The month of May unveils some thought-provoking public art in New York City. Themes of climate change, undocumented workers lost to COVID-19, pollution in ocean environments, and surveillance are some of the heavy topics addressed and conceptualized by artists this month. These works are juxtaposed with some playful, color rich art involving light, community and daily life. Enjoy new public art this May and be sure to keep reading to catch installations still on view from previous months.
1. Ghost Forest by Maya Lin
Maya Lin’s Ghost Forest, a towering stand of fifty haunting Atlantic white cedar trees placed in Madison Square Park, is a newly-commissioned public artwork. Lin brings her vision as an artist and her agency as an environmental activist to this project, which embodies a memory of germination, vegetation, abundance, and a harsh symbol of the devastation of climate change.
The height of each tree, around forty feet, overwhelms human scale and stands as a metaphor of the outsized impact of a looming environmental calamity. The trees in Ghost Forest were all slated to be cleared as part of regeneration efforts in the fragile ecosystem of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Ghost Forest will be in the park May 10 to November 14.
2. Untitled (drone) by Sam Durant at the Highline Plinth
One of several public art installations along The Highline, Sam Durant’s Untitled (drone) is the second High Line Plinth commission. Untitled (drone) can be seen on the Highline walkway as well as from the street below. With this work, Durant seeks to make visible the intentionally obscured drone warfare perpetrated by the United States, and to remind the public that drones and surveillance are a tragic and pervasive presence in the daily lives of many living outside—and within—the United States.
This large-scale fiberglass sculpture in the shape of an abstracted drone atop a 25-foot-tall steel pole continues High Line Art’s mission of presenting new, powerful, thought-provoking artworks that generate and amplify some of today’s most important conversations.
3. Three Public Art Installations by Internationally Acclaimed Artist, Jim Rennert
Timing, Inner Dialogue and Listen are three life-size works by artist Jim Rennert, which will be installed in New York City’s Pershing Square Plaza West, Grand Central. Each sculpture stands over 6 feet tall and depicts the daily struggles and achievements of everyday people. The sculptural installations are being facilitated as part of the New York City Department of Transportation’s Temporary Art Program.
Rennert’s works represent the meeting point between the business world and the everyday lives of ordinary people, similar to the way that Pershing Square represents the joining of business and community aspects of the neighborhood surrounding Grand Central Terminal. These three works embody three ideas key to the fast-paced life of Grand Central, for both locals and visitors
4. BEACON, a Shining Light in Flushing, Queens
BEACON is a monumental 12-foot interactive sculpture inspired by American inventor Lewis H. Latimer. It was fabricated by Youth in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The installation is designed to illuminate its immediate surroundings with light based on the viewer’s proximity and direct interaction with the structure.
BEACON was created in partnership with interdisciplinary artist and educator Shervone Neckles, and represents the collaboration of young adults from around New York City recruited from NYC Human Resources Administration’s (HRA) Youth Services. It is on view at the Lewis Latimer House Museum in Flushing, Queens. Beam Center is a Brooklyn-based non-profit that produces ambitious, collaborative projects with more than 7,000 NYC youth annually.
5. Avery SPOT installed at Columbia Campus
The Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (Columbia GSAPP) is pleased to present the outdoor pavilion Avery SPOT. The temporary pavilion structure was erected by students in the plaza between Avery, Fayerweather, and Schermerhorn Halls on Columbia University’s Morningside Heights Campus.
The pavilion is being used for GSAPP events and celebrates the reunion of students and faculty on campus during the April 29 and May 1, 2021 Columbia GSAPP commencement activities. The canopy uses a rain chain to divert water from the platform and prevent water buildup and additional weight. The platform program features social distancing circles organized in three colored arrangements to accommodate casual meetings, outdoor seminars, and formal lectures. Head uptown to check out this unique answer to covered outdoor space.
6. The Wash at Port Authority Bus Station
In recognition of Earth Month, the Port Authority bus terminal is hosting a new exhibit that focuses on the collection and clean-up of marine debris from New York City beaches. “The Wash” features 29 photographs framed in a portal motif that resembles a line of washing machines.
The new outdoor mural is the creative inspiration of Brooklyn-based artist Basia Goszczynska working in partnership with the Port Authority and local artist collective ChaShaMa. The public art piece highlights the need to keep marine life clean and healthy.
7. Not for Nutten Mural at Governors Island
In his large mural work for the Governors Island Ferry Building, artist Duke Riley expands on the ships in a bottle tradition of preciously crafted objects by using a more common bottle of today – single-use plastic containers found floating in oceans worldwide. However, unlike their blown glass and wood-ship-in-a-bottle counterparts, Riley’s painted vignettes appear etched like scrimshaw on the surfaces of items that plague our waterway ecosystems such as detergent bottles and caulking tubes.
