Jun 242021
 

 

From The High Line’s information page on this work-

Simone Leigh presents Brick House, a 16-foot-tall bronze bust of a Black woman with a torso that combines the forms of a skirt and a clay house. The sculpture’s head is crowned with an afro framed by cornrow braids, each ending in a cowrie shell. Brick House is the inaugural commission for the High Line Plinth, a new landmark destination for major public artworks in New York City. This is the first monumental sculpture in Leigh’s Anatomy of Architecture series, an ongoing body of work in which the artist combines architectural forms from regions as varied as West Africa and the Southern United States with the human body. The title comes from the term for a strong Black woman who stands with the strength, endurance, and integrity of a house made of bricks.

Brick House references numerous architectural styles: Batammaliba architecture from Benin and Togo, the teleuk dwellings of the Mousgoum people of Cameroon and Chad, and the restaurant Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, Mississippi. The sculpture contrasts sharply against the landscape it inhabits, where glass-and-steel towers shoot up from among older industrial-era brick buildings, and where architectural and human scales are in constant negotiation. Resolutely facing down 10th Avenue, Leigh’s powerful Black female figure challenges us to consider the architecture around us, and how it reflects customs, values, priorities, and society as a whole.

Leigh works across sculpture, video, installation, and social practice, stitching together references from different historical periods and distant geographical locations. As a sculptor, Leigh works predominantly in ceramics—a medium that she mastered early in her career—continually pushing the boundaries of her chosen material by working in new methods and larger scales. In her intersectional practice, Leigh focuses on how the body, society, and architecture inform and reveal one another. She examines the construction of Black female subjectivity, both through specific historical figures such as Josephine Baker and Katherine Dunham, and more generally through overlapping historical lineages across Europe, Africa, the US, and the Caribbean.

The High Line’s website also has some excellent videos and additional information on the making of the sculpture well worth checking out.  This work was on view until May of 2021.

Jun 102021
 

NEW YORK CLEARING by Antony Gormley was on view in Brooklyn Bridge Park from 2/4-3/27/20. The work consisted of a single line made of 11 miles of square aluminum tubing that looped and coiled without a beginning or end, “turning itself into an environment for the viewer that counters the grid of modernism and the city with swooping lines of energy”.

This is one of a series of art works that were part of Connect, BTS– a global public art initiative supported by the K-Pop Group BTS and organized by a group of curators under the direction of independent curator Daehyung Lee. The project took place in five cities on four continents with 22 contributing contemporary artists.

Jun 032021
 

Barbara Kruger designed this mural, Untitled (Blind Idealism Is…) for the High Line in 2016. It is based on the quote “Blind idealism is reactionary” by Afro-Caribbean psychiatrist and political philosopher Frantz Fanon.

From the High Line website-

The original statement by Fanon, “Blind idealism is reactionary,” suggests that political and religious convictions stem from the situations from which they grow, not from the inherent nature of individual human beings. According to Kruger, the work reflects “how we are to one another” within “the days and nights that construct us.” These texts, along with Kruger’s own writings, resonate with particular potency in today’s political climate.

For more on this work at the time it was made, check out this interview with Kruger by The Intelligencer at New York Magazine.

May 262021
 

Mel Chin’s animatronic sculpture Wake, formerly on display in NYC’s Times Square, is now on view in Asheville, North Carolina until December 1.

From The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina website-

Wake was commissioned as part of Mel Chin: All Over the Place, a multi-site survey of his works from across many decades that took place in several New York City locations. A collaborative group, led by UNC Asheville’s Steam Studio and CFWNC, formed to plan and raise funds for the sculpture to be seen locally.

Wake – 60 feet long, 34 feet wide and 24 feet high, conceived and designed by the artist – was engineered, sculpted and fabricated by an interdisciplinary team of UNC Asheville students, faculty, staff and community artists led by Chin. Wake is interactive and features decks and places to sit and contemplate.

Wake evokes the hull of a shipwreck crossed with the skeletal remains of a marine mammal. The structure is linked with a carved, 21-foot-tall animatronic sculpture, accurately derived from a figurehead of the opera star Jenny Lind that was once mounted on the 19th century clipper ship, USS Nightingale. Jenny Lind moves subtly as she breathes and scans the sky.

