Today @ AK

Jaume Plensa

Spanish, born 1955

© 2012 Jaume Plensa

Laura, 2012

Marble, lead, and stainless steel
240 x 72 x 96 inches (609.6 x 182.9 x 243.8 cm)
George B. and Jenny R. Mathews Fund, by exchange, 2012

Jaume Plensa has created an extensive body of work that extends into the public realm, with more than thirty site-specific sculptural installations across the globe in such cities as Chicago, Dubai, London, Liverpool, Tokyo, and Vancouver. Working with conventional materials such as aluminum, bronze, glass, marble, and steel, often combined with less tangible materials like light, water, sound, and video, Plensa’s monumental sculptures take on many forms, all with the intent to evoke emotion and discussion amongst those who experience them. Laura, 2012, combines institutional and classical history into a new cultural beacon for the Buffalo community. Situated on the museum’s north portico facing the Scajaquada Expressway, the twenty-foot-high marble female bust serenely surveys both the museum’s grounds and the neighboring Delaware Park system, while encouraging self-reflection in visitors and passersby.  

Laura was constructed using the Roman technique of interweaving white marble (from the Maceal quarry in southeast Spain) with lead for additional support; such underlying strength is belied by the façade’s overall luminosity and curvilinear surface. This gargantuan head appears to grow from the building as if marble and stone have coalesced. The bust itself depicts a young girl with a meditative expression, her eyes and lips gently closed. In Plensa’s own words, “Laura is the portrait of a fourteen-year-old Mediterranean girl from Barcelona. Her eyes close in a dream-state position emphasizing the interior path, our world of dreams and ideas. The elongation of the head transforms the physical aspects of the portrait into a spiritual flame. I chose this girl for her classic kind of beauty. A timeless beauty.” However, despite the portrait’s initial realism, close inspection reveals that Plensa has elongated and softened her features. Her hair, pulled neatly into a loose braid behind her head, subtly echoes the fluting of the portico’s columns. A contemporary take on the twin caryatid porches framing the museum’s east façade, Laura—especially when seen from afarseamlessly blends into the architectural background as a modern interpretation of ancient columnar supports.