constructed things from planks and wire or whatever materials were at hand. He always wanted to become a sculptor. Vlad visited renowned Union of Fine Artists Sculptor Camp in Măgura Buzăului, near the Carpathians, and was impressed by the work of sculptors he met.
In 1980, at the end of his military service, Vlad was admitted to the Sculpture Section of the Nicolae Grigorescu Institute of Fine Arts. He graduated in 1984 and was assigned to Bucharest Marble, “where stones and marble were processed for Romanian construction sites”. His career took off when he was selected by the Union of Visual Artists to be part of a sculpture symposium in Măgura Buzăului. His impressive work is “representative of the generation of the 1980s”.
From 1984 to 1986, Vlad was given a workshop rented by sculptor Bella Crișan near Vaslui in the Ștefan cel Mare area. He participated in competitions and exhibitions in Romania, Bulgaria, and Italy and worked with sculptors like Mircea Roman. Vlad received the Dimitrie Paciurea Scholarship and was offered the opportunity to work for two years in the courtyard workshop at Theodor Aman Museum. He shared the workshop with fellow sculptor Alexandru Paraschiv.
Workshops and Exhibitions
In 1988, Vlad submitted a request to the Romanian Union of Visual Artists and received a workshop in Bucharest which had belonged to sculptor Gheorghe Adam. He participated in stone carving symposia and national group exhibitions in Italy, Russia, and Romania.
In 1990, Vlad had his first solo exhibition at Orizont (Horizon) Gallery, where he sold all the works on display. He received the Union of Visual Artists Prize for Sculpture and became a member of the Romania Union of Visual Artists (UAP) and the Bureau of Sculpture of UAP.
“These sculptures grew inside me like plants in the dark – fragile, mysterious, pulled up by an unknown force. When they became true inner models, I started working.” Aural Vlad
Aurel Vlad’s sculpture is well described as a “continuous oscillation between the religious and profane”. His “world of characters frozen in dramatic gestures” create a scene to which the viewer is “irrepressibly attracted”.
“Aurel Vlad uses the singular-crowd relationship in his work, creating a tension that makes the sculptor’s approach unmistakable. But even when a character is part of a crowd, caught either in sublime gestures or in stereotypical actions, his loneliness is dramatically asserted.” Sculpture.ro
Vlad’s older works, especially wooden ones, “explicitly deal with Old and New Testament motifs, crucial moments in the history of the Son of God’s passage through the world, and episodes inspired by the martyrdom of early Christians”. In his more recent works, the “religious subject is hidden, but not absent”.
The “animal motif” appears in Aurel Vlad’s three-dimensional compositions. “A zoomorphic character is often present in his workshop sculpture. It represents the plastic materialization of one of the most human of feelings – fear.”
Vlad’s compositions with people and dogs are in wood and metal. The observer “dialogues with his singular, zoomorphic, or anthropomorphic characters”. “Antagonisms of all kinds, ranging from ideational ones, to incarnations in form, give nerve and sap to the works of Aurel Vlad, sculptor of the unleashed, explicit show, and creator of a constantly moving world.”
Statuary Group Sighet Memorial
The Sighet Memorial is housed in a former Stalinist prison in Sighet, a northern Romanian town in the Maramures Region. The facility was used to imprison schoolchildren, college students, and peasants from the resistance (1948-1950), political opponents, journalists, and clergymen (1950-1955), and common criminals from 1955 until the 1970s.
Today, it’s a memorial to the victims of communist regimes and displays their development and dire effects in Romania and other Eastern European countries. The Memorial provides “insight on the repression by communist regimes in Europe throughout the 20th century, including the resultant death and suffering experienced inside and outside Stalinist prison walls”.
In 1993, the Civic Academy Foundation took over the Sighet prison ruin and transformed it into a museum. Through combined efforts of the Academy and the International Center for the Study of Communism, the former prison became the world’s first memorial dedicated to the victims of communism.
The former prison illustrates what happened during communism in Romania and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Prison cells were transformed into a museum hall, detailing “the political malformation that brought suffering and death throughout the twentieth century in Europe”.
“Aurel Vlad’s favorite theme is the human condition in its complexity.”
Aurel Vlad’s name is closely related to the work he did at Sighet benefiting the memory of us all. His statuary group at the Sighet Memorial, The Procession of the Sacrificed, renders in sober language the “suffering of those who were imprisoned and did not see the light of day”. Vlad’s Sighet work “is overwhelming and gives a providential vibe to the entire surrounding landscape”.
“Sculptor Aurel Vlad is an outstanding representative of the 1980s generation. He developed a coherent and major artistic project showing his interest regarding a careful investigation of human being behavior on the edge, Aurel Vlad’s sculpture develops an emotion and often anxiety that actively questions the viewer.”
“Those bodies are contorted and slender at the same time. They’re tormented, but they also express an opening to heaven. He suffers, but he also prays. Their prayer is embodied in every muscle spasm that the artist has been able to make visible through his chiseled masterpiece.” Ziarul Lumina
Awards and Recognition
From 1990 to 1998, Aural Vlad won countless awards and produced several major exhibitions. His awards and recognition are too numerous to cover in a single blog post, but the Sacrifice Parade is clearly one of his best-known works.
In 2000, Vlad was decorated by the President of Romania with the National Order of Merit in the rank of Commander. In 2002, he received the highest recognition in Romania for visual arts – the Ion Andreescu prize of the Romanian Academy.
From 2008 to 2012, Aurel Vlad was Dean and Associate Professor PhD at the Faculty of Fine Arts, National University of Art Bucharest. His extraordinary sculptures undoubtedly contribute to the development of Romanian culture. I’m happy to have discovered his work!