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Transforming Energy: A Conversation with Jaume Plensa

by Michael Stoeber

Seven Dieties of Good Fortune, 1999-2000. Glass, stainless steel, wood, and light, 7 elements, 250 x 120-770 x 80-150 cm. Work installed in Daikanyama, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan. Photo: S. Anzai
Crown Fountain, 2004. Glass, stainless steel, LED screens, light, and water, 3,300 sq. ft. Work installed at Millennium Park, Chicago. Photo: Hendrich Blessing.

A young man once approached Jean Cocteau and asked the master what he should do to become a successful artist. Cocteau responded with three words: “Faites-moi étonner!” (“Amaze me!”) Looking at Jaume Plensa’s works, one gets the impression that he had been that young artist and had taken Cocteau’s recommendation to heart. The amazement of his sculptures begins with the different and often disparate materials that Plensa uses so gracefully and harmoniously. Not only steel and iron, bronze and brass, plastic and polyester, but also water and fire, light and darkness, sound and music, words and texts. Plensa was born in 1955 in Barcelona, where he still lives and works, except when he is in Paris, his second home. He has had numerous exhibitions all over the world, and his works can be found in museums and art institutes as well as in prominent public places. As a sculptor, he is less interested in defining space through weight and measure than he is in obtaining energy. For Plensa, sculpture means the spiritualization of matter, an interaction between mind and material. To achieve this, the concept of time becomes more important than that of space. Plensa’s time is filled with personal and collective remembrances, becoming a mirror for the everyman in ourselves and hence for the human condition.

Michael Stoeber: How did you come to art?
Jaume Plensa: That’s difficult to answer. My father played the piano and my mother was a singer for a while. So music and books were important at home, but not pictures. I wasn’t good at music, but when I had problems or wished to be alone, sitting at the piano was a perfect way for me to hide. The darkness that surrounded me there and the smell of the piano taught me to experience space and music in quite a physical manner. My childhood memories revolve around music and books.

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