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Mario Irarrázabal 1940 | Chilean sculptor

Mario Irarrázabal, b. Santiago 1940, is a chilean sculptor. He studied philosophy and art from 1960-1964 at the University of Notre Dame, IN, and theology at the Università Gregoriana Pontificia in Rome from 1965-1967. In 1968 he continued his studies under the German sculptor Otto Waldemar. He first exhibited his work in Chile in 1970, consistently using the human figure to express injustice, loneliness, helplessness, sorrow and torture, as in Judgement 1978; Valparaíso, Mus. Mun. B.A. Favouring a directness of expression in his bronzes, for which he used the lost-wax process, he sought to leave visible traces of textures and of the marks made in manipulating the material. He used the nudity of the human body, sometimes lacerated or with exaggerated proportions, the torso is sometimes unduly large in relation to the arms and legs, to emphasize its vulnerability and helplessness, reinforcing this impression by his choice of postures. Whether prone, reclining, seated or standing, the figure is always characterized by the determined way in which the head is held, which completes the expressive effect.
It looks like the extremity of a giant man, buried by a monumental sandstorm. In the wasteland of Chile’s Atacama Desert, 75 km to the south of the city of Antofagasta, a strange and unexpected sight confronts the eye: four fingers, a thumb and part of a palm, emerging from the sand. Set against the azure sky, this surreal giant hand is of course not made of flesh but stone. Called "Mano de Desierto", or "Hand of the Desert", it is a piece of art that grabs those who see it like no other.
In the summer of 1982, in the Uruguayan city of Punta del Este, an outdoor sculpture workshop was held. Several artists took part in the event, among them, a young Chilean artist called Mário Irarrázabal, who chose the beach to build his work of art, unlike his peers, that preferred to develop their work in the city. The place inspired the sculptor, who designed and built, in only six days, a colossal sculpture representing the fingers in a hand of someone drowning. Irarrázabal used mostly concrete, strengthening the structure with steel rods and a metallic net and coating it with a corrosion-proof plastic.
The expressiveness of his achievement was such that it was instantly named The Monument to the Drowned, or simply, La Mano (The Hand), and it remains in the same place to this day, while other sculptures have been forgotten. But its impact was furthered when the sculptor made copies of the hand to place in other places in the world, such as Madrid and Venice. In 1992 e made another copy, this time to place in his homeland, Chile. That is the colossal hand we can see in the Atacama Desert and the one that the desert sands make so disturbing.