In 1992 the sculptor Jaume Plensa (Barcelona, 1955) created Firenze II,an iron and aluminum sculpture in the shape of a question mark because for him sculpture is the best way to pose questions, generate perplexity, hesitation and insecurity. More than a quarter of a century later, the work remains in force. For this reason, after going through a 1: 1 scale photograph of the artist's studio in which models, sketches and materials are accumulated, this enormous sculpture, two and a half meters high, which looks like a sarcophagus, receives the visitor directly on the floor and against the wall, in the great retrospective that the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona (Macba). Plensa returns after 22 years without showing his works in that museum in an exhibition that covers three decades of his production that pose, according to the artist, a multitude of questions and questions about memory, emotion, reason and history. Two decades ago Plensa was an artist that was beginning to stand out. He is now one of the most awarded and internationally renowned Catalan sculptors, with works in public spaces in Chicago, London, Montreal, Nice, Tokyo and Toronto, among other cities.
The exhibition dialogues with the one dedicated to him Reina Sofia Museum of Madrid in the Palacio de Cristal entitled Invisible and it surprises by the absence of the most iconic pieces of the artist: the enormous pens of resin meditabundas or the figures of men of metallic structure formed by letters, musical notes and numbers. "It shows its lesser-known face, with the intention of surprising and avoiding the attempt that the visitors go merely to recognize a work of art", assured Ferran Barenbilt, director of the Macba and curator of the exhibition.
The question gives way to an almost vital itinerary by some of the twenty works chosen between Plensa (which retains many of them) and Barenblit. A path that moves between rotundity and the weight of Mémoires Jumelles (1992) a kind of pergola-sculpture formed by "10 everyday elements based on bronzes fastened by huge bars that force the visitor to look down to avoid hitting, as we always look up," said Plensa, vindicating the will of spirituality of the exhibition artifact. Or in Prière (1989), two huge cast iron structures that hold balls of the same material, looking like cannonballs, which clutter Baudelaire's eponymous poem. Even the lightness of Self-Portrait with Music; a sphere of more than three meters in diameter made for the exhibition based on assembled notes that it seems that it will start to roll only with the force of the breath.
Plensa asks for concentration, tranquility and silence to go through the exhibition: "the power of silence is more important than shouting, which is useless, in a society full of media noise, messages, information; a silence that serves to listen to ourselves, "he says. A silence that helps contemplate works that oscillate, vibrate and emit subtle sounds. Like the huge Glückauf? (good luck in German) 23 meters long that reproduces in iron corten, letter by letter, the 30 articles of the Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, as if it were a metallic and sound curtain that generates melodies when it is caressed or crossed from one side to the other. "It's one of the most beautiful poems ever written. Something that politicians would have to read, since they do not meet even a comma. The intention is to bother, call attention and touch, because art has to touch. "
Although, he points out at the moment, "people do not know how to touch it". He says it after hearing from a distance how someone has hauled him with a mallet to one of the two huge gongs of the work Matter-Spirit (2005) that emit an intense and deep sound that floods the ground floor of the Macba where the exhibition is located. Subtle and almost light is Rumor (1998), which materializes Blake's poem in which a drop of water, light and minimal hits a metal dish and ends up flooding the environment.
The exhibition that will open its doors this Friday until April 22, pays a debt of Barcelona with one of its most universal artists. What is not known is whether it will serve to reconcile the artist with the criticism that on a few occasions he has praised Plensa's work, which has sometimes qualified him as "an artist of roundabouts".
During the presentation of this retrospective, Plensa, who on more than one occasion has claimed to be "more interested in knowing others, than myself" and that "he is not interested in criticism, neither good nor bad", yesterday He illustrated his position with the phrase: "I am like Chopin, who when traveling in a carriage went with the curtains closed so that the landscape did not disturb his inspiration and his thought".
The tour continues with pieces like Islands III (1996), some containers of yellowish resin that bear the names of 73 artists: Murillo, Miró, Zurbarán, Boticelli, Buonarroti or Le Corbusier, among others. "They are like amber drops that keep mosquitoes. Who knows if soon one will take my name. " Or the surprising Dallas? … Caracas? (1997); 200 photographs taken during two years in kitchens in both cities. The Macba opens to the outside for the first time in the so-called Patio de Sculptures located next to the CCCB as if it were another room on the route. Here you can see The Heart of Trees (2007) and The Heart of Rivers (2016), a small forest in which some figures (portraits of Plensa himself) with written words embrace, with arms and legs, the trunk of trees selected by the artist. "It is the confirmation of the energy that I have always dedicated to the public space; a romantic piece for people to enjoy and that helps to make silence, "he says. The silence so sought by Plensa.
Next year, the exhibition will travel to the Museum of Modern Art in Moscow where it can be seen from June 2019.