Shadow, Light, Grace and Gratitude
Few artists are as qualified to design, engineer and build a sculpture as safe, beautiful or appropriate. The sculptor has long chosen materials to explore the intersection of things: birth, cultures, men and women, life and death, natural and man-made. The wonder of his work lies at these intersections — the place we call common ground. With that in mind, it is impossible to view any of Pladevall’s sculptures around the world and not be moved by their sweep, grace and sublime mix of materials. His work is timeless and contemporary; it is a dance of shadow and light, curves and edges, male and female.
In 1996, Enric Pladevall was among five Catalan sculptors who participated in the Cultural Legacy Project. These five artists designed and built five public artworks to celebrate the passing of the Olympic torch from Barcelona’s 1992 Olympic Games to Atlanta’s 1996 Olympic Games. Four of the five pieces were privately funded. Pladevall’s sculpture, Androgynous Planet (see photo), was the only one of the five to be paid for by the Atlanta Olympic Committee along such artists as Siah Armajani (USA) and Toni Cragg (UK). The 35 foot tall stainless steel and bent-wood sculpture still graces the city’s Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta. We who care about public art are grateful it exists.
It is my belief that the judgement of public artwork should be left to the public. Public art is not made to impress art historians, professional art critics or the smart, smug members of the local museum guild. Public art exists to provoke, inspire, charm, delight or enrage the cab driver, the high school teacher, the homeless man, the banker, the laundress and the tamale vendor. It is the mirror into which we look to our own glory and vanity, our kindness and cruelty, our hope and despair. In Pladevall’s Organic Shadow, one may see a bridge that connects us but another may see a bridge that exists only in hopeless dreams of utopian artists. But all will see an expression in three-dimension, of natural and man-made materials at a scale that will attract their attention — and make them pause and think. For that alone, it is worth any price.
Pladevall’s proposed sculpture, Organic Shadow, is another triumphant stop along his life-long search for common ground. It is a metaphor for the links between San Francisco (a city I once called home), and Barcelona (a city in which I spent much time working with Pladevall and the other Barcelona artists in the early ’90s). But it is much more than a metaphor for the collaboration theme civic leaders often call “sister cities” — it is form that suggests a floating bridge, an energy curve, a connecting spine, a oceanic wave. It will remind many of connection between people, culture, human forms and natural beauty. In other words, it evokes, life and its fragile status due to man’s consumption.
San Francisco is uniquely blessed with a wealth of public artwork and lovely civic spaces. Its leaders mostly have chosen well — creating one of the most vibrant public art streetscapes in the United States, if not the world. The proposed sculpture by Enric Pladevall would complement this well-curated public art collection with its precise engineering, graceful curves, judicious blend of natural and fabricated materials as well as its impressive scale. To witness this floating expression of harmony and balance will delight San Franciscans and their guests for decades to come. I wish we could have one like it in Atlanta. We could use more beauty — and we could always us more shade.