As visitors enter Venice’s four-hundred-year-old basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore, they are welcomed by two, large-scale sculptural installations that act in dialogue with one another, and the historic space they temporarily inhabit. Spanish artist Jaume Plensa presents ‘Together’, a major exhibition of new works, for the Venice Art Biennale 2015, making their debut in San Giorgio while embodying the artist’s ongoing interest in the human relationship to space, scale and material.
Within the vaulted church interior, Plensa joins a sculpture of a hand and head together in conversation: a stainless steel hand formed from characters of eight different languages suspends beneath the cupola in the foreground of the altar; a metallic mesh head sited in the nave towers above passing visitors. Their materiality allows both works to distill and diffuse light passing through the internal spaces, engaging viewers in a spiritual and intellectual discourse.
‘Together’ also includes an installation of meticulous drawings and a group of five alabaster portraits — made using scans of real girls – sited in the Officina dell’Arte Spirituale. Occupying a vast, dark space, the statues are lit to reveal their luminous opacity and distinct sense of perspective.
Curated by Clare Lilley, the exhibition reflects the artist’s desire to break down barriers between people and ‘will connect people of many faiths and of no faith’ Lilley describes. ‘[Plensa’s] sculptures do not impose themselves on these historic spaces; rather they capture and reflect the actual light and shadows within to communicate a metaphorical language. Both visually stunning and intimate, they draw our attention to a world where migration and difference challenge civilized behavior’.