From the moment Jaume Plensa (Barcelona, 1955) begins his career as a sculptor he does not stop investigatiing the physical qualities of materials and the search for space as energy. This research leads to an evolution from a more objectual sculpture to that understood as architecture and installation, which provides the spectator with an experience.
This exhibition, the artist's first retrospective in Madrid, has been specifically designed for the Palacio de Velázquez. The exhibition consists of twenty-nine large-scale works, chronologically ranging ten years of the Catalan artist’s work. During this period, Plensa evolves radically from his iron piece Prière (1989), to pieces created in paraffin, alabaster, nylon or glass.
Contrasts are an essential part of the exhibition: the broad and narrow, movement against permanence, dark and light, materiality against immateriality and sound facing silence. They are all concepts that form part of Plensa’s sculptural work which adds language as one more element. The words, texts and verses that appear in his pieces give the materials specific properties and directly influence their sound qualities, as in the works Full Contact (1999) or Love Sounds (1998), which consist of five cabins where interior sounds from different parts of the artist's body can be heard.
The title of this exhibition is given by the piece Chaos-Saliva from 1999, consisting of gongs made available to the public to make noise with. Plensa associates himself with the Surrealists because of his search in artistic language for contamination with other disciplines such as poetry or music. This concern with opening the sculpture and painting to language, sound and space, is also seen in Antoni Tàpies’ work -exhibiting simultaneously with this exhibition in the halls of the Sabatini building- and that of Eduardo Chillida and, conversely, is seen in the poetic world of Joan Brossa. With the former two artists Plensa shares his distrust of the purely formal conception of art and the search for a hidden meaning behind the secretive form. Zen Buddhism and Spanish mystical tradition also inspire the Catalan artist, as seen in the installation Wispern (1998), where the sound of drops falling in the dishes prepared on copper pans can be heard. The influence can also be seen in previous works such as Mémoires jumelles (1992), which exposes different objects placed at the end of clamps.
His pieces strike a delicate balance between formal rigor and poetic narration, claim beauty and articulate experimental spaces, which are offered to the viewer as an intimate dialogue. His sculpture depends on literature and, more specifically, poetry as an essential element of his work where he reflects on the fundamental experiences of human existence.
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