A Site Specific Summer

Public art infiltrates New York City in some unexpected ways.

During summer New York City delivers a cornucopia of free outdoor events—in parks, on the rooftops of prestigious museums, in the plazas of office towers, and on the piers lining the Hudson River. But not all of the city’s offerings are as fleeting as a concert, dance recital, or movie. New Yorkers and tourists alike are also treated to public art installations that don’t require an admission price or a long wait in line.

Sarah Sze is best known for her installations and sculptures assembled from everyday items that encroach upon unexpected spaces. Her commission from the Public Art Fund is no exception—marooned in the center of Doris C. Freedman Plaza in Central Park emerges Sarah Sze’s Corner Plot. What appears at first to be a misplaced architectural fragment, upon closer inspection, morphs into a fantastical vortex where Sze distorts our perspective with her unpredictable sculpture. The installation’s white brick exterior mimics many mundane New York apartment building exteriors, but as you kneel down to peer through one of two identical windows, you realize that Sze has created an alternate world that embraces a flurry of detritus and sculpted paper products seamlessly interwoven with their commercial counterpoints, and all grouped together in a bizarre bunker-like setting.

Unlike previous sprawling sculptures that Sze has created in various galleries and museums, and which delight in their ramshackle quirkiness, this piece is entirely self-contained by its submerged plot. In Sze’s erratic world your eyes hop-scotch from lily-pads to magnifying glasses to a stockade of Morton’s Salt and cotton balls to a white paper hot plate and a faux paper IPOD, along with hundreds of other extraordinary elements, sculptures, and diagrams that complete this schizophrenic refuge; you’ll find yourself wishing that all voyeuristic opportunities in the city were this satisfying and stimulating.

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Along with Sze’s project, Public Art Fund has also sponsored an installation by Nancy Rubins entitled Big Pleasure Point at Lincoln Center. The California based Rubins brings to Josie Robertson Plaza a bevy of nautical pleasure craft with over 60 rowboats, kayaks, canoes, surfboards, jet skis, and other small water faring vessels jettisoned high above dry land in a whimsical summer worshipping assemblage that also brings to mind not so distant imagery of Gulf Coast vessels unwillingly launched into trees and other points of altitude after Hurricane Katrina.

The centerpiece of the newly opened 7 World Trade Center is the recently unveiled Balloon Flower (Red) by Jeff Koons. Love or hate Koons (and WTC developer Larry Silverstein for that matter), there is no simple way to avert your eyes from his candy apple red sculpture, unless of course you’ve seen far too many of his now trite balloon sculptures.

The most interactive public installation this summer is found in P.S.1’s courtyard where ORBA Architects, winner of the seventh annual MoMA/P.S.1 Young Architects Program, has constructed BEATFUSE!, an installation of 7 interconnected shells that plays host to P.S.1’s summer Warm Up music series. Water misters, ice, and wading pools complete the courtyard’s transformed landscape in what unfortunately feels like a heavy-handed architectural solution for cooling off museum visitors. Undoubtedly their gesture will be appreciated by those flocking to P.S.1 every Saturday this summer to sample Warm Up’s diverse range of DJs.

To find additional public art sites visit New York City’s Parks and Recreation Department.

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