Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art, in Nashville, recently opened their newest exhibition of large scale sculptures by internationally acclaimed Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. This latest grand-scale show is featured at the estate’s historic grounds and museum of art. Opened last Friday, May 22 and on display through November 1, 2015, Jaume Plensa: Human Landscape features outdoor and indoor installations including sculptures imagined specifically for Cheekwood’s grounds. The exhibition is organized by Cheekwood in partnership with The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, where four of the artist’s sculptures are also on view.
This exhibition marks a rare opportunity for visitors to experience the spectacular work of Plensa in Nashville. This is the first time the artist’s work has been seen in such depth since his 2010 exhibition at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas.
Plensa’s work in the United States include Crown Fountain in Chicago’s Millennium Park, and Echo, formerly on view in Madison Square Park in New York, now permanently sited at Olympic Sculpture Park at the Seattle Museum of Art. The recipient of many awards and accolades, Jaume Plensa was most recently awarded the 2012 prestigious National Visual Arts Award of Spain, the 2013 Velasquez Prize awarded by the Spanish Cultural Ministry, and Spain’s 2013 National Graphic Arts Prize.
Plensa’s body of work is primarily inspired by the complexities of the human condition. He is known for the exploration of the tension between the interior and exterior life. The artist uses a variety of materials—from cast iron to steel and bronze to alabaster and synthetic resin—choosing the material which will best communicate his idea for the image. Plensa’s portraits are a radical reinterpretation of what is usually considered the domain of a more classical art. Each portrait begins with an image of a particular individual, usually a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, someone he knows. Posed with eyes closed, the sitter is photographed from all sides, and then the image is elongated and abstracted in the computer with Plensa’s unerring eye and masterful treatment of the human image to create sculpture with an elegant silhouette and universal appeal. The features of his portraits transcend race, culture and language.
Plensa is also involved with the transmission of language and culture. He often uses excerpts of texts from authors and poets whose writings are meaningful to him. The characters from many world alphabets are the physical elements that form a sculpture, making language as central to his work as human forms themselves. In this body of work, Plensa blurs the line of language, culture, belief system and physicality. The result is what is often described as work with a luminous beauty and grace, a sense of harmony, and supreme calm.
Jaume Plensa: Human Landscape consists of nine large-scale outdoor sculptures, indoor installations and sculptures, and a selection of works on paper. As a part of the exhibition, Jaume Plensa created new works including a double sculpture entitled Soul of Words, which is sited on the prominent color garden lawn. A monumental cast iron head, Laura with Bun, a 23 foot high cast iron portrait graces the entrance of the grounds.
Additionally, you will see Plensa’s 2007 Heart of Trees, in which seven seated bronze figures, based on a self-portrait of the artist, are each covered with the names of the artist’s favorite composers. Each seated figure “embraces” a live tree.
Of particular interest to Music City’s culture is Plensa’s 2013 seated stainless steel figure, Silent Music, entirely comprised of stainless steel musical notes. Though this does not actually incorporate sound, the sculpture stands as a symbol of the universal language achieved through music, celebrating the imprint left on body and soul.
Cheekwood’s Museum of Art galleries, houses Plensa’s 2003 Silent Rain, a hanging screen composed of literary phrases, poetry, and Plensa’s own words. Visitors pass through this suspended and cascading work as they pass through the galleries, naturally interrupting the words’ legibility and therefore temporarily disrupting any meaning while creating a physical experience with the written word. Also in the galleries is the artist’s 2006 interactive work entitled Matter-Spirit that invites visitors to fill the space with sound by ringing a series of gongs.
Specifically designed for Cheekwood’s exhibition, Awilda & Irma consists of a pair of monumental stainless steel mesh faces that will engage with each other as well as the landscape visible through them. Visitors to Cheekwood will see the U.S. premier of The Soul of Words I and II, a pair of white stainless steel seated figures formed from the symbols and letters from nine different alphabets.
Cheekwood is a 55-acre botanical garden and art museum located on the historic Cheek estate. Their mission is to preserve Cheekwood as an historical landmark where beauty and excellence in art and horticulture stimulate the mind and nurture the spirit.Cheekwood presents world-class art exhibitions, showcases breathtaking gardens, and offers education programs and seasonal festivals to school children and families as well as to the citizens of Nashville and its visitors.
1200 Forrest Park Drive, Nashville
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m
Admission: $14 for adults, seniors $12 and children 3-17, $7
Parking: $3 per car
Cheekwood will remain open until 9 pm on the first Friday of each month during the exhibition (July through October) and will feature Spanish music and programming to complement the exhibition
For further information call 615-356-8000 or visit www.cheekwood.org