Local Arts

New sculpture at UNCC uptown adds to First Ward fabric

Sculpture by Jaume Plensa, "Ainsa III" at the UNC Charlotte Center City Building. The sculpture will connect the Center City Building to the new First Ward Park and on to ImaginOn, Levine Museum of the New South, and Spirit Square for the Arts.
Sculpture by Jaume Plensa, "Ainsa III" at the UNC Charlotte Center City Building. The sculpture will connect the Center City Building to the new First Ward Park and on to ImaginOn, Levine Museum of the New South, and Spirit Square for the Arts. Sarah Gay

Charlotte’s public art profile received a significant boost Tuesday with the addition of internationally renowned Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa’s “Ainsa III,” installed at UNC Charlotte’s Center City Campus, adjacent to the nascent First Ward Park.

The Queen’s Table, an anonymous group of arts patrons, worked with campus officials to facilitate the gift of a work of art to the city. The building is at 320. E. Ninth St.

According to Queens Table Project Committee Chair Jamie McLawhorn, “The group was interested in making a gift to the community and, especially, to commemorate the completion of the University’s new building and UNC Charlotte’s commitment to our center city.”

The Queen’s Table has a particular interest in artists who work with the human form. “Jaume Plensa’s seated figure is timeless in subject and yet contemporary in execution,” said McLawhorn.

“Ainsa III” is comprised of die-cut, fabricated stainless steel letter forms, deriving from, among others, the Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Greek, Japanese, Cyrillic and Hindi alphabets. The subject is a young woman, poised serenely atop a stone base quarried from the town of Ainsa in the Spanish Pyrenees, a place the artist often visits.

Jaume Plensa is no stranger to North Carolina. Prior to the opening of its West Building in 2010, the North Carolina Museum of Art commissioned him to create the “The Doors of Jerusalem I, II, & III.”

Then, in spring 2013, Davidson College commissioned “Waves III,” now a permanent installation on its campus. By comparison, “Ainsa III” is larger in scale and the size of the letter forms varies and creates a more open and irregular skin. This approach makes the human form appear lighter, more airy.

“How well we are when we are together,” Plensa said, speaking of the diverse letterforms used in his sculpture. “We don’t need to lose anything from our background to live with each other. ‘Ainsa III’ is the consequence of exploring these ideas.”

The artist’s choice of stainless steel for, among other effects, its reflective, shiny and dematerializing visual qualities is perfectly aligned with his interest in exploring the human condition, a sense of the ephemeral, and the interconnectedness of peoples of the world.

“Having Ainsa III reside at UNC Charlotte Center City further connects the University to the cultural fabric of our city,” said Chancellor Philip L. Dubois. “We applaud the efforts of Queen’s Table for commissioning Plensa’s work and for displaying it at UNC Charlotte.”

Just adjacent to Plensa’s sculpture, First Ward Park is taking shape. The park is a partnership between Levine Properties, UNC Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and the city of Charlotte.

“Ainsa III’s” selection and location is a brilliant departure for figurative art in Charlotte’s public space. This installation creates an opportunity to be intentional in efforts to enhance cultural place-making in and around the First Ward Park.

This story was produced as part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance.

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