Jaume Plensa

Jaume Plensa, born in Barcelona in 1955, is today one of the leading sculptors in the field of plastic arts. Since 1980, the year when he made himself known with his first exhibition in Barcelona, Plensa has lived and worked in Berlin, Brussels, the United Kingdom (invited by the Henry Moore Institute) and France (invited by the Atelier Alexander Calder), and he currently resides between Barcelona and Paris. He has also taught at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and in The School of the Art Institute of Chicago during 2009-2010. Since 1992 he has obtained various distinctions and awards, both national and international, notably his investiture as a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture (1993), the National Award for Plastic Arts – National Culture Awards of the Government of Catalonia 1997 (Barcelona), and, most recently, Honorary Doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, USA, 2005).

His work has been exhibited in numerous galleries and museums in Europe, the United States and Japan: Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona (Spain); Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris (France); Henry Moore Sculpture Trust, Halifax (United Kingdom); Malmö Konsthall, Malmö (Sweden); Städtische Kunsthalle, Mannheim (Germany); Musée d’Art Contemporain, Lyons (France); Museo Luigi Pecci, Prato (Italy); Kestner Gesellschaft, Hannover (Germany); Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna (Austria); Palacio de Velázquez - Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; BALTIC The Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead (United
Kingdom); the Arts Club Center for Contemporary Art, Chicago (USA); Musée des Beaux-Arts, Caen (France); Wilhelm-Lehmbruck-Museum, Duisburg (Germany), Kunsthalle Mannheim Museum (Germany), CAC (Málaga); Musée d’Art Contemporain, Nice (France); IVAM Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Valencia (Spain); The Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, Michigan (USA); The Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas (USA) etc.

As for Plensa’s upcoming personal exhibitions, especially important is the one being prepared for The Picasso Museum in Antibes, in 2010 and also the one at EMMA - Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Espoon Kaupunk, Finland in 2011.

Jaume Plensa’s sculptural work has passed through various stages. In the early 1980s the central feature of his work was wrought iron: the sculptures, largely worked with recovered materials – iron, bronze, copper, etc. – materialised characters or anthropomorphic shapes traced by way of cuts, folds and collages. In 1986 Plensa began a series of sculptures in cast iron, melted with the oldest technique of casting metals. His pieces then became large sculptures that relate with the earth, rocks and magma.

Virtually abandoning all trace of figuration, his work – although always formalised in cast iron – later incorporates light, which, in combination with the iron, creates works of great beauty. It is at this moment when Plensa also inserts into his sculptures written texts in relief, poetic texts – phrases or simply words – which act as if they were one more material, colour or brush stroke of his work. Since then, Jaume Plensa has not ceased to work with light and casting, although he has varied his materials – aluminium, bronze, brass, glass, steel, resin, etc. – according to the requirements of the work itself or the space. Always created on a human scale, his sculptures show us receptacles, cabins, cavities. In recent years, and almost simultaneously, his casting materials have been synthetic resin and melted glass, but also alabaster, with its mysterious translucency, with which he has often built those personal and non-transferrable ‘houses’ with soul, destined to shelter his own dimensions and emotions. Along with the light, always perturbing, the sound and the texts – used as one more material, as a path or a door – endow his current work with that poetic sense of language, lyrical and at the same time materic, that characterises and differentiates it.

In parallel with his sculptural work, and at the same level of importance, the artist has created an extensive body of work on paper – basically drawings and collages – always closely related with sculpture. These are never mere sketches, but works conceived to be worked in two dimensions. The collages of photographs, the texts in plastic letters, the superimpositions, the manipulations and the relief that he gives to the paper confer on his work a materic sense that inevitably brings it close to sculpture. From this same standpoint, always investigating but also playful, from which he approaches his sculptures and his work on paper, we must also highlight his tireless work in the graphic field, which clearly reflects a constant drive to research and originality. Since 1995 he is collaborating working stage designs for theatre and opera productions, the most relevant with Alex Ollé and Carlos Padrissa form La Fura dels Baus: Atlantida (by Manuel de Falla) for the Granada Festival in 1996, Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien (by Claude Debussy) for the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma in 1997, La Damnation de Faust (by Hector Berlioz) for the Salzburger Festspiele in 1999 and Die Zauberflöte (by Mozart) for the Ruhr Triennale Bochum in 2003. The last one is Le Château de Barbe-Bleue by Bela Bartok and Le Journal d’un Disparu by Leos Janacek, for the Opéra de Paris, co produced with the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona in 2007. A significant part of Plensa’s production is set in the context of public sculpture, a sphere in which he has permanent works installed in Spain, France, Japan, the United Kingdom, Korea, Germany, Canada, the USA, etc. The Crown Fountain, in Chicago’s Millennium Park, is one of his latest project, and undoubtedly one of his most brilliant. In 2005 he finished Breathing, which is installed in the new BBC building in London, in 2007 Conversation à Nice for the place Masséna in Nice, France; El Alma del Ebro for the Expo Zaragoza 2008, in Zaragoza, Spain and Dream for St. Helens, Liverpool, UK, in 2009. His most recent dated 2010, World Voices, is for the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE.

He is currently working on several new projects as Wishing Well for Ther Bow in Calgary, Canada and Ogijima’s Soul for the Ogijima Island in Japan.

Portrait of Jaume Plensa