Jaume Plensa: Echo (aka “the Big Head”) in Madison Square Park
The curators at Madison Square Park have done it again. Assembled and unveiled just last week, the park's latest summer-long art installation is called Echo, it's by the great Jaume Plensa, and it is a brilliant and beautiful addition that will keep watch over the park's main lawn between now and mid August. Jaume Plensa has done many excellent things before–he's probably best known for his Crown Fountain in Chicago's Millennium Park, that giant video wall which shoots water out of the mouth of 1,000 different Chicagoans, onto, usually, hordes of shrieking kids–but with Echo he may have outdone himself. True, it's not interactive, like the Crown Fountain (though feel free to sit with your back to its neck), and Plensa has done giant heads before (most notably Dream, the woman who presides over a shut-down coal mine near Liverpool, England), but there is something about the object itself, and its placement in the center of the lawn, that is sublime, and perfect.
Some stats: Jaume Plensa's Echo in Madison Square Park–already almost universally called the Big Head–is 44-feet high (as tall as a four-story building!); it's made from a combination of polyester resin, white pigment and marble dust, which gives Echo both warmth and glittery-ness; and it was created in 15 separate pieces in Plensa's studio in Spain, shipped to New York City, and assembled on the lawn over a "skull", if you will, of steel scaffolding. And Echo is a girl: specifically, the nine-year-old daughter of the guy who runs a Chinese restaurant around the corner from Plensa's studio.
There is a lot to love about Plensa's Echo. The head looms monumentally from a distance, when you first spot it through the trees as you approach the park, slightly spooky, calling to mind ancient totems such as, most obviously, Easter Island, or, to take the visual allusion in a another direction, those giant feet on Lost. But then when you get closer, and see the young girl's face, elegant and elongated, eyes closed, lips slightly pursed, you see how welcoming and friendly Echo is. In fact, through some combination of Jaume Plensa's creative skill and technique, which we don't really understand but can definitely appreciate, the sculpture look almost as if it were a hologram, or as if Echo's features were projected onto to her face, which gives the piece an astonishing sense of movement, and life. And Echo's size and bright whiteness works wonderfully with all of those beautiful buildings around the park. Remarkable.
Jaume Plensa: Echo in Madison Square Park Details
Jaume Plensa's Echo is on view in Madison Square Park from now through August 14. Madison Square Park is located between Fifth and Madison Avenues, and between 23rd to 26th Streets. For more information on Jaume Plensa's Echo and Madison Square Park in general, please see the Madison Square Park website.