“As a historic center for the arts, Governors Island is proud to welcome yet another celebrated artist to enliven our public spaces,” said Clare Newman, President and CEO of the Trust for Governors Island. “Riley’s work marries the Harbor’s rich history with the Island’s present focus on the pressing issues of the ongoing climate crisis. This intricately beautiful mural looks to both the past and the future, giving visitors the chance to pause and reflect as they enjoy everything the Island has to offer.”
8. The Parts exhibition of Text and Images
The Parts is a piece of artwork by Brooklyn-based conceptual artist Chloë Bass, Brooklyn Library’s Katowitz Radin Artist in Residence for 2021. The piece is a multiform physical installation, realized as text and images, installed in the exterior landscape of Central Library at Grand Army Plaza.
The installation includes two double-sided flags activating the exterior of BPL’s recently inaugurated Center for Brooklyn History. The flags contain images of the artist’s daily life and reflective personal texts, “which reside at the intersection of aphorism, diary entry, and prose poetry.” The project started on Instagram and will now be on display at several library branches.
9. SeaGlass Carousel at Battery Park
The SeaGlass story began early this century, when The Battery Conservancy was designing the park’s interior. The southern end of the park needed more light. The design team came up with the idea of an aquatic carousel to conjure The Battery’s history as the first home of the New York Aquarium. Inspired by the chambered nautilus, the spiraling pavilion of glass and steel brings art, architecture, and music to children of all ages.
The George Tsypin Opera Factory created a mystical underwater experience you can take part in this month at the carousel. The rider sits within iridescent fish that glide through the sights and sounds of a 360° aquatic adventure. Tickets are $5.00. Be sure to check times and dates on the carousel’s website.
10. Melvin Edwards Retrospective in City Hall Park
The Public Art Fund has announced a survey of Melvin Edwards work. a collection of six sculptures titled Brighter Days. The displayed work will feature both newly commissioned pieces and five sculptures made between 1970 and 1994. Edwards was the first African American sculptor to have a solo exhibition at The Whitney in 1970.
Edwards often uses chains in his work, a symbol of bondage and oppression as well as connection. The location of City Hall Park, located on a 1700’s African American Burial Ground is a fitting and powerful one. The Brighter Days exhibition on display through November 28 is free and open to the public. Keep reading to see what installations from past months are still on display!
11. Immigrants are Essential
Artist and activist Paola Mendoza unveiled Immigrants are Essential, a public art installation in an empty SoHo storefront that honors seven undocumented immigrants who lost their lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Viewers will witness each of their lives reflected through a large-scale portrait and an oral history recorded by family members.
Immigrants are Essential features the portraits of Fedelina, Mario, Moisés, Yimel, Juan, Ofelia and Guadalupe – seven undocumented immigrants from different backgrounds, illustrated by photographs provided by family members. Each portrait has an accompanying QR code for the viewer to access an oral history, as told by the family. This installation is a reminder and a call to action: immigrants have always been an essential part of the fabric of our country, and it is long past due to provide a dignified pathway to citizenship. The portraits will be viewable at 2 Rivington Street from April 27 through May 3 and then online.
12. Ruth Bader Ginsburg Statue in Brooklyn
Artists Gillie and Marc created this bronze of late U.S. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to commemorate her in the struggle for gender equality and human rights. The statue is one of ten statues of notable women installed in NYC by the artists to increase the representation of women in public sculpture from 3 to 10% . The statue is on view from noon to 8PM daily in the lobby of City Point in Downtown Brooklyn and is also visible through the windows of the building.
13. Reclining Liberty Comes to a Harlem Park
Reclining Liberty by artist Zaq Landsberg is set to premier, after much delay, in Morningside Park on April 26. The slightly weary looking Lady Liberty, posed on her side, head propped up by her hand seems to be waiting, like most of us, for better days that surely are coming. The artist, in explaining his draw to monuments states “They are literally where the political and the aesthetic meet.”
You can visit the statue at at the base of the stairs at 120th Street and Manhattan Avenue in Harlem.
14. Aperture Lightbox Street Portraits by Jamel Shabazz
Aperture and Rockefeller Center present an outdoor exhibition of New York City street and subway photographs by Jamel Shabazz, who is known for his authentic and spontaneous depictions of NYC life beginning in 1980 and spanning forty years.
Fourteen of Shabazz’s portraits will be displayed in the heart of the city, installed on seven-foot-tall lightboxes across Rockefeller Center’s public plazas.
15. Giant Pin Cushion installation of Flowers and Willow welcomes Spring in the Garment District
The enormous bronze needle and button sculpture you may have seen on 7th Ave next to the garment district info kiosk has a companion for the summer titled Pin Cushion. The giant floral arrangement has transformed the Garment District Alliance kiosk into a delightful place to stop, look and even get information about the district.
