October 30, 2014
Listen up: See art and architecture in dialogue this fall
As the weather cools, New York City’s public spaces set the stage for crisp new forms of recreation. In particular, this November will offer some delightful opportunities to experience public art in parks, plazas, even quasi-public courtyards. The journey can be one of discovery, too – not necessarily in plotting a direct course to Lincoln Center, but when ranging further afield. As a public nexus of creative expression, our city provides us with rich and spontaneous access to everything from the ephemeral to the permanent, the highly rational to the delightfully wild.
Yet one characteristic remains consistent – when integrating two expressions, such as a piece of art with a built space, a dialogue emerges. The following pieces of public art offer five opportunities to watch and listen more closely this fall, and to experience the architecture of our boroughs with a refreshed perspective.
City Pillars, pictured above, is one of several installations in the fourth annual FLOW.14 exhibition, jointly organized by the Randall’s Island Park Alliance, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and Made Event. From its unique location in the East River, Randall’s Island offers both visual and physical access to the Bronx, Queens, and Manhattan, and Monogenis wisely takes advantage of these connections in City Pillars. Specifically, the New York-based artist has provided five structures flanked by two horizontal blue forms, which represent the boroughs of New York City and the East and Hudson Rivers. As a collection, these “city pillars” also read as a simplified skyline of their own, almost as if Randall’s Island was taking cues from the built-up boroughs. However, rather than simply experiencing the piece as a miniature grouping of buildings, viewers may find themselves contrasting the colorful, static piece with the dazzling but changing shores beyond. As Monogenis writes, there is an “awkward beauty inherent in development and decay.”
Commissioned by the Bronx Museum of the Arts in collaboration with the Andrew Freedman Home, as part of the museum’s ongoing “Beyond the Supersquare” exhibition, Superpuesto offers visitors the opportunity to further consider the complicated influence of modernist architecture on Latin American citizens and artists. In his piece, Gower intentionally juxtaposes the sharp geometries of modernism and the rudimentary construction techniques of the “puestos,” or market stalls, of Latin America. The temporary pavilion’s bold colors, exposed beams, and clean forms also stand in clear contrast to the limestone-clad Andrew Freedman Home, a Renaissance Revival style estate that now serves as a community center with increasingly art-based programming. Superpuesto consequently encourages visitors to reflect on how traditional European design trends gave rise to Modernism – which then helped to shape the urban aesthetic of Latin America – and also on the economic influences at play throughout the Renaissance, the mid-20th century, and in the South Bronx today.
Presented by Lincoln Center in association with Public Art Fund, Solar Reserve (Tonopah, Nevada) 2014 shows its visitors a simulated solar thermal power plant on a digital 28’ × 24’ frameless LED wall. The simulation is based on a plant in Nevada and is presented to viewers hyper-realistically, thanks in part to the detailed modeling of sun, moon, and star positions by a meticulous project team and their powerful video game technology. Both the real and the simulated plants consist of a tower surrounded by 10,000 mirrors, which then reflect light upon the tower to generate electricity. By placing the LED wall at the center of the plaza that connects Avery Fisher Hall, the David H. Koch Theater, and the Metropolitan Opera House, Gerrard seems to acknowledge the rich cultural expressions generated by these establishments. After all, there are few other places in New York that benefit from such full-surround creative “electricity,” and few other establishments in the world with the opportunity to “reflect” the level of artistic energy found in New York.
Backyard Pool is presented by Socrates Sculpture Park in an off-site location, a previously asphalt-covered space that has been transformed into The Lot, with support from Rockrose Development Corporation. Even with the area’s towering office and academic buildings, new residential developments, and rumbling construction sites, Johnson’s piece quickly cues visitors to recall serene poolside lounging – an especially welcome effect during the movies and live music presented at The Lot throughout the summer. In the words of Socrates Sculpture Park’s curatorial team, Backyard Pool is an attempt by Johnson “to recreate comfort and familiarity in a rapidly changing environment.” Perhaps not so coincidentally, there has been a notable building boom in Long Island City over the past few years, including Rockrose’s recently completed Linc LIC tower, a next door neighbor to Backyard Pool. Despite the lack of an actual pool, this playful piece has the potential to generate some of the benefits of a residential amenity, particularly during a traditional pool’s off-season. With eight months left for the neighborhood to experience this installation, time will have to tell.
There are many instances in history where the dialogue between public art and architecture has become a shouting match, as was quite literally the case when Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc was installed in Foley Federal Plaza in 1981. But sometimes the result is instead a shared stillness, as can be experienced with 100 Wishes, an installation by Jean Shin in the newly created courtyard of Maimonides Medical Center. Commissioned to celebrate the hospital’s centenary, 100 Wishes presents the hopes of one hundred members of the Maimonides community, including current patients. Ranging from finding a cure for cancer to having the chance to meet the Disney princesses, these wishes establish a subtle but poignant connection between community members. Shin has further encouraged the formation of these bonds by imbuing the colors of the nearby lobby furniture into her piece, as if the installation itself was wishing for the families of patients to add their hopes to the collective healing conversation.
Additional art activities can also be found in the 5boros event listings. Once fall turns to winter, when cozying up at home, these gathered artistic experiences will certainly inspire further dialogue about the nature of our city.
This post originally appeared in Crain’s 5boros. To read the piece as originally published, and a variety of other content about the dynamic neighborhoods of New York City, visit Crain’s 5boros online.