There is so much beauty in NYC, and you don’t have to look very far to find it. I was getting my steps in one Sunday afternoon when I noticed this beautiful, mirror-polished stainless steel abstract sculpture for first time. I took a handful of photos and then did some Googling to get the lowdown on this artwork, and this is what I found out. Artist David Fried’s Stemmer (part of an eponymous sculpture series ) is a public artwork that was permanently installed on the northeast corner of 34th Street and First Avenue in April of 2019, while the site (which is the courtyard of a high-rise apartment building) was still under construction, and before the plaza officially opened to the public in May.
Please enjoy this in-depth analysis on the Stemmer sculpture series, found on Fried’s Website:
The networked spheres and interdependent multifaceted structures found in each Stemmer sculpture suggest a multitude of processes and phenomena in the natural and built environment. While their forms clearly follow basic laws of economy and self-organization found in adaptive bubble structures, there is also an intended association to organic cell clusters.
With an emphasis on the most fundamental form of autonomy — the Membrane: both a barrier and communicator between the self and the environment — Fried suggests an abstract embodiment of the origin of life-forms – natural or engineered.
Their forms appear in an undifferentiated yet fertile state — like a Venus von Willendorf at conception — full of potential, ready for chance, influence and self-determination. Anti-fragile balancing acts operating far from equilibrium – individualities in an interdependent process of becoming.
In Fried’s mirror polished stainless steel versions, we see the environment and ourselves reflected in the faceted surfaces, absorbed 360° by the sculpture. Its appearance is integrated with — and largely defined by — its environment, hinting that one‘s sense of identity is a complex development of ‘nature and nurture.’
The sharp networked angles formed by intersecting spheres of varying size result in dynamic shapes that, in spite of their clean mathematical origin, appear biological, and seem to possess an abstract yet curiously personal character.
Fried coined the term ‘Stemmer’ as a personifying name for stem-cell creations. Currently, the stem-cell is the most promising yet controversial, programmable, self-reproducing building-block on a cellular level, which in the hands of the genetic engineer, has become the absolute malleable ‘bio-porcelain’ of choice at the turn of this century.
As in many of Fried’s other works, the artist presents us with minimalist symbolic imagery that suggests a fusion of mythological and scientific beliefs, while calling attention to the manipulative processes that are now deeply rooted in our cultures. By resurrecting and modernizing humankind’s oldest fertility icons—in an era whereby applied technologies are trumping the oldest form of reproduction and evolution—with fertility icons of a synthetic nature, Fried confronts us with our desire and ability to alter nature’s course, and perhaps the future of our own evolutionary process.