Jaume Plensa introduced his “families” to Toledo on Thursday night: Huge alabaster and marble heads of young girls; the fat angels, too heavy to fly, that are illuminated and affixed to walls; the music-making cymbals that resonate with vibrations of our own bodies; tree huggers; mesh heads large enough to walk into and peer out at the world from inside, and nomads made of a steel latticework of alphabet letters.
Each of the families include sculptures Mr. Plensa has created from wire, stone, and metal in his Barcelona studio that have been installed in dozens of venues, from tiny Japanese islands to the dramatic lobby of the planet’s tallest building, in Dubai.
One of the 21st century’s most sought-after sculptors, Mr. Plensa charmed a crowd of about 750 in the Toledo Museum of Art’s Peristyle. He spoke as part of the free Masters Series sponsored by the Toledo Museum of Art Ambassadors.
Last fall, the museum installed Spiegel, a member of Mr. Plensa’s steel latticework family in which two 12-foot rounded figures face each other as if in dialogue. The letters comprising the bodies are from eight alphabets: Chinese, Hindi, Russian, Greek, Latin, Japanese, Arabic, and Hebrew.
Backed by a landscape of knolls and young trees, the artwork stands at the corner of Monroe Street and Collingwood Boulevard, and is especially dramatic at night when illuminated.
“Today is the first day I’ve seen it installed and I’m extremely proud,” said Mr. Plensa, 57.
Casually dressed, soft-spoken, and with an unassuming air, he showed slides of others in this group: facing the Mediterranean in Antibes, France, in Houston, in Vancouver, Prague, Paris, Des Moines, and Italy. Some are crafted of musical staffs and notes instead of letters. His photographs showed the figures’ back views.
“I like that the figures are facing something. The landscape is as important as the piece,” he said.
In other places, he has made curtains of letters that are lines of poetry from poets “who I consider the legs of my table.”
Passing through the curtains, people become part of the poetry, he said.
Mr. Plensa is best known in the United States for Crown Fountain, two glass-brick towers on which videos of faces appear intermittently, and that spout water onto a black granite pool, in Chicago’s Millennium Park.
It has become a beloved plaza, a gathering place, where children frolic, and Chicagoans know spring has arrived, he said with obvious pleasure, when the Crown Fountain’s water is turned on for the season.
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