Whatever your feelings about public art, there's a lot of it in New York City. A new exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York reflects on the origins and future of the city's public sculptures, murals, and more ephemeral works, fifty years after artists and curators brought art out of the galleries and into the streets. Of course, New York has always had civic statues and monuments, but the public art movement really took off in the 1960s with Sculpture in Environment, a 1967 Parks Department exhibition that brought work by 24 artists to parks and buildings in Manhattan. The installations were the city's attempt to beautify itself in the face of disinvestment and decay, as well as a response to changing urban conditions that coincided with Kennedy-era positioning of American art and culture as a worldwide export. A timeline in the forecourt of Art in the Open gives a concise and colorful overview of public art from the 60s to today, with "Go See It!" stickers affixed to work that's endured, like Isamu Noguchi's Red Cube in front of 140 Broadway. A walk in the gallery is a greatest hits parade, organized by theme. A red Keith Haring mural, Crack is Wack, greets visitors who enter Art in Public, the opening category that engages the role of art in shaping shared spaces. Art in Place features site-specific works like The Gates, the 23 miles of orange banners Christo and Jeanne-Claude threaded through Central Park; A Subtlety, Kara Walker's arresting installation inside the Domino Sugar Factory; and a throwback, Wheatfield—A Confrontation, Agnes Denes's amber waves of grain in front of Minoru Yamasaki's World Trade Center. The third and final grouping, Art in Action, is devoted to performance and interactive installations. Tania Bruguera's Immigrant Movement International, a community center for migrants in Corona, Queens, and Rudy Shepherd's Drawing Cart, a table in front of a Harlem laundromat where the artist drew with neighbors, are thoughtful exceptions to the blockbusters. Exhibition curators collaborated with the city's major public art organizations to realize Art in the Open. There's art from MTA Arts & Design, the transit arts program that brings straphangers mosaic murals and Poetry in Motion, video stills and ephemera from Creative Time, the nonprofit behind A Subtlety, as well as many other works featured. The Public Art Fund, the group behind Ai Wei Wei's current citywide installation, shared its archives with MCNY for the show. Full-scale photographs of the art in situ contextualize the work, most of which (if decommissioned) is scaled to the sky, too massive to fit inside the gallery—a tension the show highlights. There's a lot to take in, and for New Yorkers, the show will jog memories of art that shapes the city, love it or hate it. Art in the Open: Fifty Years of Public Art in New York, is on view tomorrow, November 10 through May 13, 2018.
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Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto is having a New York City moment. He was included in a recent Arte Povera survey at Hauser & Wirth and in a current exhibition of silkscreens on mirrors at Luhring Augustine. The public highlight, though, was his performance of Scultura da Passeggio (Walking Sculpture) in Cold Spring, New York this past weekend. Sponsored by the new postwar and contemporary Italian art museum Magazzino in Cold Spring, the Saturday performance replicated an earlier run in Turin, Italy. In 1967, Pistoletto rolled a large ball or Sfere di Giornali (newspaper sphere) covered with newspaper clippings that highlighted Italy's turmoil during the 1960s, a literal rendition of the news cycle. In the Arte Povera tradition, it used common cheap materials and attempted to move outside the gallery walls and into the city, having viewers "reflect on an all-encompassing expression of circulation, a manipulation of the passing of time." Oh for the days of the 1960s and art that actively engaged with the public! This weekend’s Scultura da Passeggio had a new version of the ball arrive in Cold Spring on a red FIAT roadster, just as it had fifty years ago. After a few brief comments by Pistoletto and the creators of Magazzino, Nancy Olnick and Giorgio Spanu, the ball was rolled though the streets of the small Hudson River village by an enthusiastic group of participants to celebrate the joy of art when it engages with the city rather than lectures from the gallery walls. Magazzino is a jewel of a small museum and is less than 60 miles from New York City.
