Check out BKLYNER.com for my post on Spencer Finch's Lost Man Creek currently on view at MetroTech Commons in downtown Brooklyn through March 2018.
On an unassuming block in Fort Greene, under the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, a series of 5 noise-activated metal gates playfully light up in response to the sounds of the busy surrounding streets. Silent Lights debuted last month at the intersection of Navy Street and Park Avenue in Brooklyn, on a pedestrian pathway situated beside a parking lot under the BQE. Created by the design studio Urban Matter, with support from the NYC DOT, the public art installation is composed of 2,400 LED lights and sound equipment. When triggered by passing street noise, the gates illuminate in colorful patterns, visualizing the noise pollution in a beautiful, serene manner.
Silent Lights brings a bit of life and color to an otherwise dark and ordinary city block. Take a stroll through the interactive work and enjoy the art of noise. Learn more at urbanmatterinc.com and watch a video of the Urban Matter team discussing the project here. Through November 2014.
On Sunday, I hopped on the subway and went up to Grand Central Terminal's Vanderbilt Hall to check out the second-to-last performance of Nick Cave's terrific Heard NY.
Both wings of Vanderbilt Hall featured roped off areas containing 15 of Cave's horse suits resting on sawhorses, along with a platform for a harpist and a percussionist to play. Arriving at 10:40am for the 11:00am performance, the crowds for both show areas were already five people deep! One section on the side of the roped off area was reserved for parents with small children.
Promptly at 11:00am, The Ailey School dancers filed out and put on their horse suits. Each horse required two dancers - a head and a rear-end. When all the suits were donned, the horses began to trot around their pens accompanied by the gentle harp, playfully interacting with viewers and inviting them to pet them. The children seemed particularly thrilled to touch the charming, colorful horses. After a few minutes, the harpist stopped playing and the percussionist took over with a powerful, infectious beat. The horses began dancing wildly. The William Gill-choreographed movements included the horses' heads bopping to the music as well as the horses' bottoms (separating from their front halves) springing up and energetically bouncing and spinning around, creating wonderful rustling sounds with their straw costumes. After a few minutes of the joyful, reckless abandon, the drums started to slow down, as did the raving horses, until they became still, and it was all over.
As a part of a series of events commemorating Grand Central's centennial, Cave's Heard NY was a vivacious and extraordinary twenty-minute celebration that entertained both children and adults. If only commuters were treated to such wonderful bouts of whimsy all the time. March 25th - 31st. Learn more at Creativetime.org. See my September 2011 post on Cave here. And this is just awesome - Brooklynvegan.com.
David Byrne seems to do it all -- music, writing, art, filmmaking -- and he does it all very well, indeed. Following up his 2008 Creative Time-commissioned installation, Playing the Building, The Pace Gallery presents Tight Spot, Byrne's site-specific art installation under the High Line at 508 West 25th Street.
Consisting of a 48 x 20 foot inflatable globe, reminiscent of the ones from elementary school days, the representation of the planet is overblown and crammed snugly under the High Line bridge, warping the pastel, plasticky orb. Emanating from the center of the malformed earth is a low-frequency vibration that Byrne created using his own voice, tweaking and distorting it to make it unrecognizable and give it an otherworldly, sonic sort of vibe. The mysterious, warbling sounds can be heard around the block and from the High Line above, luring visitors to the installation.
Always proving to be daring and innovative, the former RISD student, frontman of Talking Heads, and author of Bicycle Diaries (and designer of bicycle racks around NYC and Brooklyn), Byrne has a knack for creating exciting, original, and intelligent visual and sensory work and experiences. Tight Spot is on view for two weeks only. Closes October 1st. Learn more at thepacegallery.com.
Twenty-seven of Connecticut-born artist Sol LeWitt's (1928 - 2007) sculptures, or as he referred to them - structures, are currently on view in and around City Hall Park. Several of his famous minimal, white, geometric squares are on display in Structures, 1965-2006, alongside more complex forms, a pyramid, a tower, and a wonderfully colorful and dynamic piece called Splotch 15, resembling of a bunch of rainbow-hued stalagmites or a gigantic heap of Crayola crayons melting in the brutal summer sun.
Presented by the Public Art Fund, the outdoor retrospective of LeWitt's works is the first of its kind, and chronicles the progression of his structures for forty years, from his "early white geometric cubes through to the late, multicolored organic forms," (from nyc-arts.org). It's a nice change to see LeWitt's staid, minimal works displayed outdoors instead of inside a white, sterile gallery. His structures boldy stand out and make a statement juxtaposed amongst grassy lawns, green foliage, the Brooklyn Bridge and assorted skyscrapers—"both natural and architectural forms in the city that helped inspire his art." Learn more at nyc-arts.org. Through December 2nd.
