“Gradiva.” Images via the Madison Square Park Conservancy
This fall, Madison Square Park became home to a luminous carpet of LED lights. Come spring, however, it will welcome a new public art exhibition, Delirious Matter, by Brooklyn-based artist Diana Al-Hadid. On view from May 7 to September 3, the exhibition will feature six new sculptures to be installed across the park’s central Oval Lawn, peripheral lawns and northern reflecting pool.
Delirious Matter is Al-Hadid’s first major public art project, and The Madison Square Park Conservancy’s thirty-sixth exhibition. According to a press release, the project is comprised of two, porous wall works, which will be combined with hedges to form a room; three reclining female figures, entitled “Synonym,” that will be erected on surrounding lawns; and a site-specific bust of a female figure on a fragmented mountain to be featured in the park’s reflecting pool. “I am thrilled to have my first large-scale public project on the lawns and in the reflecting pool of Madison Square Park,” stated Al-Hadid. “This is the first time my work will be made and seen at this scale. It’s my largest project by far and my largest audience.”
To carry out her vision, Al-Hadid — who is best known for her distinctive technique that’s a “blend between fresco and tapestry” — is collaborating with Showman Fabricators in Bayonne, New Jersey, and the Conservancy. As an immigrant from Syria who moved to Ohio, she draws her inspiration from the “disrupted typologies of architecture, antiquity, cosmology, and Old Master paintings.” This includes sources ranging from ancient frescoes to ancient time-telling devices and Medieval Islamic miniatures.
The Madison Square Park Conservancy notes that Al-Hadid’s integration of sculpture with plant material will be a first for the program. The aforementioned walls, which deceivingly appear fragile, will stand in direct contrast to the concrete and steel skyscrapers surrounding the park. One of the walls will also depict Gradiva, a reference to the 20th century mythological character from a novella by Wilhelm Jensen; the second wall, as well as the sculpture in the pool, are inspired by an Early Netherlandish painting called Allegory of Chastity by Hans Memling. All the pieces, however, reflect back the relationship (and boundaries) between architecture and site, figure and landscape, painting and sculpture, among other dichotomies.
For more on the project, visit madisonsquarepark.org, and join the conversation via social media by using the hashtags #MadSqArt, #DianaAlHadid, and #MadSqDeliriousMatter.