An already controversial plan by Saudi-backed developers Olayan America to renovate 550 Madison Avenue into a modern office building has hit another snag. Following on the heels of Snøhetta’s proposal to update the base of Philip Johnson’s postmodern skyscraper with a rolling glass facade, new questions have arisen over a pair of murals in the second floor lobby. Famed abstract artist Dorothea Rockburne, who came to prominence in the 1970s with her paintings inspired by minimalism and mathematical principles, is questioning what will happen to her site-specific installations commissioned in 1993 by former Sony executives. A pair of 30 by 30-foot murals slotted into viewing alcoves, “Northern Sky” and “Southern Sky” are contextual pieces designed specifically for what was once the Sony Building. The swooping spheres of red and yellow, overlaid with a pattern of shifting squiggles, are representative of the electromagnetic field in that part of the sky while also drawing on aspects of chaos theory. The Chetrit Group, 550 Madison’s former owners before selling the property in 2016, had been engaged with a game of cat-and-mouse with Rockburne for years over the fate of the murals. Only after Rockburne revealed their correspondences publicly did the Chetrit Group eventually promise to keep the murals in place and pay for their upkeep. With the building changing hands, the agreement evaporated. Prompted by the Snøhetta’s recent renderings, the issue has once again reared its head, but Rockburne seemed hopeful when asked about where the murals would ultimately end up. Rockburne said, “Michael Schulhof [former CEO of Sony America and the original commissioner of the work] has stayed in contact with the new owners of the building. They’re aware of the importance, and have planned to take care of them.” Rockburne is less certain about what the building’s new facade means for the interplay between the building itself and her work, and had strong feelings about the latest proposal. “I knew Phillip Johnson. I’ve had dinner with Phillip Johnson. This is like putting a glass curtain over a cathedral.”
Of all the events and programs associated with this year’s “Year of Public Art” in Chicago, it may be the recent announcement of the city’s first Public Art Plan that will have the longest-lasting effect. Rounding out a year which included a new art festival, the 50th anniversary of some of the city’s most beloved public pieces, a new youth art corps, and numerous other city-initiated art commissions, the Public Art Plan outlines the city’s goals and focus regarding the future of art in the public domain. Building off the Chicago Cultural Plan 2012, a large portion of the plan is focused directly on reassessing the process of commissioning art and shifting the way the city talks about and supports artists. To do so, the Public Art Plan lays out a series of guidelines which the city plans to implement over the coming years. The seven points in the plan include:
- Update Chicago’s Percent for Art Program
- Establish clear and transparent governmental practices
- Expand resources to support the creation of public art throughout the city
- Advance programs that support artists, neighborhoods and the public good
- Strengthen the City’s collection management systems
- Support the work that artists and organizations do to create public art
- Build awareness of and engagement with Chicago’s public art
In light of recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia and other cities across the nation, a panel discussion on Civil War Monuments has been planned in Cooper Union’s renowned Great Hall, on the subject of their meaning, the complex histories that surround their realization, and the current socio-political conditions that are causing their very existence to be reconsidered. Should these monuments be saved? Should they be torn down? Is it possible—or even appropriate—to make thoughtful, informed interventions into these works of public art that can preserve their history, diffuse the myth and polarization that surround them and serve as teaching moments for future generations? These and other questions will be posed during the program. Panelists include:
- Stony Brook University Professor Michele H. Bogart, whose teaching areas include the social history of public art and urban design and commercial culture in the United States;
- Executive Director of the American Historical Association James Grossman whose work has focused on various aspects of American urban history, African American history, the place of history in public culture, and more;
- Julian LaVerdiere, a 1993 graduate of The Cooper Union School of Art and co-creator of the Tribute in Light Memorial;
- Visual journalist and former CNN correspondent Brian Palmer, who has photographed Virginia's neglected African American cemeteries and more;
- Columbia University Professor of Architecture, Planning and Preservation Mabel O. Wilson, whose design and scholarly research investigates space, politics and cultural memory in black America and race and modern architecture;
- Mya Dosch, faculty member of The Cooper Union’s Humanities and Social Sciences who is teaching the fall 2017 course “Take ‘em down: Monuments, Artist Interventions, and the Struggle for Memory in the Americas,” will moderate.
Venezuelan-born artist Carlos Cruz-Diez has completed work on a new art installation at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles that utilizes blocks of pastel-colored paint to activate the crosswalks connected to the museum. The installation was developed by the Broad with the Cruz-Diez Art Foundation and the artist himself as part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA (PST), an ambitious multi-venue exploration of Latin American and Latino art currently taking place across the Los Angeles region. The installation, titled Couleur Additive, was installed along the four crosswalks located at the intersection of Grand Avenue and 2nd Street in Downtown Los Angeles. One of the crosswalks connects the Broad to the Disney Concert Hall located on a block north of the museum. Cruz-Diez is a highly-regarded figure in the Kinetic-Optical art genre, an experimental color theory-based form of artistic exploration initially developed in the 1950s. Cruz-Diez, who recently turned 94 years old, developed his approach based on the assumption that the perception of color in the human eye constitutes an autonomous reality that changes based on position, time, and perspective. His works, according to Ed Schad, assistant curator at The Broad, create art “through and around” the side-by-side collision of the installation’s green, orange, yellow, and blue hues. Schad’s team undertook great pains to comply with the City of Los Angeles’s permitting process for the installation, which required that the paint be applied in such a way as to retain the original sidewalk striping in its entirety. As a result, the paint swatches exist independently from the typical white crosswalk striping. The paint itself was applied by student-artists from the nearby Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts, a complex designed by architects Coop Himmelb(l)au. Joanne Heyler, founding director of The Broad said in a press release, “Carlos Cruz-Diez’s practice challenges the traditional relationship between art and the viewer, and between the viewer and the urban environment,”adding, “His new work Couleur Additive activates the public space around The Broad, embracing Grand Avenue and bringing the museum out into the daily life of pedestrians and our visitors, highlighting the ideas of an important Latin American artist whose career has spanned seven decades.” The public art installation will be featured alongside explanatory materials displayed inside the museum and in conjunction with educational workshops put on by Learning Lab, an arm of the Cruz-Diez Art Foundation. The installation is on view through the year and into 2018.
