Monumental installation by Jaume Plensa unveiled in Jersey City

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Monumental installation by Jaume Plensa unveiled in Jersey City
Jaume Plensa, Water's Soul, 2020. Courtesy Gray Chicago/New York. Artwork © Jaume Plensa Studio. Photo: Timothy Schenck.

JERSEY CITY, NJ.- Gray announced the unveiling of Water’s Soul, 2020, a new site-specific sculpture by internationally renowned artist Jaume Plensa. Standing 80 feet tall, Water’s Soul is the artist’s tallest public sculpture to-date and has been permanently installed in Newport on the Hudson River in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Overlooking the Hudson River, Water’s Soul depicts the serene face of a young subject holding a finger to her lips in a state of silent contemplation. The sculptural portrait, though monumental in scale, humbly gestures for quietude, a beckoning towards empathetic self-reflection. With great ethereal beauty, Plensa’s site-specific installation serves as a tribute to the Hudson River, aligning with the artist’s ongoing interest in bodies of water as proxies for humankind. “Water is a marvelous metaphor for humanity,” Plensa reflects. “One drop of water is quite alone, like a single person, but many drops together can create a tidal wave, and form immense rivers and oceans; When individuals come together to exchange ideas and create community, we can build something incredibly powerful.”

Water’s Soul nods to the historic Hudson River waterfront pier on which it is situated, a locale that bore witness to much of the trade coming in and out of New York Harbor on ferries and rail barges during the 19th and early-20th centuries. Plensa’s site-specific sculpture acknowledges this past while expressing the collective hope for humanity to build a better world. “Water’s Soul is asking us for a bit of silence, it is asking to listen to its profound voice that speaks to us about the origin of the world and its memory. The Lenape, the Native Americans who lived in this land before us, were a deeply religious people and they believed that all things had souls. I believe in the spirit of water too, and its great capacity for connection and transformation. Water is the great public space — it does not belong to anyone and at the same time belongs to all of us.”

The LeFrak and Simon families, developers of the Newport waterfront community in Jersey City, selected and commissioned Plensa to create a work for this site, recognizing the artist’s ability to convey a message of hope for humanity’s future. “Over the course of three decades, Newport has blossomed into a vibrant, diverse community. We are proud to welcome Jaume Plensa’s breathtaking sculpture to this one-of-a-kind neighborhood as we continue to establish Newport within the growing art scene taking shape in Jersey City,” states Richard LeFrak, Chairman and CEO of the LeFrak Organization. “After a generation of incredible work, determination, and investment, this area has been truly transformed from what was once barren land into a vibrant, thriving community,” says David Simon, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of Simon. “This magnificent Jaume Plensa sculpture is a phenomenal representation of the cultural sense of place that Newport embodies.”

“It is my wish for Water’s Soul to become Newport’s figurehead moving through the water into the future,” says Plensa. “Visually connecting the city of Jersey City and New York City across the Hudson River, Water’s Soul reminds us that water is the great public space that has the power to unite people around the world.”

Born in Barcelona where he currently lives and works, Jaume Plensa (b.1955) is one of the world’s foremost sculptors in the public realm with celebrated projects spanning the globe in such cities as Calgary, Chicago, San Diego, Montréal, Los Angeles, London, Dubai, Bangkok, Shanghai, and Tokyo. Recent public sculptures include Laura in Century City, Los Angeles, Dreaming in downtown Toronto, and Voices permanently installed at 30 Hudson Yards in New York City. Over the past 35 years, the artist has produced a multifaceted body of work creating sculpture that speaks to the capacity and beauty of humanity, often bringing people together through the activation of public spaces. Conventional sculptural materials like glass, steel, and bronze blend with unconventional media such as water, light, and sound to create hybrid works of intricate energy, psychological weight, and symbolic richness.

Exploring material and conceptual juxtapositions — interior and exterior, light and dark, earth and sky — Plensa’s practice ranges from intimate works on paper to monumental public projects such as the iconic Crown Fountain (2000-2005), a modern-day agora amidst the urban landscape of Chicago, and Echo (2011) at the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle. Plensa unites his diverse practice to evoke inward reflection, silence, and intellectual engagement, often relying upon the relationship between the viewer and the object to complete his works. Plensa is the recipient of numerous national and international awards including honorary doctorates from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2005 and Univeristat Aut’onoma de Barcelona in 2018, and the 2013 Velazquez Prize awarded by the Spanish Cultural Ministry. His solo museum exhibitions include those at MACBA: Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Spain; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid Spain; MAMC–Musée d’art moderne et contemporain Saint-Étienne Métropole, Saint-Étienne, France; Max Ernst Museum Brühl des LVR, Brühl, Germany; The Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio; Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Yorkshire, England; and Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas.

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