Art Basel Hong Kong has now ended. For inquiries, please contact us at email@example.com.
Gray is pleased to participate in Art Basel Hong Kong at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, Hong Kong, as well as Art Basel Live, the fair's online edition.
For the in-person fair, Gray will display a solo presentation of sculpture, drawings, and prints by renowned Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.
Throughout his career, Jaume Plensa has produced a multifaceted body of work radiating with intricate energy, psychological weight, and symbolic richness. With monumental sculptures and public installations spanning the globe in such cities as Nice, France, Chicago, San Diego, Montréal, London, Dubai, Bangkok, Shanghai, and Tokyo, Plensa's practice is diverse in material and form. His work is unified by notions of quietude, an insistence on introspection, and a focus on the human figure. Plensa's works are primarily meditations on the fundamental realities of human existence.
"A good image of sculpture would be when you try to hold water in your hands and it runs away between your fingers."
In Sappho, Plensa presents a figure resting in a meditative pose made up of a multitude of letters. Sappho eschews a specific message, instead employing language as a metaphor for the shared humanity of the world’s seemingly divergent cultures. Cast in bronze, Sappho brings together elements from nine different alphabets, its composition made up of various Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, Greek, Cyrillic, Hindi, Tamil, Hebrew, and Latin characters with which to connect to viewers on an intuitive level. The latticework of characters that composes Sappho celebrates the exchange of ideas and compassion through language.
"Art many times is just a beautiful excuse to transform the way that you look at the reality around you, and it’s also the idea of communication, building bridges, putting people in touch with one another. That’s probably the reason why I choose alphabets for my projects. These alphabets from different cultures, all working together, create an amazing and dynamic effect of beauty. That’s a very positive message to the world: how well we are when we are together.”
With this work, the artist aims to recognize and memorialize empathy and the exchange of ideas through broader and more inclusive communication. Plensa furthers this notion of commonality of language through his work using the human figure as a universal symbol. His figurative work centers on the belief that humans are not merely bodies, but space—space for spirit, mind, and contemplation. The volume it composes, with an opening at the knees, beckons each viewer to join the sculpture’s internal, meditative space.
Berta, Carla, Carlota, Lucia, Martina, 2020
Jaume Plensa’s sculpture and prints have maintained a consistent dialogue over the decades, each medium motivating him to experiment with the other in new conceptual and aesthetic ways. This recent series of digital giclée prints on Hahnemühle Photo Rag paper employs the artist's digital three-dimensional modeling technique and was inspired by his 2018 Invisibles installation at the Palacio de Cristal in Madrid.
In these 2020 prints, Plensa quotes the monumental, yet delicate steel mesh heads of the 2018 installation, positioning, elongating, and layering them atop a solid, illuminated head, which, as in their sculptural counterparts, are modeled and elongated so that both their materiality and their visual reference to a specific sitter disappear.
Set against a deep-black background, the luminous, layered, anonymous faces appear weightless, suspended in time and motion, so that their multifaceted and ethereal qualities come to the fore. Together, the mesh and solid heads are evocative of one's interiority, spirit or soul, becoming portraits of the intangible and invisible substances that make us human rather than the visible or corporeal. The resulting artwork is an introspective and almost spiritual meditation on the essence that composes our humanity.
Jaume Plensa’s 2019 series of Invisibles drawings exemplifies the artist’s desire to elevate the physical material of his practice to the unseeable. Using his recent steel mesh sculptures as a point of initial departure, the artist created the Invisibles suite by drawing his subjects’ faces solely from memory. In working from these recollections, he distances himself from rendering specific individuals’ features and instead lingers upon a sense of nostalgia remaining amidst the fragments of the subject’s portrait. Leaving the gestural lines loose and unfastened, Plensa evades the need for completeness, for an endpoint, instead stirring viewers to weave together the faces from his evaporating memories.
Pursuing that which is evaporating is perhaps the central aim of Plensa’s practice, and it is deeply tied to his method of making the Invisibles drawings. As the pastel dust falls from the sheet throughout the drawing process, Plensa gathers the pigment from the floor and reapplies it by blowing it back on to the paper and pressing into it with his finger tips, applying it to the paper which is made near Montserrat, close to the artist’s Barcelona studio.
That sense of tactility affirms his adamant request that his sculptures be caressed, not simply touched. In blowing the pastel dust upon the drawings, his breath likewise gives a warmth to their faces, offering a vitality to what might otherwise appear as apparitions.
Plensa aims to capture this liveliness, to preserve it, because he is aware of how fleeting the moment is: “I finish a portrait and that person doesn’t exist anymore. And that fascinates me because despite all the works seeming static, they are carrying a message… a message of fluidity, of immediacy, of something ephemeral that runs through our fingers.”
This awareness of transience continuously draws Plensa back to drawing from sculpture. In both mediums, he searches for the invisible, and working on paper allows him to deal with the evanescence of memory directly: “Sculpture is, I think, the relationship between the material and the immaterial. It is what creates a bridge between our tangible humanity and our intangible spirit. A good image of sculpture would be when you try to hold water in your hands and it runs away between your fingers.”
Suspended between materializing and disintegrating, Plensa’s Invisibles distill a sense of soulful grace in faces that remain forever in formation. Elusive and unfinished, these faces serve as reminders that creation is never complete.
Over the past thirty-five years, Spanish artist Jaume Plensa (b. 1955) has produced a multifaceted body of work creating sculpture that speaks to the capacity and beauty of humanity, often bringing people together through the activation of public spaces. His celebrated public projects, such as the iconic Crown Fountain in Chicago and Echo in Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park, are landmarks in cities across the world, including in Calgary, Chicago, San Diego, Montréal, London, Paris, Dubai, Bangkok, Shanghai, and Tokyo. Most recently, installations of his monumental sculptures include Behind the Walls at historic Rockefeller Center in New York City and the Museo Nacional de Arte in Mexico City, Julia in Plaza de Colón in Madrid, Voices permanently installed at 30 Hudson Yards in New York City, and Dreaming in Toronto. His forthcoming projects include Laura to be unveiled in Century City, Los Angeles and Utopia at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, Michigan as well as the permanant installation of Behind the Walls at the University of Michigan Museum of Art in Ann Arbor.
The winner of many national and international awards including the Honorary Doctorate from Univeristat Aut’onoma de Barcelona in 2018 and the 2013 Velazquez Prize awarded by the Spanish Cultural Ministry, Jaume Plensa has had solo museum exhibitions at the MACBA: Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Spain; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid Spain; MAMC–Musée d’art moderne et contemporain Saint-Étienne Métropole, Saint-Étienne, France; Max Ernst Museum Brühl des LVR, Brühl, Germany; The Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio; Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Yorkshire, England; and Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas. He lives and works in Barcelona.
Images © Plensa Studio Barcelona