Artist Jaume Plensa Employed Many Languages to Create College's Latest Outdoor Sculpture

Davidson College students returning from spring break will greet a new artistic addition to campus. During the past week, construction workers and members of the college art faculty have installed an outdoor sculpture, "Waves III," at the reengineered confluence of several heavily traveled sidewalks between Chambers Building and several residence halls.

The stone and stainless steel sculpture, created in 2011 by Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa, is the fifth addition in Davidson's campus sculpture program. From a distance Waves III appears as a loosely defined figure seated and holding its knees on the 7,000 pound rock where it rests. Up close, however, the shape is revealed to be created by hundreds of interconnected letters and symbols of varying size from many different languages.

Professor Cort Savage, chair of the art department and director of its initiatives in sculpture, said Waves III represents Davidson's academic emphasis on cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural study. "The manner in which it's constructed of letters and symbols from different languages lends it a cross-cultural sensibility," said Savage. "The meditative figure juxtaposed with the dynamically moving letters and symbols parallels the sensibility of our students. Even in a moment of repose, the figure is teeming with inquiries in constant motion. I find it ideally appropriate for Davidson's liberal arts campus, which so highly values the life of the mind."

Waves III is a gift from James G. Pepper, a 1965 Davidson graduate and longtime supporter of the college's art program. Pepper has made generous gifts to support the Pepper Visual Arts Scholarship, gave 32 pieces of art several years ago, and with his mother in 1993 presented the college with an original sculpture of Jean D'aire by Rodin that stands in the atrium of the Belk Visual Arts Center.

The sculpture is attached to the 7,000 pound rock on which it sits.

Professor Savage said Waves III is an important addition to Davidson's outdoor sculpture collection. "It's a step toward our goal of bringing a museum-quality, world-class collection of art to the doorstep and daily experience of all those who visit and inhabit Davidson's campus. It not only beautifies the campus, but also evokes questions that apply pedagogically to multiple fields of study."

The artists, Jaume Plensa ,was born in Barcelona in 1955 and is one of the world's foremost creators of public space sculpture. His work has been widely exhibited in galleries and museums throughout Europe, the US, and Japan.

Plensa studied at the Llotja School and the Escola Superior de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi. He has taught for many years at the École National des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and served as a visiting professor at the Art Institute of Chicago. He has received the French Medialle de Chevaliers des Arts et Lettres, the National Award of Arts by the Government of Catalonia, and received recognition from the Foundation Atelier Calder

He has also received an Honorary Doctorate from the Art Institute of Chicago, the 2009 Mash Award for Public Sculpture, the National Award for Plastic Arts in 2012, and this year Spain's National Award for Graphic Arts.

Several volunteers lent a hand to carry the sculpture to its site.

The sculpture sits in the middle of a new, low, 20-foot diameter circular brick wall built at the intersection of several campus sidewalks which were widened to accommodate it. A circular hill of dirt was created inside the wall, and the sculpture was placed on top of that. The base of the sculpture will be landscaped to surround the sculpture in dwarf mondo grass.

An official dedication of Waves III will take place, Wednesday, April 17, at 4:30 p.m., and the public is invited to attend.


  • March 8, 2013