Humming by Jaume Plensa at the deCordova Sculpture Park in Lincoln, MA and his Alchemist on MIT’s campus in Cambridge are the only two sculptures by Plensa that I have seen in person. I’ve known Humming for a few years, and I’m only just getting to know Alchemist. Like several other sculptures by this innovative versatile artist, both are much larger than real human forms. Despite their grand scale, both invite viewers to come close and spend time in their presence. They are intriguing gentle beings, cryptic but not intimidating.
Humming is a nine-foot elongated marble version of the head of a young woman who hummed, as the artist requested, during sessions when he photographed her in the round. Description of Plensa’s process and perspective is included in Sculpture Park resources on the deCordova website. Alchemist, about sixteen feet high, defines the partial outline of a seated person in airy painted steel. A few visitors at once can enter from the front to look around, up, and out through the intricate lattice of numbers and symbols. You can access summertime photos and information about Alchemist from the MIT Art Map.
Alchemist One April Evening
Humming One April Afternoon
Though both these works are big, Jaume Plensa has created much more monumental pieces for public spaces, including resin polyester heads more than forty feet high in city parks. This Barcelona-born artist’s website is rich with impressive images of international public art projects. His interest in letters, numbers, and other graphic symbols recurs in his drawings, prints, and stage design.
Body of Symbols Significant to an Institute of Technology
In his eighteen-minute TED Talk titled Art and Form, Jaume Plensa shows people of all ages responding to his collaborative public art projects in Chicago, New York, and other locations in the world. Through personal stories and analogies, he explains his imaginative uses of new technologies to make powerful, accessible, alluring art. The video offers valuable context for the two contemplative beings in my vicinity.
Like most art outdoors in New England, this year, Alchemist and Humming have survived a particularly severe winter. As they were designed to do, they stayed put through frigid nights and serial snowstorms. I guess that Alchemist had many visitors despite the winter weather. Humming was likely visited by woodland creatures, snowshoe tour groups, and children from the preschool at deCordova. Both sculptures convince me that contemplation builds endurance and that artists like Jaume Plensa successfully revive our spirit.