Gilded monuments and bronze statues evoke the public art of a bygone era, though we’ve recently been reminded of the potent symbolic value they still hold. Artist Gillian Wearing (b. 1963, Birmingham, England) has been fascinated by these sculptures since childhood. For her, there’s something uncanny about a human form that appears immovable and changeless in a public setting. Wearing has alwasy made art about people, usually presented in unexpected ways, in photography, video, and more recently, sculpture.
If you’re a NYC resident who likes to ‘get your steps in’ by exploring neighborhoods both new and familiar, here’s a Street Art Safari that you can participate in whether you live in Manhattan, Brooklyn or Queens! Back and Forth Disco is an exhibition of newly-commissioned photographs by Farah Al Qasimi (b. 1991 Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates) that celebrate individuality and the aesthetic choices that make spaces and surroundings uniquely personal.
The 17 photographs in this new body of work isolate and highlight the beauty of seemingly inconspicuous moments amidst New York City’s visual and audible noise. Presented on 100 bus shelters across the five boroughs, the larger than life photographs are inserted into the paths of New York City commuters at eye level. Works are sited in clusters in over 18 neighborhoods to give the public an opportunity to see multiple photographs within walking or bus route distance. The bus shelters — platforms traditionally used for advertising — bring together images of people, street scenes, interiors, and surfaces to explore the experience of being an individual in a hyper-stimulating city.
The artist has developed a photographic style that reads distinctly as her own, yet is continuously evolving. Over a month-long period in fall 2019, for the first time, Al Qasimi took New York City as her subject, primarily focusing on local communities where small businesses thrive. She has photographed neighborhood stores, barbershops, streets, and homes from Astoria, Queens to Chinatown, Manhattan to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Drawn to the idea of visual excess, rich textures, and brightly saturated colors—familiar to her from growing up in the Emirates — Al Qasimi captures vibrant instances of self-expression. The works highlight individual style and cultural traditions that break through the chaos and anonymity of the city.
Central to Bodega Chandelier is an elaborate crystal light fixture that dominates the ceiling of a Yemeni-owned bodega in Ridgewood, Queens, dwarfing the products on display. In Parked Car, garlands of artificial flowers from an Indian wedding decorate a polished gray car in Al Qasimi’s neighborhood.
Al Qasimi’s portraiture challenges traditional ideas associated with figuration by utilizing elements of camouflage, concealment, and revelation. Her process is both spontaneous and deliberate. She photographs friends and strangers alike, often returning to familiar places repeatedly or recreating moments she has seen in public space in more controlled environments. Her enigmatic portraits demonstrate her approach to the genre: the faces of her subjects are partially obstructed or altogether absent, while their vitality is instead accentuated through garments, hairstyles, and poses.
In Woman in Leopard Print, a single eye is revealed through a reflection in a compact mirror as the woman in a leopard-print headscarf studies herself. In Coco, a cockatoo who resides at a curtain store in Ridgewood, Queens is paid a visit by regulars in the neighborhood. A young boy looks at the bird but his eyes are hidden by his mother’s extended arm, allowing other features — such as the woman’s bright red nails — to become the focal point.
The photographs in Back and Forth Disco aim to draw out expressive details that spark recognition within communities. Acts of adornment, both to oneself and to the city, highlight the idiosyncrasies and beauty in environments that are often overlooked.
Back And Forth Disco Is On View Through May 17th, 2020. Visit This Link For a Map of All Locations.
Dollar Story (Flipside of Grace Beauty Salon), Ave C between E 5th St and E 6th St, Manhattan
Cuban American Geometrical Abstract painter Carmen Herrera (b. 1915, Havana) waited a very long time to get her hard-earned props from the art world. The artist’s first career retrospective, 2016– 2017 Lines Of Sight at New York City’s Whitney Museum finally provided a showcase for her minimalist, color field paintings, alongside a selection of her geometric, monochromatic sculptures — which she simply calls Estructuras (Structures). While it’s disappointing to realize that, at 104 years of age, Carmen Herrera isn’t quite a household name, the NYC-based Public Art Fund is doing its part to expose her works to a wider audience by sponsoring Estructuras Monumentales, Herrera’s first major exhibition of outdoor sculptures, which are currently on view in City Hall Park. This park is a short walk from my office, to so I walked over on my lunch hour to check it out.