“She may be looking at what cannot be seen as she moves away from the wreckage of her past,” explained Chin. “It’s about relationships we have to history. It’s almost an obligation to understand our relationships with our environment now and an opportunity to project what things could be like far into the future if we’re not engaged.”

The artwork is not only a comment on climate change, it calls forth a history that includes ships, like the USS Nightingale and many other vessels, used to move tea, guns and slaves that augmented the nation’s burgeoning economy. “These expanding past economies serve as prologue and perhaps a warning to our current environmental dilemma,” said Chin.

“Wake is a powerful comment on how the tides of history have shaped many communities, including Asheville,” said Steph Dahl, who manages the City of Asheville’s Public Art Program. “The piece asks us to acknowledge and discuss a long and complicated past, one that has left us operating in a sea of racial inequities and environmental crises. Wake’s temporary presence in an empty lot where the history and future of the Southside and South Slope meet is part of its power, and its impermanent nature underscores some of the tough questions we need to address together.

“Jenny Lind was the Beyoncé or Adele of her time,” said Chin. “She was brought by P.T. Barnum to tour America as the Swedish Nightingale. Barnum initiated American mass marketing and the world still lives in the real wake of this marketing enterprise. American commercialism provided profound advancement and wealth, but it came with real costs including colonialism, enslavement and rapid expansion. Jenny Lind, an abolitionist herself, had nothing to do with the USS Nightingale, but as its figurehead, she is an integral part. You can’t escape the web you’re in whether you are in New York City or Western North Carolina.”

Since the late 90’s Chin has lived and worked in Egypt Township, outside of Burnsville in Yancey County, North Carolina. His work has been exhibited by major art centers nationally and globally. He is described in his MacArthur entry as “a category-defying artist whose practice calls attention to complex social and environmental issues. In an expansive body of work ranging from collages, sculptural objects, animated films and video games to large-scale, collaboratively produced public installations, Chin demonstrates a unique ability to engage people from diverse backgrounds and to utilize unexpected materials and places.”

Mar 102021
 

I stumbled upon this work while walking around in Brooklyn, NYC. It was created by artist Brian Block and is part of his project “based on late writings of Californian writer F.C. Wott”.

The biography of Wott from Block’s website

Wott was born in Santa Monica and lived as a resident of Elysium Fields commune in Topanga Canyon in Los Angeles from the late 1960s until its closure the early 2000s. He was an occasional prose and poetry writer, with his musings appearing in various zine style tracts that circulated among the west coast commune culture of the 60s and 70s.  

Confirmed further details of Wott’s life are few at this time, but it has been established that he served as part-time adjunct professor at Santa Monica Community College for many years in the 70’s and 80’s, teaching classes in Anthropology and Poetry.

Curiously, after years of writing only occasionally, his late years see Wott throwing himself headlong into his writing – intensely penning hundreds of lines of notes in seclusion at his modest beach hut at the nudist colony. These varied widely in length, coherence, and completion when they were found at his desk at his death in 2013. These writings would eventually became known as “The Notes”. 

“The Notes” were first circulated informally among friends, gradually acquiring a small, eclectic readership amid creative circles in and around Los Angeles.  One set of loose photocopied pages eventually captured the attention of UCLA Art Historian Emeritus Rene Glete, who introduced Brian Block to the writings.  Glete also went on to establish the scholarly framework for the study of Wott’s work: gathering and archiving all of Wott’s papers (such as they were) in cooperation with his estate, and setting up the framework for the Nachlass. It is worth noting that these are somewhat unchartered waters, academically researching the work of an “outsider” writer, for unlike the well established conventions of “outsider artist” and “outsider art”no such consensus has been forged in historical circles around such terms for writers.   

In deciding to make a group of artworks based on the texts, Block was drawn to their “eccentricity, and the fractured, iterative thinking” they depict, obtaining permission from the estate to make work from the Notes. 

Block is pasting up more work around town so check out the walls when you pass.