Pin Cushion was created by Patricia Gonzalez and Carlos Franqui of Floratorium and is made up of 50+ bales of curly willow, 9 wisteria bales, and hundreds of faux hydrangeas, poppies, greenery and butterflies. New Yorkers are encouraged to stop by and visit the exhibit through the summer.
16. Sound installation loved at Brooklyn Botanic Garden
In commemorating the year anniversary since of the pandemic, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has done its own reflection by working with composer Michael Gordon to install his composition loved , Performed by percussionist David Cossin, the meditative composition for seven vibraphones plays hourly on Cherry Esplanade and runs 5 minutes, 28 seconds. You can meditate in the natural beauty of the blossoming trees as this haunting and uplifting piece is broadcast throughout the esplanade.
17. Finally! KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature at New York Botanical Garden
The long-delayed garden exhibition KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature is now open at New York Botanical Garden. The exhibition will be a comprehensive survey of the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama lifelong obsession with the natural world. KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature will include a comprehensive survey of the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama lifelong obsession with the natural world. KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature will include programs, a publication, and exhibits both in the gardens and within the surrounding buildings of the 250-acre landscape.
The artist’s spectacular sculptures, signature polka-dotted organic forms, and mesmerizing paintings of plants and flowers will be presented along with archival material never before publicly exhibited. The change of seasons will complement the spectacular works during the six-month run of the exhibit. The Yayoi Kusama exhibit KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature is on view from April 10 through October 31, 2021. Tickets are available through the New York Botanical Garden website.
18. The séances aren’t helping at the Met
The séances aren’t helping by Carol Bove will be the second commission featured on the facade of The Met Fifth Avenue. The spaces Bove’s work will fill have historically been empty. Though the niches were intended to contain art, they were empty for 117 years. Bove’s four massive works are sculpted into nonrepresentational forms that “resonate with modernist styles such as Art Deco and abstraction.”
Bove’s piece contrasts the classical style of Richard Morris Hunt’s facade design, which “subtly calls for us to reevaluate and reckon with the legacies of tradition.” The tile also, The séances aren’t helping, further emphasizes the ongoing struggle to reckon with our past. The sculptures will be on display until November 2021.
19. Largest Tile Mosaic by Rashid Johnson
The work of Rashid Johnson employs a wide range of mediums to explore the themes of art history, individual and shared cultural identity, personal narratives, and materiality. His work often includes diverse materials rich with symbolism and personal history.
The mosaic Untitled Broken Crowd is composed of handmade ceramics, wood, brass, oyster shells, spray paint, wax, soap, and mirrors the soaring piece spans 14 by 33 feet. Located at 200 Liberty Street at Brookfield Place, visitors will be able to contemplate Johnson’s extraordinary piece mounted in the lobby entrance. The glass facade of the building also allows the piece to be highly visible from the surrounding streets
20. Awol Erikzu Bus Shelters
New Visions for Iris is a 200-site photography exhibition by the multidisciplinary artist Awol Erikzu on display in JCDecaux bus shelters across the city. Creating visual poems, the Ethiopian born, Bronx raised artist imagines an inclusive reinvention of our shared public spaces. The portrait and still life compositions include a diverse and colorful array of motifs and references that challenge the status quo of typical commercial images usually seen in these spaces.
A map published online is available to view locations in NYC. Presented by Public Art Fund, New Visions for Iris is Erikzu’s first solo public exhibition and will be on view from February 24 through June 20, 2021.
21. Intertwining Colors
Intertwining Colors, a large-scale, hand-painted mural by artists Hisham Akira Bharoocha and Maria Lupianez is now on display through June 2021 at NYCHA‘s Fulton and Elliott-Chelsea Houses in Manhattan. The mural features portraits of members of the local community, who according to the ArtBridge, the organization behind the work, are “each dancing joyously, alone yet still connected.” The project was also made possible by Facebook Open Arts and NYC Cultural Affairs.
Intertwining Colors is 355 feet long, painted across 55 panels of outdoor construction scaffolding. You can find it along 17th Street between 9th and 10th avenues and on 26th Street between 9th and 10th avenues.
22. Jim Rennert Sculptures at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza
Five monumental sculptures by artist Jim Rennert, all standing over 12.5-feet tall, have been installed in the Theater District and Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza. The pieces belong to two collections by Rennert, Walking the Tightrope and WTF. Rennert’s work explores the physical and psychological challenges of the competitive corporate world.
