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Interacting With NYC Parks’ Public Art Installations

Culture

Hannah Frishberg | January 9, 2018
A look at six stunning immersive art pieces across New York City, from weather-responsive sculptures in Chelsea to a glittering mosaic in Fort Greene.

In a city as busy and all-consuming as New York, the idea of immersive installations in public space might seem like overkill — just another layer of manic energy in a metropolis already teeming with it. Of course, anyone who has lived here for long will likely argue otherwise. Random art, no matter how experiential, often brings brightness to bleak corners, infusing love and care into spaces that otherwise lack anything but real estate and throngs of pedestrians.

This year, the NYC Parks Department’s Art in the Parks celebrates half a century of installing art collaborations throughout the city. The program, which began in 1967 with an outdoor Sculpture in Environment exhibit in the East Village, serves to set art loose into the city and tap into a new setting for display. In addition to the obvious benefits — educating youth, giving a platform to new artists, etc. — the pieces also help to promote a mentality of curiosity among city dwellers young and old, tantalizing New Yorkers with the prospect and potential of finding color, light, and warmth hidden in plain sight among some of New York’s most popular public places.

Here are six unique interactive pieces on display right now.

“Luminaries,” Battery Park

Up above the shops of Brookfield Place is a sea of illuminated cubes, periodically coordinated with music and perpetually emanating a suspended, glowing field of color. The holiday light installation, “Luminaries,” was created by experience design studio LAB at Rockwell Group. It immerses visitors in its warm rainbow of lights in an attempt to evoke the seasonal traditions of giving and sharing. It’s on display in the Winter Garden through January 29.

“Mutations,” Chelsea

The High Line is an immersive exhibit unto itself: a formerly abandoned railroad repurposed as a public park. Until March 2018, a series of weather-responsive sculptures, called “Mutations,” dot its elevated trail, adding something of a sci-fi element to the park’s uniquely isolated existence between towers on the West Side of Manhattan. The pieces vary widely, from Ionna Malinowska and C.T. Jasper’s “The Emperor’s Canary,” consisting of two gramophones semi-hidden within the foliage, to Marguerite Humeau’s “SPHINX JOACHIM,” a winged lion protecting its corner of the High Line with roars triggered by motion detectors. All the pieces are intended to explore humanity’s relationship with nature in a world of shifting technology.

“Flatiron Reflection,” Flatiron

Sitting pretty amid the skyscrapers of East 23rd Street and Broadway through January 1 is “Flatiron Reflection,” a bundle of fluted tubes that are reflective to the point of iridescence. The piece puts into perspective the surrounding landscape’s overbearing height, offering a small nook in its center where passersby can get briefly lost in the mirrorlike vessels. “Flatiron Reflection” was created by local design firm Future Expansion and was the winning design of the annual Flatiron Holiday Design Competition.

“Whiteout,” Madison Square Park

Through March 24, 2018, hundreds of white LED lights bring the grassy floor of Madison Square Park to life at night, glowing in the moonlight. The animated spheres project patterns on the ground, throwing their light in a way that creates the illusion of movement. Called “Whiteout” and designed by Austrian-born artist Erwin Redl, the gentle installation is almost a controlled mimicking of the lights illuminating nearby building windows: small orbs of warmth in the cold winter days.

via GIPHY

“Circadia,” Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn

A circular seating system, sculpture, and interactive installation, Fort Greene Park’s “Circadia” appeals to a wide demographic of park goers — from bike riders to stargazers and everyone in between. 

The installation, by artist Blythe Cain, sits at the entrance to the park and is embedded with recycled phosphoric glow-in-the-dark aggregate, intended to “act as a guide to the park” and resemble “a historic building foundation,” partially conceived in homage to Fort Greene Park’s natural rolling hills. The installation will be up through June 19.

“One Map of Many Mountains,” Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn

Also currently installed in Fort Greene Park is Amanda Patenaude’s “One Map of Many Mountains.” Sitting southwest of the park’s Prison Ship Martyrs Monument, this glittering glass installation is a mosaic map of the park, literally turning trash into treasure. 

The abstract shards evoke blades of grass, and the piece, which will be on display through May 25, shines in any weather, bringing flashes of color to a gray corner of the park.

“Descension,” DUMBO, Brooklyn

Through the spring and fall of last year, there was a whirlpool in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Like a vortex that had opened up mere feet away from the East River, Anish Kapoor’s “Descension” bubbled and churned in the middle of land. Refreshing and calming passersby with the dull drone of its busy waters, the piece attracted many onlookers to the white rail that rimmed its abyss.


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All photos by the author for Per La Mente

Hannah Frishberg is a fourth-generation Brooklynite, writer, photographer, and the current Editor-in-Chief of Brokelyn. She’s working on a book about the many of lives of the Gowanus Batcave. Her spirit animal is the F train.

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