Now that we've entirely bypassed spring and plunged head-on into summer weather, it's time to venture outdoors and enjoy some public art. Along with Ai Weiwei's Zodiac Heads at Grand Army Plaza, here are a few other suggestions for viewing art whilst simultaneously catching some sun.
If you haven't already, you should head over to the Seagram Building at Park Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets to check out Swiss-born, Brooklyn-based Urs Fischer's 20-ton, 23-foot-tall, bright yellow, teddybear impaled by a desk lamp. Untitled (Lamp/Bear) sold at Christie's May 11th auction for over $6 million (a few mill shy of the expected $10 million). After getting six city permits and reinforcing the ground in front of the Seagram Building, about 30 handlers were employed to assemble the piece back in April. The lightbulb in the giant lamp (whose stand juts out of the poor, slouchy bear's back) lights up in the evening. Fischer created three of these works — siblings of the bear on display on Park Avenue include a blue one purchased for an undisclosed amount by a hedge-fund manager and another yellow version displayed on the Montauk, New York lawn of its entrepreneur owner. Learn more at Christies.com and wsj.com. Through September 30th.
After checking out the excellent McQueen exhibit along with eveyone else and his mom at the Met, be sure to head up to the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden to see sculptures by British artist Anthony Caro. A key figure in modernist sculpture, the five, large-scale, steel works on exhibit span Caro's sixty year career. The lively, colorful pieces explore "principal aspects" of the artist's career including "engagement with form in space, dialogue between sculpture and architecture, and creation of new, abstract analogies for the human figure and landscape," (from the museum's website). Learn more at metmuseum.org. Through October 30th.
And if you happen to be in or around Union Square, you should make a special stop at the new pedestrian plaza at Broadway and 17th Street where Rob Pruitt's The Andy Monument christens the walkway. Inspired by Andy Warhol's art, life, drive and spirit, Pruitt created the life-size silvery statue as a tribute to the Pop artist. Posing with a Polaroid camera around his neck and clutching a Bloomingdale's shopping bag, Pruitt's figure of Warhol is exhibited a spitting distance away from the second incarnation of Warhol's famous and infamous Factory. The shiny, blinding beacon is a flashy and fitting salute to the legendary and influential New York icon. Learn more at unionsquarenyc.org. Through October 2nd.
Since Ai Weiwei's whereabouts are still unknown after being detained by Chinese officials in early April, the world-renowned artist and human rights activist was not able to attend the unveiling of his first major public sculpture installation, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, last Wednesday at Grand Army Plaza (at 58th Street and 5th Avenue - across from Central Park, the Plaza Hotel, and Bergdorf Goodman). New York City is the first stop of the exhibition's official world tour which will be traveling across the U.S. as well as Europe and Asia.
The 800-pound, bronze sculptures represent the twelve animal signs of the Chinese zodiac (rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, pig). The work was inspired by the 18th century water clock-fountain built in the gardens of Yuanming Yuan by two European Jesuits for Emperor Qianlong of the Qing dynasty. The Yuanming Yuan gardens were raided in 1860 by British and French troops and the original animal head sculptures were looted. While only seven of the original twelve heads have ever been recovered, Ai recreated the full dozen in charming, large-scale renditions that question issues of "looting and repatriation" and explore "fake" or copied works of art (from zodiacheads.com).
The exhibition is organized by AW Asia, and while Ai could not be at the opening last week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was joined by a number of artists, curators, and members of the arts community to honor the artist and read aloud some of his eloquent and rousing quotes. Mayor Bloomberg noted, "Artists risk everything to create, but artists like Ai Weiwei, who come from places that do not value and protect free speech, risk even more than that."
New York City seems an appropriate choice to kick off Wei's Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads tour as the artist attended Parsons and lived here for more than ten years. The artist states that the zodiac sculptures are works that can be enjoyed and understood by all - including children, people not in the art world, and casual passers-by. The stunning, playful sculptures were certainly getting lots of attention when I visited. Now if only those imprisoning Ai could understand and appreciate the artist, his artwork, and his politics as well. Learn more at zodiacheads.com and artdaily.org. Through July 15th.