Times Square can leave your head spinning at the best of times, but come the final minutes of each day this month, visitors can witness a psychedelic show on the square's famous advertising boards. Known as Convolution Weave~Lattice Domain and created by MSHR—a collaborative composed of Portland, Oregon–based artists Birch Cooper and Brenna Murphy—the work is a highly colorful virtual landscape of spinning objects. The complex sculptures represent objects that would be impossible to create in reality, as well as more conventional forms, that creating dazzling patterns. "We construct hypershapes that reflect consciousness, just as the content in Times Square reflects the psychic structure of our culture. There are many possible shapes of reality," MSHR said in a press release. "We aim to warp the frayed edges of this media node, minding the intentions behind mental influence through imagery. Our intention is to inject the light stream with objects sculpted for presence of mind." The installation is part of the Midnight Moment, a monthly showing provided by The Times Square Advertising Coalition and presented in partnership with Upfor Gallery and Times Square Arts. Convolution Weave~Lattice Domain can be viewed from 11:57 p.m.-midnight every night this August. Despite hailing from the West Coast, more of MSHR's work can be found in New York—in particular, Queens, where Cooper and Murphy's art is featured in the Past Skin exhibition at MoMA PS1 where it is on view through September 10, 2017.
An abandoned building in Allston, Boston has been transformed into an engaging art installation by two Baltimore-based artists, revealing the power of art in urban intervention.
The duo Jessie + Katey, formed by Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn, created the mural as a part of a Harvard-based initiative called Zone 3. The initiative aims to further activate and energize the buildings along Western Avenue, which include a former dry cleaning facility and auto body garage, by implementing creative programs, events, and retail.
Jessie + Katey are known for creating large-scale public murals that look to engage the public with their socially active art. The entire building’s facade is painted with bold colors and sweeping patterns that curve around the edges, along with recycled materials like beer cans and bottle caps attached to the walls. The pair also held community events where the public was invited to create their own screen prints, which were eventually inscribed onto the walls. It took them nearly one month to complete the mural, which explores themes of movement and symmetry. The two artists have been creating colorful murals since 2011 and have been making an impression on the East Coast. Two years ago they were selected for the New York Department of Transportation’s 191st Tunnel Beautification Project and that same year they worked with Philadelphia’s Murals Arts Program when creating the 400-foot-long mural pop-up park: "Summer Kaleidoscope." In addition to this, Unterhalter and Truhn have residencies with The Albright Knox Museum in Buffalo, New York, The Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine and the John Micheal Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
A New York City sculptor decided to take a literal piss on some art he didn't like. Artist Alex Gardega's latest piece sends a golden shower down the leg of Fearless Girl, the bronze statue installed under the cover of darkness by a financial services company to
generate free PR celebrate International Women's Day.
The statue faces down Arturo Di Modica's Charging Bull on Broadway in Lower Manhattan. Though the bronze sculpture attracted the ire and eye rolls of art historians, designers, and some feminists, the public seemed to love Fearless Girl. Even Mayor Bill de Blasio weighed in, granting it a temporary permit.
In response, Gardega dreamed up Pissing Pug, an intentionally "crappy" bronze likeness of a dog taking a whiz on the leg of Fearless Girl. The pug lurks below the knee of the Fearless Girl, its near hind leg arched to do the deed.
“I decided to build this dog and make it crappy to downgrade the statue, exactly how the girl is a downgrade on the bull,” Gardega told the New York Post.
There's no word yet on whether the statue will stay—though it is safe to say that the triangle in Bowling Green where the three pieces live is a micro-haven for guerrilla art. Back in 1989, Di Modica erected his sculpture in front of the New York Stock Exchange without permission from the city. Following public outcry after the city impounded the piece, the Park Department moved it to its current location where it has attracted throngs of testicle-rubbing tourists ever since.
