Just in time for spring, the 36th season of outdoor art at Madison Square Park will bring architectural landscapes, dissolving mythological figures, and eroding monuments to the lower Manhattan park. Diana Al-Hadid’s Delirious Matter will weave feminine narratives with Modernist thinking and scatter “ruins” for park-goers to discover come May 7, 2018.
The Aleppo-born artist is well known for using casting techniques and materials that result in ethereal, yet surprisingly strong, works, and Delirious Matter is no exception. Six sculptures will be on display, and all of them resemble eroded organic forms, produced through pouring colored polymer gypsum on a surface, peeling it off and reinforcing the structure with a fiberglass coating. Al-Hadid has called the technique “a blend between fresco and tapestry.”
“I was educated by Modernist instructors in the Midwest, but also was raised in an Islamic household with a culture that very much prizes narrative and folklore,” explained Al-Hadid.
On the park’s Oval Lawn, Al-Hadid will lay down a set of 14-foot-tall porous walls that fade into the hedges, one 36 feet long and the other 22 feet, allowing visitors to explore the gaps in the hard scaffolding. The first wall, Gravida, evokes the Roman god Mars Gradivus, while the second references Allegory of Chastity by Hans Memling, a 15th century painting where a woman arises from a mountain, her clothing and body becoming one with the rocky landscape.
Three female figures in repose, all of them missing heads and sitting on plinths, will be scattered around the rest of the park. The three sculptures that make up Synonym all hover in midair, dripped over invisible, destroyed classical statues, and are seemingly supported by nothing more than the extra fluid that’s spilled over the sides. A final sculpture, also referencing Allegory of Chastity, will be installed in the park’s reflecting pool.
Delirious Matter is Al-Hadid’s attempt to blend sculpture and plant matter for the first time in her career, much in the same way her work combines contemporary fabrication methods to reinterpret historical paintings and sculptures; it also represents her largest show to date.
Delirious Matter was made possible in part by a $35,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and through the support of the Madison Square Park Conservancy. The show will run in tandem with the Diana Al-Hadid: Delirious Matter at the Bronx Museum of the Arts from May 23 through October 14, 2018, while Al-Hadid’s melting mashups in the park will be on display until September 3, 2018.