Art in New Jersey: A new form on the Hudson

When I was visiting with photographer Dan Piech recently, he pointed out a new addition to his view of the left bank of the Hudson — what looked like a monumental white head. And it is!

By chance today’s email delivery brought word that it is a new permanent installation at Newport — the LeFrak development in Jersey City, right on top of the Holland Tunnel entrance — by artist Jaume Plensa, titled “Water’s Soul.” The sculpture is 80 feet of Polyester resin fiberglass and will be dedicated on Oct. 21. And there’s a local connection, other than the view: the pier’s walkway that circles the sculpture was designed by Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, run by Tribecan Signe Nielsen, and will connect to the mile-long Hudson River Walkway over there.

The sculpture is Plensa’s second major installation in the city; he has a series of steel globes titled “Voices” inside at 30 Hudson Yards. He also has an installation on view right now through November at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill.

The head reminds me of Simone Leigh’s brilliant “Brick House” installation on the spur of the High Line at 3oth and Tenth, though sadly that was temporary.

“Water’s Soul” depicts the serene face of a young subject holding a finger to her lips in a state of silent contemplation. The idea is that the portrait is suggesting self-reflection and quietude, as well as a thoughtful tribute to the Hudson River. “Water is a marvelous metaphor for humanity,” Plensa said. “One drop of water is quite alone, like a single person, but many drops together can create a tidal wave, and form immense rivers and oceans. When individuals come together to exchange ideas and create community, we can build something incredibly powerful.”

Born in Barcelona where he lives and works, Plensa, 66, has monumental projects across the globe, often in public spaces. He works in glass, steel and bronze as well as unconventional media such as water, light and sound to create intricate, hybrid works.