Tale Teller VI, 2014, by Jaume Plensa

2015 009 V0011Jaume Plensa (Spanish, b. 1955), Tale Teller VI, 2014, stainless steel and stone, 91.75 x 47.5 x 55 inches. Acquired with funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. William C. Ballard, Jr., 2015.009

Snite Museum of Art Advisory Council members Bill and Julie Ballard made possible the acquisition of an important sculpture by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.  Tale Teller VI brings to Notre Dame not only the artistic output of one of the world’s most-acclaimed contemporary artists, but it also brings an important exemplar of conceptual art.  It is of a type Plensa calls “souls:” human figures described by stainless-steel matrices of alphabet letters.  One can detect Arabic, English (Latin), Greek, Hebrew, and Japanese, letters within the matrix.  With his  “souls” Plensa underscores written language as the phenomenon that distinguishes humans from all other life forms.  That is, these artworks celebrate our ability to understand and interpret our lives through poetry and literature.

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park, United Kingdom, shared the following statement in connection with their 2011 one-man exhibition of Jaume Plensa sculptures:

Plensa’s work always deals with humanity, with body and soul, and is largely figurative.  Plensa believes that sculpture is an extraordinary vehicle through which to access our emotions and thoughts; his work poses questions and sets up situations where we are encouraged to think again, to talk with one another, to be silent and meditative, to touch, to be together. The artist’s work is particularly concerned with the fact that people are losing the ability to converse, both with others and with themselves, and his work actively sets out to make us reconnect with our own souls.

Plensa is very widely read and often refers to how his family home was filled with books as a child. Throughout his life he has discovered poems and texts that have moved him profoundly and it is these rather than the visual arts that have provided the broadest source of inspiration, often being directly referenced in his own work. Yet it is not just works of literature that fascinate him, but language itself.  An abundance of letters and words, often forming the outline or shell of the human body, has come to characterize his sculpture and drawing. Plensa’s use of both language and the figure makes his work particularly accessible and poignant as it exists directly in the world we inhabit; it is universal. Yet through these material elements it reaches out to the immaterial, to the mind and the soul; even when alluding to life’s adversity it is hopeful and unashamedly beautiful.

The Plensa sculpture will first be installed within the Snite Museum of Art sculpture courtyard and will then be relocated to the Notre Dame Sculpture Park once fly ash removal is completed—likely, late this fall or spring 2016.  The sculpture’s content beautifully fits the theme of the Notre Dame Sculpture Park exhibition: Reclaiming our Nature—both the natural environment and humankind’s spiritual nature.  Its celebration of language and literature is also very appropriate for a university.  The Sculpture Park featured five sculptures when it opened in 2013; Tale Teller VI brings the total to ten.

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