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A Closer look at Jaume Plensa’s Isabella

by Kiara Galloway, Web Content Management Intern


Jaume Plensa , Isabella , outdoor art , outdoor sculpture , museum grounds

In March 2021, the Cincinnati Art Museum introduced a new large-scale sculpture to its growing collection of outdoor works. Located outside the museum’s Longworth wing, Isabella by artist Jaume Plensa (Spanish, b. 1955) stands peacefully in an open bed of grass unto herself. Her eyes are closed, and her expression is peaceful as though she is in a deep restful slumber.

The large-scale, black, cast iron head greets visitors as they enter the museum campus from Art Museum Drive. As visitors pass by the work, the head changes perspective from rounded to compressed and flattened, creating an intriguing illusion. Isabella’s dark form also contrasts starkly with her verdant and airy outdoor location as well as the backdrop of the museum’s fortified stone exterior. Despite this, Isabella seems to blend seamlessly into this environment with her peacefully pensive aura and delicate demeanor.

Plensa specializes in large-scale, outdoor sculptures. His work has found homes in the meadows and lawns of many American and European parks and urban plazas mesmerizing art enthusiasts. These gentle giants loom over viewers with grace and ease. Existing in full-body forms and busts, Plensa’s work is forever evoking a sense of ethereality and the sublime while maintaining humanity and vulnerability.

From the luscious lawns of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in England to the calm waters of the Hudson River to the high energy of Chicago’s Loop, Plensa’s art interprets the human body as a vessel that can deconstruct ideas of perception, self-image, and the relationship between how we exist and how others perceive us. We are grateful Isabella has found a home here at the Cincinnati Art Museum. We hope that her presence prompts our visitors to be mindful of what assumptions they may make about themselves, others, and the world around them, as well as encourage the freedom that comes along with understanding that we are all more than what meets the eye.

A monumental, thin black sculpture of a woman’s face in front of a stone facade