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In Dialogue: Jaume Plensa and Paul Gray


Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park has acquired a site-specific commission by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. The Grand Rapids attraction says the piece titled Utopia is designed to be an integral part of the new Meijer Gardens Welcome Center, opening in 2021. The artwork consists of 19-foot-tall (5.8-meter-tall) portraits of four young women of different backgrounds and nationalities. It will be located in the Welcome Center’s new Garden Pavilion room. The sculpture is being created in Barcelona, Spain, and carved from white marble.

Plensa said in a statement that “Utopia is our human landscape, a space to embrace humanity and our collective dreams.”

Paul Gray: "You often talk about sculpture, and what it means to you. And you relate it to the process of asking questions, and to you it's a meaningful way to ask questions. And you talk about the relationship between the material and the immaterial, and I know you're very influenced by text and by poetry. Can you speak a little bit about that?"

Jaume Plensa: "Sure. Well, in the present video that we have seen, I mention the concept of invisibility. And it's funny that I'm trying to talk about invisibility with 400 tons of marble. I know it seems a contradiction. I spend my life talking about that duality, that kind of contradiction: poetry and cast iron, invisible things and marble. Everything around my life is incredibly heavy, but I'm always dreaming about something untouchable, something that seems, that is invisible. And especially the project Utopia, it's a piece around the walls and it's not taking the position of the center. It's refusing that concept of totem, in which totem is really a kind of homage, or let's say a celebration. It's more, let's say, I also said in the video, it's the bottle. And people walking inside will be the message. I think it's beautiful. Every one of us, walking inside the space, will be the message. Because every individual is the real message, it's the most important for me. And to catch that concept, I guess, in sculpture was really ideal for me, because sculpture has no capacity to describe. It's always talking about concepts, about ideas, about feelings, about emotions, and thanks to poets I understood very well what it means only with one word to say the maximum. And my work, in any case, is not mimimal in this way. But I guess it's very minimal in the concept. I'm extremely precise in the concept, or trying to be precise. And that piece, Utopia, it's the foreheads of different portraits of young women, elongated, in a way that becomes a landscape. Okay, but the people. The people that we are waiting one day, that will be visiting the space. And maybe they will be not conscious of being part of this, but they are completing the piece in every moment. And that for me, is the influence of poetry, because a poem could not exist if there's not somebody with the book in their hands, reading."