Wednesday night was a beautiful night in the city; so warm and clear. It was not surprising to see so many people out in Madison Square Park, many of whom were not even in line for Shake Shack. Geoffrey and I had some time to kill before heading to an event in the neighborhood, so we ventured into the park to find the new resident public art project, which they have in the park every summer. Barely into the park’s east side at 24th Street we saw what looked like a giant elephant sculpture with big gold nose ring, just ahead to the west. “There it is,” we said in unison.
Big Bling is a public sculpture by American artist Martin Puryear (b. 1941). This forty-foot-tall work – the largest temporary piece he has created – is built of wood, the artist’s signature material, and a chain link fence. A shackle covered in gold leaf is anchored near the top of the structure.
Puryear has described Big Bling as “an event”; it is a short-term phenomenon. Through abstract means, he has crafted an on-going dialogue with history, art history, identity, and politics. Here, “Bling” – a slang term for flashy jewelry and accessories – is rooted in the urban youth, hip-hop and rap culture of the ‘90s. It is exceptional for Puryear to summon contemporary vernacular in titling his work. The name of the artwork and its placement in the heart of Manhattan demonstrates his recognition that Big Bling is a reflection of the character and the inhabitants of dense urban environments.
Big Bling is part animal form, part abstract sculpture, and part intellectual meditation.
See Big Bling in Madison Square Park Through January of 2017!