In his debut public art installation in New York City, artist Nicholas Galanin mixes Pop Art with politics. Crafted out of the same steel tubing used to build the U.S.-Mexico border wall, Galanin’s 30-foot-tall sculpture inspires viewers to contemplate colonization and our relationships with Land across generations, cultures, and communities. Titled In every language there is Land / En cada lengua hay una Tierra, the piece was unveiled in Brooklyn Bridge Park this week on the Empire Fulton Ferry Lawn.
Galanin’s towering sculpture stands the same height as the border wall, with steel tubing that spells out the word “LAND” in the style of Robert Indiana’s 1966 sculpture, LOVE. The artist often borrows elements from Pop Art and minimalism to exemplify mass media and pop culture. The letters are comprised of four layers of metal bars that create a shape-shifting effect as you view the sculpture from different angles. The text is legible one moment and abstract in the next. This ambiguity “illuminates the lack of borders and division in Galanin’s Indigenous view of a united natural ecosystem and way of life, embracing peaceful movement from one place to another.”
Rather than serve as a divisive structure, like the border wall, the art piece reveals connections and celebrates triumph over imposed barriers. As a member of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, Galanin honors his Indigenous heritage in the art he creates. With this piece specifically, he calls attention to the fact that “Indigenous peoples persist and permeate borders despite the forcible removal of rights, languages, and access to Land and Water.” This idea carries into the sculpture’s title as well which features two languages imposed on indigenous North American people, English and Spanish.
For Galanin, “barriers to Land directly reflect barriers to love, love for Land, for the community, and for future generations.” This piece prompts viewers to examine the ways we impose division between each other and between people and the land, inspiring us to break down those walls. The sculpture will be on view through November 12, 2023. See more photos of the sculpture in the gallery below!