Plensa is internationally recognized as one of today’s leading contemporary portrait artists; harnessing the power of this approach to convey our relationship to the world and each other by emphasizing our shared humanity through portraits of individuals. In the nest series, reliefs of contemplative or dreaming faces emerge from alabaster, bridging the classical precept that the sculpture is already contained in the stone with a contemporary use of photography in their production. Plensa is known for seeking out the perfect material and technology for each individual work. In addition to the alabaster sculptures, a grouping of monumental sculptures rendered in stainless steel and marble is also on view. The marble sculpture, MARIA WHISPERING (2021) is divided in layers with lead interspersed, another reference to classical sculpture and architecture. Of particular note is LAMIN (2021), a rare portrait of a young man, among Plensa’s models.
Plensa’s portraits reveal a reflective inner world through the models’ expressions—eyes closed and face at ease—a thread of inquiry the artist continues in new and recent works. Historically, the depiction of faces as a point of contemplation has a long lineage in Eastern and Western iconography, from Buddhism to Catholicism, where devotees are invited to gaze upon the face of a figure to reach an emotional understanding and epiphany.
Plensa expands that enquiry to the everyday, memorializing the people we encounter in our daily lives to highlight our lived, universal connection.
Underlining Plensa’s practice is an ongoing pursuit to evoke the beauty in simplicity, encouraging points of convergence for viewers of the work, which range from architectural landmarks bridging local communities to intimate sculptures. Plensa’s long career with public-facing artworks—seen all over the world from Seoul to Dubai—originates from his belief in the ability of art in public spaces to create inclusive, transformative experiences for a diverse and extensive audience.
This exhibition coincides with the unveiling of two public-facing commissions and a solo museum exhibition. Opening October 21, the artist has been commissioned for a monumental white resin head sculpture, Water’s Soul, Plensa’s tallest public sculpture to date measuring at 80 feet, to be installed in Newport Pier Park, New Jersey right across from Downtown Manhattan. In November, Plensa’s largest indoor work to date, UTOPIA, will be opened to the public, a lobby of white marble relief located in the new welcome center for the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A solo exhibition of works by Plensa will also open at the Musée d'Art Moderne de Céret, France in November 2021. On September 29, a permanent sculptural commission, WE (2021), was unveiled at The Shard, London, UK, marking the artist's first public-facing sculpture in the city.