Herrera’s Estructuras series of sculptures, informed by her architectural training, date back to the 1960s with a group of diagrammatic sketches. She envisioned large-scale monochromatic sculptures that would extend the experience of her luminous paintings into three dimensions. Until recently, these historic proposals have remained unrealized. With Estructuras Monumentales, this remarkable artist is now able to share her powerful structures with public audiences for the first time. Here are the five structures located in City Hall Park.
Herrera still paints and creates every day, but Angul Rojo (2017) is the first Estructura that she has designed in more than three decades. Its red chevron composition conveys movement and rhythm with a bold dynamism reminiscent of many of her most iconic paintings.
Herrera originally conceived Pavanne, (1967/2017) as a monument to her younger brother, Mariano, who was then dying of cancer. The three tightly fit, interlocking elements of this solemn work encourage quiet contemplation, while the title references the musical term for a slow processional dance with funereal overtones.
Amarillo Tres, 1971/2018. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Herrera began to work with a carpenter to translate her drawings into wooden sculptural Estructuras. That resulted in the important smaller Azul ‘Tres’ (1971), on which this monumental Estructura is based. Herrera was forced to temporarily halt this endeavor when the carpenter she worked with passed away and the grant stipend that had supported the work began to dwindle.
Estructura Verde (1966/2018) most clearly expresses the evolution from Herrera’s paintings to her Estructuras. Her breakthrough Blanco y Verde (1966–67) series of paintings on canvas created long, acute wedges of dark paint among white expanses. This sculpture translates and inverts that arrangement, with two bold green interlocked L-shaped forms, which encompass slivers of negative space, incorporating the sculpture’s surroundings into its dynamic composition.
Untitled Estructura (Red), (1962/2018). Carmen Herrera’s Estructuras can be appreciated for their formal poetry, yet they can also be seen in the context of her life. In October of 1962, the confrontation between the United States and Cuba escalated to the Cuban Missile Crisis, during which Herrera and her husband Jesse Lowenthal were deeply involved in helping friends, family, and refugees escape the conflict. The overhanging cantilevered arrangement of this Estructura might abstractly allude to the tensions between Herrera’s adopted and native countries at the moment she conceived this work.
Carmen Herrera: Estructuras Monumentales, Curated by Public Art Fund Curator Daniel S. Palmer, Will Be On View in City Hall Park (Located in Lower Manhattan) Through November 8th, 2019.
Mark Manders’ Tilted Head is a work of fiction. It has the appearance of unfired clay combined with everyday objects but in fact is made entirely of cast bronze. The cracks and fissures that cover its surface imply an organic process of drying and decay, yet its metal form is fixed.
It might suggest an incomplete model, abandoned in the artist’s studio, if not for the fact that its colossal size and civic location lend it the air of a grand monument. Eyes shut, the androgynous figure’s mask-like features are at rest, undisturbed by an abrupt slice through a third of its face. The unfinished side of the head is held as if in a splint by wooden planks, one tied with rope.
At the back, chairs and a suitcase, all slightly reduced in size, protrude from a mass of formless material. These shifts in scale, unexplained objects, and trompe l’oeil bronze effects alter our perception and spark the imagination.
Mark Manders (b. 1968, The Netherlands) has been interested in the human figure throughout his career, and is particularly fascinated with the head, which he sometimes depicts detached from the body and juxtaposed with different elements. These heads are always stylized representations rather than individualized portraits.
His approach creates a paradoxical sense of both immediacy and timelessness, of something newly made with fresh clay yet belonging to the traditions of classical statuary. With Tilted Head, Manders has rendered a compelling fiction of human form that inhabits a poetic space between representation and abstraction, serenity and rupture, life and mortality.
Mark Manders’ Tilted Head is Curated by Public Art Fund Director & Chief Curator Nicholas Baume. It Will be on Display at the Doris C. Freedman Plaza, Fifth Avenue and 60th Street, Adjacent to Central Park, Through September 1st, 2019.
Update: I was near the Park over the Memorial Day weekend and got this new shot of the sculpture with Summer’s lush greenery in the background!
Memorial Day Monday was not the hoped-for sunny day here in NYC, and the grey sky with threat of rain lent itself to indoor activities like Museum visits! Thus, I was inspired to head out to the Museum of Modern Art, followed by a short walk downtown to Rockefeller Center to see the new summer public artwork. This year’s monumental work is the first site-specific outdoor public sculpture ever to be commissioned for the United States from German artist Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945). Entitled Uraeus, the work consists of a gigantic open book with eagle’s wings 30 feet in span, both made of lead, on top of a 20-foot-tall lead-clad stainless steel column. Continue reading Anselm Kiefer’s Uraeus Sculpture at Rockefeller Center