"Even after the longest night, the morning always comes," is the sentiment behind Jaume Plensa's latest body of work, Nocturne, featuring extraordinary giant sculptures of heads in stone, glass, steel, and bronze.
On show at Gray Warehouse in Chicago until early January, the life-like works explore the contrast of light and darkness on various portraits of women and show the incredible contrast of materials used by the Spanish artist. As the gallery describes, the exhibition of sculptural portraits "symbolises the potential for hope to emerge from a place of total darkness".
Amongst the works, we meet Minna, a nine-foot-tall portrait depicting a young woman with her eyes closed in a state of repose. Created from dark basalt stone, Minna is the artist's largest work in the medium to date. Nocturne continues with a series of five bronze portraits – Anna, Irma, Laura, Lou, and Rui Rui. Arranged closely together, as if in silent dialogue, each bronze head presents a uniquely textured surface, the result of being cast from the same moulds Plensa uses to form his steel mesh figures. Once cast in bronze, Plensa hand-paints the surface of each work with a layer of white, carefully obscuring the original dark finish while elucidating the serene facial features of his subjects.
The two largest works in the exhibition are Plensa's most ethereal: delicately bent stainless steel wires construct the portraits of Rui Rui and Julia – it gives the illusion that the women aren't altogether there. "Every time I do a portrait, soon after, in a way, the person no longer exists," he explains.
Silence, meanwhile, is an intimately-scaled portrait made from white Murano glass. Holding a finger to its lips in a gesture of quietude, the figure brings the series to a peaceful end. Nocturne at Gray Warehouse in Chicago runs until 9 January 2021.