“As an entrepreneur, whether dealing with employer’s products, home life or working our way up the corporate ladder, the visual juxtaposed figure on a tightrope is something that resonates with us all,” said Jim Rennert in a press statement. You can find see Walking the Tightrope and WTF at the entrance to 1700 Broadway and will be on display through 2022. Rennert’s three other sculptures, Timing, Inner Dialogue and Commute are located at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza on East 47th Street and can be viewed through August 2021.
23. Mundillo at West Farms Square Plaza
At West Farms Square Plaza in the Bronx, artist Samantha Holmes has crafted a giant steel sculpture that looks dainty, but is strong and resilient. The painted steel sculpture, tilted Mundillo (Little World), is a “monument to women’s work and the cultural dynamism of the Bronx.” Holmes takes inspiration from the patterns of traditional Puerto Rican lacework to represent softness, while the steel show strength.
Openings in the sculpture’s lace-like surface allow it to seemingly weave into the fabric of the surrounding neighborhood, as those holes are filled with the colors and sights of the neighborhood. Holmes’ sculpture was commissioned by the Bronx River Arts Center and the NYC Department of Transportation, as part of its Arts Community Commissions series. The piece will be on view adjacent to the East Tremont Avenue subway station through September 2021.
Artist Alex “Rocko” Rupert’s wolf head wooden structure TimberWolf at Maria Hernandez Park in Brooklyn takes utilitarian materials like reclaimed lumber to beautify this corner of the park and serves as a metaphor for how everyday materials can be repurposed. It plays into the importance of resourcefulness, breathing use back into what is considered to be “used-up.” The artwork takes the form of a dog’s head, a nod to the popular nearby dog park.
At the end of the public art installation period next October, TimberWolf will be donated to another public space to be enjoyed. The possibility to be reused or repurposed with additional functionalities gives this living installation another life. The installation will be on site through October 25, 2021.
25. Torso II, Swinging II, Messenger of the Gods
Long Island City-based sculptor, Jack Howard-Potter, makes large, often kinetic, figurative steel sculptures that can be seen in city governments, sculpture parks, and public art shows around the country. The outdoor public arena is the perfect setting for the academic roots to be easily recognizable and accessible, bridging the gap between the fine art institution and the public. It all comes together in an effort to brighten the landscape and shift one’s gaze to break the daily routine with something beautiful.
Torso II, Swinging II, Messenger of the Gods will be on-site at Court Square Park in Queens through September 12, 2021.
26. Floating Woman
Located in Hunter’s Point South through September 2021, this work is one of French sculptor Gaston Lachaise’s best-known, monumental works dating from the late 1920s. The buoyant, expansive figure represents a timeless earth goddess, one Lachaise knew and sought to capture throughout his career. This vision was inspired by his wife, who was his muse and model, Isabel, that “majestic woman” who walked by him once by the Bank of the Seine. This work is a tribute to the power of all women, dedicated to ‘Woman,’ as the artist referred to his wife, with a capital W.
Lachaise devoted himself to the human form, producing a succession of powerfully conceived nude figures in stone and bronze that reinvigorated the sculptural traditions of Auguste Rodin and Aristide Maillol.
27. Mother Earth at Rockaway Beach
On August 12, a new, 35-foot-tall steel sculpture named Mother Earth was unveiled at Rockaway Beach in Queens. The installation is the brainchild of artist Kris Perry. It is a part of NYC Parks’ Art in the Parks, a program that brings both experimental and traditional pieces of artwork to public locations throughout the five boroughs.
The towering statue is made of Corten steel, a material that is meant to evolve and change with the seasons and the site. Mother Earth will be located at the Beach 98th Street entrance to Rockaway beach, two blocks away from the A-Train until August 11, 2021. Rockaway Beach is also serviced by the NYC Ferry.
28. Doors for Doris at Doris C. Freedman Plaza
Artist Sam Moyer created a massive three-part hybrid sculpture using imported stones and rock indigenous to New York in order to pay homage to Public Art Fund founder Doris C. Freedman at the plaza named for her outside Central Park.
According to Public Art Fund’s website, “these polished stones bear the markings and shapes of their original uses. They also display the unique colors, patterns, and geological history of their sources — quarries in Brazil, China, India, Italy, and beyond. Each stone in Moyer’s mosaic compositions takes on an even more striking hue against the others and the locally-quarried rock, an apt metaphor that encourages us to consider the diverse character of our city and our interconnected lives within it.” The installation will run from September 16, 2020 to September 12, 2021.
29. Poetry Path in Battery Park City
Poets House and Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) launched the Poetry Path, an immersive public art installation which features work from more than 40 poets, at northern length of Battery Park City, from Nelson A. Rockefeller and Teardrop Parks to the North Cove Marina.
The works of the poets, with themes of the relationships between people, nature, and the urban landscape, are reproduced on bench slats, banners, pavers, pathways, and signs. The installation will be up through 2021.
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