Iran Do Espírito Santo’s Playground is an exercise in playful minimalism
Central Park already has 21 playgrounds, but its latest Playground in Doris C. Freedman Plaza represents something more innovative––it is Brazilian artist Iran do Espírito Santo’s first public work in the U.S.
Iran do Espírito Santo (b. 1963) is renowned in his native Brazil for his voluptuous––and often quietly subverted––minimalism, his ability to play with the audience’s perception of reality, and his focus on the tactile nature of his chosen materials. Playground, a minimalist concrete sculpture in the southeast corner of Central Park, showcases the best of do Espírito Santo’s signature style.
At first glance, his sculpture appears to be a pseudocube of stone blocks, missing a few blocks in each corner. The work’s reality challenges your perception of the everyday: what seems like “stone” and “mortar” are both one element, the same stone-like poured concrete. The separate blocks are not separate at all––Playground is one enormous molded piece.
Taken all at once, Playground melds a metaphoric playground with a sophisticated, adult take on a child’s wooden block tower. Do Espírito Santo plays with construction and deconstruction with the “missing edges” that were never there––the intentional emptiness allows light, transparency, and a sense of playfulness into the sculpture. You can also explore inside the sculpture.
Playground can be found 60th Street and 5th Avenue in Doris C. Freedman plaza, home to a rotation of sculptural art installations that have included Michael Sailstorfer’s Tornado and James Yamada’s Our Starry Night in the past. Public Art Fund was also responsible for the Discovering Columbus by Tatzu Nishi, which enclosed the central statue at Columbus Circle with a living room.