“Sculpture is the best way to pose a question” says Jaume Plensa, artist born in Barcelona in 1955. His solo exhibition at MACBA runs until April 22nd so these days are a great opportunity to see it, that if you haven’t already, especially as the Saturday afternoons at the museum are free.
Jaume Plensa is best known for his oversized human figure sculptures. Powerful and silent, they display serene facial expressions with their eyes closed, as if dreaming or meditating. Sometimes the figures are created in a metal mesh of letters of all the alphabets of the world, and one can even walk inside the sculpture.
Jaume Plensa uses the alphabet in playful ways, and this 23-metre-long vertical curtain (Glückauf? or Good luck? in German) reproduces the entire 30 phrases of the Declaration of the Human Rights (1948) in metal letters displayed vertically and suspended by transparent nylon.
When you touch the letters, the long curtain moves and generates harmonic sounds. “It’s one of the most beautiful poems ever written, Plensa says (1). Something that politicians should read, since they do not comply even a comma of it. The intention is to bother, call attention and touch, because art has to touch.”
Self-portrait with music is an impressive sphere created out of metal, still one of the silent works of art of the exhibition, unlike Matter-Spirit – two metal gongs that anyone can play.
“I often work with the vibration of materials. An object produces a sound, when stroke. This is due to the matter of which it is made. You, me, her, we all produce sounds. If I give you a blow on the arm we would hear a sound somewhat opaque, while there are materials such as metals, which produce more interesting sounds. And this is not music; it is the material which is speaking. Something classical isn’t it? Also, I have always been interested in big questions, those that we think about today, we thought about in the past and which we will think about in the future. Is this something classic? Surely, but it also is contemporary.” (2)
Plensa’s models are real people and, often, with their heads are stretched, like an optical illusion, as if you were looking at them from an angle. Rather than a straightforward portrait, he plays with proportions, giving a sense of spirituality to the faces, as he examines the relationship between body and soul.
The relationship between body and soul is also the theme of an installation called The Soul of Trees, where trees were carefully planted in the museum’s patio and, then, embraced by sculptures having written, all over their body, names of famous music composers. “I specially covered or tattooed all these figures with names of composers. Seven notes so seven portraits. Musicians also have a tremendous capacity to transform things into a very abstract material, into untouchable things like energy or the soul.” (3)
2. Digicult, interview with Jaume Plensa, http://digicult.it/design/the-poetics-of-the-intangible-a-conversation-with-jaume-plensa/
3. The Heart of Trees, http://umedalenskulptur.org/artworks-in-the-park/jaume-plensa-heart-of-trees/