Jaume Plensa: “Sculpture is the best way to raise questions”
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I recently had the opportunity to see the MACBA retrospective in Barcelona dedicated to Jaume Plensa, the great, famous worldwide, Catalonian sculptor.
It is a tour throughout nearly three decades of his work in which we must, in the first place, go through a great photograph of his studio, full of a plethora of models and sketches, materials, tools, notes and traces of a lifetime. After this, the itinerary continues with an impressive great steel question, “Firenze II”, which gives way to his artistic wonder world where the questions are the foreground of all his constructions. Plensa creates from a particular way of seeing the world in which he explores its internal relationships, looking as well to communicate with those who look upon his sculptures.. He not only opts to transform the space his art is in but also transforms the vision of the spectators, whether they be neighbours, locals or tourists and always with an optimistic vision. It’s not that he looks at the world through rose-tinted spectacles but that he shows confidence in that anything is possible.
One of the main distinctions that most define him is the strength of the volume, image, words and sound of his works. I warn you that facing these is overwhelming and not only because of their size but also because of what they represent and because he often uses the human figure to draw you in and make you involved in his message. It’s really marvellous.
At the expo there are pieces inside and two facilities in the outside like “The Heart of Trees” and“The Heart of Rivers”. They all stand out because of their perfect balance between reflexion, poetry, art, science and music which has always been present in his life – his father had a piano at home which he played, while Plensa hid behind it and felt sound in a different way -. Another curiosity of his colossal works, in many cases, is the lightness with which they manifest themselves even though they have been built from steel.
As you enter his world you realize that Plensa’s work is full of references to art itself: from the classics to conceptual, from the Renaissance to historical avant-garde. Plensa speaks through his art and the art of past artists taking their intellectual and formal legacy as raw materials. He is also an artist who reviews social and cultural history to help us question things and to shed light to certain areas that need it – “The Dream” in Sutton-St. Helen, Merseyside, England, where the mines used to provide jobs for the locals, is a good example of this.
Likewise, as I said earlier, the body as representation of all things human shows in his work as a constant. He also always uses measures to make his work simple and honest. In fact, he is considered by many as “the sculptor of humanity”. “Glückauf”, is a sample of this where we can see this all letters and mobile texts correspond to literal texts of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights approved by the UN in 1948. And it’s a piece the spectator can move through… Plensa’s intentions in this case is to make us think about Europe in the present, the increase in fascism and about the intense and confusing times we are living in.