August brings some exciting new outdoor art installations for all New Yorkers. In honor of the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop music, exhibits like The Brooklyn Library’s Tribute to Jay-Z, or the teen-produced mural from The Children’s Museum of the Arts, are guaranteed to inspire young city residents and aspiring music artists. If you’re looking for something more relaxing and nature-based, the city’s crochet garden or altar-building event is right up your alley! Finally, if your goal is to interpret a visual social, and political statement, look no further than the city’s own plastic chandeliers and performance pieces. Keep scrolling for your final summer art installations itinerary of 2023!
1. Penetrable at The Hispanic Society Museum & Library
On the west side of Broadway, between 155th and 156th Streets, The Hispanic Society Museum & Library shows Penetrable, the final work and interactive sculpture by artist Jesús Rafael Soto. Its installation celebrates the 100-year anniversary of the artist’s birth and the first time a sculpture from Soto’s Penetrables series is being showcased outdoors to be experienced by New York City’s diverse audiences.
The yellow “cube” of plastic hoses that hang from a “floating” ceiling has journeyed across the Americas, being loaned and viewed for two decades in cities like Los Angeles, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, and more. Fans of Soto will be able to spot his strengths in the piece, like the sculpture’s use of physics, geometry, human perception, and space. Made of painted iron, aluminum, and yellow plastic tubes, the structure exists for you to explore and change it from within. Viewers will notice from the interior that the boundary between the structure and themselves is blurred and that from the outsider’s perspective, they are the art. Penetrable was the first piece he created that used his audience as a tool and a collaborator, encouraging active participation.
2. Riverside Art Park
A public sculpture hasn’t been unveiled at Riverside Park South for five years until this month. The Art Students League, in partnership with NYC Parks’ Art in the Parks, has returned with two large-scale public art installations by League artists, Helen Draves and Susan Markowitz Meredith, as part of the school’s Works in Public program. Helen’s piece, titled Hope, shows a face mask made up of smaller masks with social media messages written from all over the world and in different languages. The masks slowly transform into bluebirds soaring into the sky — representing hope, healing, freedom and human resilience.
Meredith’s sculpture, Life Dance, reflects a similar sense of positivity and hope for the future, with three spirals sprouting and engaging in a “rhythmic dance,” intertwining with one another. Each spiral has transparent steps that serve as metaphors for natural growth. Interconnection is central to the piece’s meaning as the colors of the 11-foot-tall painted steel and plexiglass sculpture were chosen to complement the shades of the park. The art installations will remain in the park, free to view, until July 2024.
3. My Neighbor’s Garden in Madison Square Park
There’s a web-like entanglement of hand woven crochet hanging 95 feet in the air in Madison Square Park. Artist, Sheila Pepe, has created her first outdoor exhibition, My Neighbor’s Garden, which opened on June 26 and will be on view until December 10, 2023. The structure features welcoming gateways and canopies in bright tones of pinks, oranges, reds and purples. .The design, created by Pepe in close collaboration with MSPC’s horticulture team, is enchanced by vining plants such as bitter melon and morning glory, which weave around and through the crocheted constructions.
Not only is the structure optimistic, colorful, and unexpected to a park visitor, but it also makes a statement about women’s craft practice and inclusion. The sheer scale of the project required Pepe to recruit and gather small, lively groups of friends and strangers interested in crocheting together to help produce the installation. Crochet sessions with the artist will continue across the summer months in the park as part of a range of public programs.
4. Unruly Forms by Felipe Baeza
On August 9th, you may spot Felipe Baeza’s Unruly Forms exhibition on one of 400 JCDecaux bus shelters or other pieces of New York street furniture produced by Public Art Fund. Baeza has created 8 new compositions, all of which contain painting, collage, and printmaking techniques that make up what the artist calls, “a fugitive body”. Based on his long term research into Mesoamerican artifacts in museum collections across New York City, Baeza has created hybrid humanoid figures, whose bodies twist and move in a chaotic, unrestrained form. The imaginative pieces with a mind of their own will be displayed on bus shelters in the city to show viewers that the location where artifacts, history, and art is held acts to reanimate their power and life within new contexts.
The collection’s theme is mystical reinvention and hybridity: the ideas suggesting that the mythic potency of artifacts does not cease when collected by a museum, but rather remains in a constant state of becoming. The ancient images we see in textbooks or archives hold meaning and power in their age and original time while also belonging to the present. If you’re able to catch Baeza’s pieces in person, you’ll get the most out of the experience if you can ask yourself; What do these figures mean here and now?
5. Six-Foot Platform at DUMBO
DUMBO is already THE spot for an iconic city picture. Now that Brooklyn’s third iteration of Six Foot Platform has returned, a stroll through Washington Street is a must-do this summer! Every Sunday until August 19th, from noon to 6pm, the Brooklyn arts council and Dumbo Improvement District will host in person showcases by performative artists who have full-day residencies on a 6-by-6–foot platform. This season, these free shows feature art forms like songs, AR puppetry, and other multimedia presentations on topics as varied and large-scale as immigrant life and waste production. Some performances, like Melissa Diaz’s show last month, use the crowd! Spectators are often given materials to work with alongside the artist, getting the full art experience up close. Six Foot Platform is a neighborhood favorite and while the artists are all there to show the audience something captivating, the real magic is in the immersion, involvement, and less taught to the audience.
