Jaume Plensa produces monumental sculptures in steel, glass, marble, polyester resin, concrete, and bronze. He is best known for his Crown Fountain in Chicago’s Millenium Park, two 50-foot-high glass towers set amidst a pool of water, which play giant video portraits of Chicago residents that periodically purse their lips and spout water into the pool.
Predominantly producing figurative sculpture, Plensa has created larger-than-life-sized heads constructed of fine, stainless-steel wire mesh so that their surrounding environments are visible through the works, and bronze figures cast from his own body.
Los Angeles based Thomas Housago’s work playfully subverts the expectation of sculpture. Drawing reference to a multitude of styles such as Classicism, Cubism, and Futurism, Houseago’s intentionally clumsy forms trade the imperious and enduring qualities of traditional bronze or marble for the humble aesthetic of plaster and various found materials. Lacking the weighty physical stature associated with three dimensional media, Houseago’s ‘monumental’ structures appear almost comically flimsy, reducing the grandiose weight of art history into sympathetic effigies.
Houseago is fascinated by tribal art from Africa and the South Pacific, an influence evident in the primitivist mask-like heads and crude features of his disjointed figures. To create them, Houseago begins with a structure of iron rods, then adds materials such as plaster, hemp, and wood. Some of his works incorporate charcoal or graphite sketches of faces and anatomy on plaster and wood panels, producing an unfinished look that draws attention to the artist’s process.
Amy Park is known for her carefully rendered, large-scale watercolor paintings featuring iconic architecture. She works almost exclusively from photographs. Her subjects have included Donald Judd’s structures in Marfa, experimentally designed homes in California, and other icons of Modernist architecture. Her best-known series is based on a famous series of architectural photos by Julius Schulman; while Park faithfully reproduces Schulman’s original compositions, she selects the jeweled colors based on her recollection and interpretations.
Another body of works was inspired by the New York City urban landscape, with particular attention paid to repeating textures and patterns. These works were based on Park’s own photographs of major landmarks and skyscrapers, reimagined with more intensely saturated hues.
As a paper engineer, Matt Shlian‘s work is rooted in print media, book arts and commercial design. Beginning with an initial fold, a single action causes a transfer of energy to subsequent folds, which ultimately manifests in drawing and three dimensional forms. He uses his engineering skills to create kinetic sculptures which have led to collaborations with scientists at University of Michigan.
They work on the nanoscale, translating paper structures to micro folds. Their investigations extend to visualizing cellular division and solar cell development. Researchers see paper engineering as a metaphor for scientific principles; Shlian sees their inquiry as a basis for artistic inspiration.
LA-based sculptor Joshua Abarbanel fabricates wood sculptures and installations reminiscent of coral reefs comprised of concentric flower-like blooms. The artist builds both smaller standalone artworks that rest on a pedestal and larger wall or ceiling-mounted pieces that seem to grow organically in every direction. Each piece first takes shape on a computer before being cut from assorted woods with the aid of a laser cutter.
Choi + Shine, an architecture firm, has proposed modifying Iceland’s existing power-transmission pylons to turn them into looming giants whose arms are poised to reflect their positions — pylons ascending a hill will be posed as though they were scaling its slopes. A child’s dream!
Born in 1957 in Moscow, artist Nikolay Polissky creates impressive, handcrafted structures in the middle of Russia’s vast landscapes. Mostly carried out in the town of Nikola Lenivets — located 200 km from the Russian capital — his works are built entirely by the area’s residents, using local materials, such as branches, trunks and wooden tables. Traditional construction techniques are used as a starting point for the projects.
His work is inspiring not only because of its imposing form, but also because he managed to re-activate a semi-abandoned village through art and architecture, involving residents in the creative process and transforming the region into a sort of open cultural center. Since 2003, his work has been part of Archstoyanie, the largest Land-Art festival in Russia.
The work of Polissky falls somewhere between large-scale sculptures, temporary installations and vernacular architecture. Anchored to a spectacular landscape, they act as lighthouses, inviting the community to occupy a vast territory that seemed impossible to completely inhabit.
Their archetypal forms refer to classical buildings, like the famous Mesopotamian Ziggurats, while also referencing local structures that flood the urban landscape of the country, such as broadcasting antennas and industrial chimneys. His work often provides a contrast; for example, a strong column of smoke pouring from a delicate tower of branches.