Syracuse, New York–based SPORTS recently completed the installation of their Runaway pavilion, a striking arrangement of wire metal meshes designed as an ode to the unique atmospheric qualities of Santa Barbara, California. In a statement, the designers explained their desire to “architecturalize the aesthetic quality of the air” in the beachside community, a shifting environmental phenomenon caused by the confluence of intense inland heat and cooler beach fog. The resulting “June gloom,” serves as the inspiration for the project. The pavilion is made up of three triangular masses constructed from rectilinear elements that can be repositioned variously. The masses—which have nested shapes scooped out from their interior volumes—seem to dematerialize in place, as their bright cyan, magenta, and yellow forms catch the passing light. The so-called “loungescape” works at a variety of scales and functions. Based on the arrangement and orientation of the forms, the pavilion can work as a simple wall used to demarcate space or as something grander, like a performance stage. The shapes can also be used as casual seating elements. The pieces will move around the city, starting with the Santa Barbara Pier. From there, they will travel to a number of different neighborhoods and be installed in at least six sites. The composition of the project will vary according to each locale, a process the designers envision will unlock the multi-functional nature of the pieces. SPORTS completed a mint-green seating installation in Chicago’s suburbs last year. The current installation is the result of the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara’s Take Part / Make Art Pavilion competition that sought to reposition the museum as a force for urban art through traveling, neighborhood-based installations. The pavilion will move throughout the city, changing location every few weeks, through mid-August of this year.
A new art installation has recently been illuminated in the epic lobby of the Goettsch-designed 150 North Riverside. At 150 feet long and 22 feet high, 150 Media Stream is an ever changing digital installation comprised of 89 LED blades. Commissioned by the building's developer, Riverside Investment & Development, the installation was closely integrated with 150 North Riverside's design. “150 Media Stream represents an interesting convergence of art, architecture, and technology, and we believe it celebrates the transformational experience of media art,” said Yuge Zhou, creative director at Riverside Investment & Development. The physical components of 150 Media Stream were designed and constructed by McCann Systems, who worked with Digital Kitchen. Chicago-based Leviathan produced the initial artwork and content delivery system. “We set out to build a flexible, intelligent system of endless digital content that would make 150 Media Stream look exceptional, every moment of every day,” explained Jason White, executive creative director of Leviathan. The artwork that will be displayed on the installation will be commissioned from artists and students. A series of collaborative projects have been specifically created for the piece in classes sponsored by Riverside. Partnering cultural and educational institutions also contributed. The first prominent artist to be featured on the installation will be Chicago-based new media artist Jason Salavon. Coupled with its site specificity, this will be one of the largest pieces Salavon has ever done. “The opportunity to explore these aspects of this project was intriguing. There is no other video wall in the world that looks like this one,” Salavon said.
The 150 Riverside tower will officially open Thursday, April 20, 2017, with the lobby being open to the public starting Friday, April 21, 2017, at 6pm.
As reported by the Chicago Tribune, Chicago’s epically-scaled Merchandise Mart will soon host a public art piece to match its size. Scheduled for a 2018 unveiling, the installation will be comprised of large-scale projections that will illuminate the two-block stretch of the Chicago River in front of the building. Leading the design of the installation is New York–based A+I architects and San Francisco-based Obscura Digital. Obscura specializes in immersive experience design and has done similarly scaled projection projects on such iconic buildings as the Empire State Building, the Sydney Opera House, and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. An RFP released by the city in 2014 hints at a possible vision for the installation, with interactive videos playing on its facade. That RFP was a call for a design team for the Lighting Frame Work Plan (LFP) to imagine a comprehensive lighting plan for the public spaces of Chicago. A major portion of the RFP was dedicated to the stretch of the Chicago River which now is home to the Riverwalk. The language of the RFP specifically addressed lighting as a part of the city’s goal to integrate art, design, and technology into public spaces to attract tourist. The announcement comes as the city celebrates the Year of Public Art, which includes the installation of multiple new pieces in public spaces, a $1.5 million investment from the city, and a series of public events and programs. The Merchandise Mart project is planned to be completely privately funded. Completed 1931, the art deco Merchandise Mart was designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White. It was the largest building in the world by floor area until the Pentagon was built and is still in the top 50 for largest buildings in the world. Today the building is filled with a variety of tenants but is best known for its wholesale design showrooms on the lower floors. Upper floors are filled with office and exhibition spaces, including a large tech startup incubator, and Motorola Mobility. The Mart, as it is usually referred to, is also home to NeoCon, the international commercial design show.