On the occasion of the 56th International Art Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia, one of Venice’s most celebrated landmarks, the Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore, will host Together, an exhibition (collateral event) of new works by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. Plensa (Spain, b.1955) is one of the world’s foremost artists working in the public art space, with permanent works spanning the globe including the Crown Fountain (Chicago), Echo (Seattle), Breathing (London) and Roots (Tokyo).
The exhibition is curated by Clare Lilley, Director of Programmes at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The works in the exhibition all make their debut in San Giorgio and reflect the artist’s continued interest in a bodily relationship to space, scale, material and place.
For four hundred years the Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore has been a place of worship, communication and meditation, where Palladio’s profound architecture creates a stilling and contemplative environment. Plensa’s response to this powerful space is Together; a conversation between two sculptures – hand, suspended beneath the cupola in the foreground of the altar, and head, sited in the nave. Placed on the dominant west-east axis of the building, the works set up a line of spiritual and intellectual discourse which evokes emotion and seeks to connect with his viewers on an intuitive level.
As a speaker of five languages alongside a nomadic life that takes him around the globe, Plensa’s work reflects a desire to break down barriers. Merging difference is a cornerstone of his work, and here it is further emphasized by the installation of meticulous drawings and a group of five alabaster portraits in the contiguous Officina dell’Arte Spirituale, located 300 meters from the entrance to the Basilica on the island’s northern edge. Plunged in darkness and lit to reveal their luminous opacity, the sculptures were carved using reformed scans of real girls; chosen because, like nomads, they have traveled, settled and traveled again. Chosen, too, because they are teenage girls on the cusp of leaving and arriving, whose potential – like that of all humanity so deeply glows.
Clare Lilley, Curator, commented: “Plensa’s installations for the Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore are testament to his acute understanding of space and scale. His 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 civilised behaviour; in this place, which for centuries has welcomed world travellers, Plensa’s work will connect people of many faiths and of no faith.”
Abbazia di San Giorgio Maggiore, Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore, Isola di San Giorgio