6. Sampling Mural on Varick Street
On July 12th, The Children’s Museum of the Arts and the New York Public Library’s Picture Collection unveiled a mural collaboration titled, Sampling. The large-scale collage, on view in the windows of The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at WNYC, commemorates the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop and was created by the students of the local City-As-School, one of the oldest alternative public high schools in the country.
With images provided by the NYPL Picture Collection archive, Sampling is named after visual and musical sampling, both practices used in Hip-Hop music and collage artforms. Like sampling a track in a song, the students of City-As-School took pre-existing media and transformed it into their own collective artwork. The artists incorporated self-portraits alongside cut-out photos of the early pioneers of Hip-Hop like Notorious BIG, RUN DMC, Slick Rick, and TLC. The exhibit, which exists to ignite the imaginations of young creatives and showcase local teen talent, will be on view until the end of August.
7. The Book of HOV at The Brooklyn Public Library
You can’t miss the grand, open-paged book that sits on the exterior of The Central Branch of The Brooklyn Public Library, with song lyrics from a New York rapper you’re sure to know. For all the music lovers, but especially all the Jay-Z lovers, The Book of HOV exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum is a once-in-a-lifetime visiting opportunity. Curated and produced by Jay-Z’s own Roc Nation, this first-ever in-house, tribute exhibit features over 300 donated books from Jay-Z’s personal collection, never-seen-before photos and murals, as well as a full-sized replica of the recording studio where the rapper produced some of his greatest hits.
The Central Branch has even created 13 limited edition library cards, each with art from one of Jay Z’s iconic albums that you can collect and use! The exhibit is presented in chapters, so viewers are free to walk through the library and explore on their own time. The experience doesn’t interfere with the regular functions of the library, so whether you’re passing through in search of a particular book, or going only for the exhibit, curiosity and musical inspiration will be your guide!
8. Plastic Chandeliers on Park Avenue
Have you seen the four shining chandeliers that decorate Park Avenue from 69th to 70th Street? These interior design favorites are usually constructed with crystals and candles, but artist Willie Cole chose a more relatable and layered medium: plastic. The 4 part series is made from 9,000 recycled water bottles and recycled, “found objects”, with a statement in favor of second-life materials and mindful city trash usage. Each fixture has its own name and design, inspired by the author’s personal experiences and the installation’s location. If you happen to find Liberty Lantern, you’ll notice that each bottle is filled with one image of New York’s own Lady Liberty. Willie Cole’s chandeliers will be on display through the end of the year and more of his indoor work can be viewed at museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.
9. Double Take on Roosevelt Island
Diana Cooper’s massive new mosiac on Roosevelt Island, titled Double Take, was inspired by her experience of traveling through the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, an artificial urban enviornment, and emerging into the natrual waterways and greenery of New Jersey. When she visited the location where her mural would be, on an MTA building across from the F train subway stop, she realized how similair the experience for riders arriving to Roosevelt Island would be to her own. The visuals in her mosaic take cues from the architecture of Roosevelt Island including the Roosevelt Island tram, the FDR Memorial, and the Queensboror Bridge, as well as the East River. In her abstract peice, she combines the organic shapes and colors of Roosevelt Islan’s trees and waterways with those of the built urban enviornemnt and transit system.
10. Art at Amtrak in Penn Station
Amtrak is continuing its celebrated Art at Amtrak public art program with two new art installations by Shoshanna Weinberger and David Rios Ferreira in New York Penn Station. Weinberg’s piece, titled Traveling Along Horizons, will cover the Amtrak 8th Avenue concourse columns with figures symbolizing marginalized bodies. It depicts the way in which civilization measures time and travel between sunrise and sunset, with stripes that signify social division imposed by race, class, and ethnicity.
Ferreira’s contribution, Get Carried Away, You Have the Right, will transform the Amtrak rotunda into a cosmic gateway with pillars of temporal beings that blur the line between abstract and figurative art. The images included in the piece, along with imagery from Amtrack’s own archive, show different maps, train cars, and ticket stubs. The focus of the creation is Indigenous and Afro-Futurist imagery. On August 1, this fourth installment of Art at Amtrak will replace Derrick Adams’ six-month installation, which will become an animation on a 160-foot-wide LED digital screen above the main concourse at Moynihan Train Hall. The two new art installations will remain on view until January 2024.
11. YOU ARE HERE* at MoMa
YOU ARE HERE* is a new contemporary art installation inside the sculpture garden at MoMa. Most of the works on view were created in the last 20 years by a diverse group of artists that includes Wangechi Mutu, Jimmie Durham, Nairy Baghramian, and Pierre Huyghe. These new works, which represent different styles and the diverse backgrounds of their creators, appear beside perennial pieces of the sculpture garden from artists such as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Aristide Maillol.
Next, read about more art installations at 10 Sculpture Parks Near NYC!