Now that it feels like spring may have actually, finally arrived (please, please, please!), Will Ryman's The Roses seem more fitting (and less like a tease) along the Park Avenue Mall traveling up the road along 57th - 67th Streets. Presented by The NYC Department of Parks & Recreation and Paul Kasmin Gallery, Ryman's site-specific installation consists of 38 Godzilla-sized pink and red roses standing between 3 and 25 feet tall with blossoms measuring 5 to 10 feet in diameter. The enormous, whimsical roses made of stainless steel, "yacht-grade" fiberglass resin, auto body paint, and brass were created to endure unpredictable weather — they were covered in over a foot of snow after a blizzard hit the city shortly after they were installed in late January. The charming, colorful, monstrously oversized flowers are accessorized with thorns, leaves, fallen rose petals (mostly scattered along the stretch between 63rd and 65th Streets), as well as Mothra-sized ladybugs, bees, and beetles.
Ryman, a native New Yorker (his parents are painters Robert Ryman and Merrill Wagner), was initially a playwright before becoming an artist known for "large-scale figurative sculptures based on urban scenes and outsized flora," (from Paul Kasmin website). In explaining his installation, Ryman states: "With these roses I wanted to do something that was larger than life and site-specific. In my work I always try to combine fantasy with reality. In the case of The Roses, I tried to convey New York City's larger than life qualities through scale; creating blossoms which are imposing, humorous, and hopefully beautiful." Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe adds, "Park Avenue is known for its beautiful floral displays and Will Ryman's massive roses, ranging between three and twenty-five feet in height, will enliven the area throughout the winter, in anticipation of the arrival of the tulips in the spring."
The Roses, situated in the medians between the traffic lanes on the always bustling Park Avenue, give viewers a "bugs-eye-view" of the flowers, making us feel puny in this big, crazy city. Whether covered in mounds of snow or basking in sunlight, Ryman's dramatic, cheerful, freakishly huge blooms are a delight. Learn more at Paulkasmingallery.com, nycgovparks.org and at the artist's website Willryman.com. Through May 31st.
Back in June, Virgina-based artist Stephen Vitiello debuted A Bell For Every Minute - a site-specific, multi-channel sound installation set up in a tunnel passageway on the High Line. In colloaboration with Creative Time and NYC's Department of Parks and Recreation, Vitiello recorded bells ringing around New York City and plays one each minute in his installation. Every hour on the hour a chorus of several selected bells chime in an eccentric symphony. The recorded rings range from iconic chimes like the New York Stock Exchange Bell and the UN Peace Bell to more ordinary sounds like bicycle bells and church bells. A clock is conveniently on display alongside a list showing each minute and its corresponding bell. A map of the city "identifies the location of each bell, allowing the listener to follow the geographic journey of the recordings," (from thehighline.org).
Whether it's the speakers that were used for the installation or the acoustics in the tunnel, the ringing bells sound sweet and magical in the High Line's 14th Street Passage. While I was only able to stay for a couple of minutes (and for as many rings), I would definitely go back and revisit A Bell For Every Minute. The seemingly simple installation offers a charming respite from the everyday hubbub of the city. Learn more at thehighline.org, creativetime.org and at the artist's website stephenvitiello.com. Ongoing at the High Line's 14th Street Passage (between West 13th and 14th Streets).
Before closing up shop Deitch Projects organized the exhibition of Miranda July's Eleven Heaving Things in Union Square Park from May 29th - October 3rd. July, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker, artist, performance artist, and writer created the eleven cast fiber-glass, steel-lined sculptures specifically for interaction and previously presented them at the 53rd International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale.
To encourage visitors to interact with the works, July created platforms to pose on, tablets with holes to poke body parts—faces, heads, limbs, digits— through, and "free-standing abstract headdresses" (from nycgovparks.org). A series of three pedestals labeled "The Guilty One," "The Guiltier One," and the "Guiltiest One" invites visitors to stand on them and plead their level of guiltiness. A white slab with a hole cut out to insert a face through reads, "What I look like when I'm lying." Elevated with poles, large, flat, colorful panels feature shapes cut out of their bottom edges to accomodate heads and shoulders. Another wider pedestal built to be hugged by two people cheekily reads, "We don't know each other, we're just hugging for the picture." All eleven of July's Heavy Things practically scream, "photo op!" in the most twee sort of way.
The central lawn in Union Square Park where the sculptures are on display is open during the day from Tuesday through Friday. I unfortunately dropped by on a Monday so my pics had to be taken from a distance and are pretty lame. Sorry! Learn more at nycgovparks.org and at July's website mirandajuly.com. Through October 3rd.