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Artist loans female portraits to Millennium Park

Tue, Jul 1, 2014

Plensa stands in front of his three cast-iron works - “Laura,” “Paula," and "Inez"

Plensa stands in front of his three cast-iron works – “Laura,” “Paula,” and “Inez”

The first item on artist Jaume Plensa’s itinerary whenever he travels to Chicago is a visit to Millennium Park’s Crown Fountain. The installation, though only 10 years old, is already an iconic piece of Chicago’s stock of public art. Its two 50-foot towers display a looped video of portraits of Chicagoans while bookending a reflecting pool that seems to be constantly filled with Chicago’s youth.

Barcelona-born Plensa, the visionary behind this piece, made another pilgrimage to Millennium Park on June 17, this time to introduce his next project, entitled “Jaume Plensa: 1004 Portraits.”

As its name implies, this installation adds four additional portraits to the pre-existing 1,000 displayed at Crown Fountain, this time in the medium of both cast-iron and resin sculptures. It is currently on loan from the artist and is part of celebrations commemorating Millennium Park’s 10th anniversary.

The subjects for the portraits are adolescent girls aged 7-14, a group that Plensa told reporters represents “beauty in motion.”

His choice of female subjects was significant. Plensa said he believes that men are an “accident in between.” Females were the past and they are the future, he said.
Three of the four sculptures are on display in the South Boeing Gallery, just east of Crown Fountain. How- ever unlike the chaotically interactive nature of the fountain, these pieces encourage quiet introspection.

The three cast-iron works— “Laura,” “Paula,” and “Ines”—stand about 20 feet tall although they are less than a foot deep. Plensa compared the unique dimensionality of his three cast-iron pieces to that of a coin. “You feel that the volume is there but in much lesser space,” he said.

Plensa was hesitant to explain his own interpretation of the work to the group of reporters (“I have to let them think a little bit more about it” he told chairman of Millennium Park Donna LaPietra). However, he noted that his new work is thematically similar to Crown Fountain, which has north and south towers separated by a pool of water.

Look Into My Dreams, Awilda sits flush with Madison Street.

Look Into My Dreams, Awilda sits flush with Madison Street.

In fact, the lone resin sculpture entitled “Look Into My Dreams, Awilda,” sits flush with Madison Street, Chicago’s equator of sorts—it’s the north-south dividing line for the street numbering system. This placement characterizes “Awilda” as both a physical and artistic representation of intersection.

Whether it’s the ever-changing video portraits at Crown Fountain or the four adolescent girls paradoxically frozen in a state of change, Plensa’s Millennium Park portfolio seems concerned with transition. As an experience everyone can relate to, the theme of change in Plensa’s work serves as an opportunity to see oneself in any of his pieces.

“I try to emphasize the interior of every one of us,” he said.

Emma Peters
StreetWise Editorial Intern

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