Across the city this summer, works that artists conceived for public spaces are turning up — like “Estructuras Monumentales,” five large-scale sculptures that Carmen Herrera started making in the 1960s that will be on view at City Hall Park from July 11 through Nov. 8. Other artists, like Leonardo Drew, have had to do more fine-tuning. Mr. Drew recently crossed over into public art with “City in the Grass,” an installation he designed (and redesigned) with Madison Square Park in mind.
With summer officially here, there is even more art to come: At MoMA PS1, visitors will soon find a 40-by-90-foot panoramic “jungle” suspended over its courtyard, and in August, the photographer Elle Pérez will plaster images of diverse city communities on 100 city bus shelters. Here are 11 installations that demonstrate just what is possible when artists embrace the outdoors.
Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn
Sometimes the site of an artist’s work really amplifies the work itself. This is especially true of Tanda Francis’s “Adorn Me.” Fort Greene Park is the socioeconomic and racial dividing line of its neighborhood, with one side reflecting whiteness and affluence far more than the other. Ms. Francis installed her bust featuring three adjoining African faces where it would “speak directly to the African-American community, which often goes unrepresented in public art,” she wrote on her website. Impossible to miss at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Washington Park, Ms. Francis’s piece is partially covered in African tribal markings, and its three sets of braids rise into a chandelier-like headdress. Through July 19.
Court Square Park, Queens
Marketing signs for newly-built apartment buildings are everywhere around Court Square Park in Long Island City, along with construction cranes and scaffolding, signaling that more units are on the way. Amid all this is Matt Keegan’s “what was & what is.” An off-site installation for the SculptureCenter, it consists of a rectangular glass box with one mirrored side. A horizontal scroll reads, “For a long time this neighborhood was about what will be, and now I think it’s about what is.” The quotation, from a developer, appeared in a 2017 New York Times article about the area’s “skyward” development, and exemplifies how real estate professionals sometimes see the city as being in service to new development. Through Aug. 19.
Doris C. Freedman Plaza, Manhattan
This year, the Dutch sculptor Mark Manders has taken over the Public Art Fund’s inaugural outdoor exhibition site, Doris C. Freedman Plaza at the southeast edge of Central Park. Titled “Tilted Head,” his piece is just that: a large head resting on its side. Surface cracks and depressions suggest it is made of clay when, in fact, it’s cast bronze. “All my works look like somebody worked on it and just left,” Mr. Manders said in a video about his process. “Tilted Head” resembles a massive, abandoned model that people could consider a stand-in for the real thing. (He also has work on view through June 28 at Rockefeller Plaza, as part of Frieze Sculpture.) Through Sept. 1 at 60th Street and Fifth Avenue.
High Line, Manhattan
‘En Plein Air’ by Various Artists
On the High Line, “En Plein Air” (the French phrase for “in the open air”) enlists eight artists to reconsider the tradition of outdoor painting. In “Five Conversations,” for example, the recent Turner Prize winner Lubaina Himid has painted portraits of fashionable black women on five reclaimed wooden doors — the old, paneled kind — adding subtle dimensions to each of them. Ms. Himid also integrated the doors’ accessories into her “canvases.” A round door knocker doubles as a hoop earring, a doorknob as a ring. Ms. Himid not only reimagines the process of “en plein air” painting, but also the subjects typically depicted within them. Through March 2020.
High Line, Manhattan
To get a look at Simone Leigh’s sculptural work, you could visit her exhibition, “Loophole of Retreat,” at the Guggenheim, or wander over to the Spur, the newest addition to the High Line. Although, to say that someone must be on the High Line to get a glimpse is a bit misleading. Traveling north on 10th Avenue toward 30th Street, you’d have to be daydreaming not to spot Ms. Leigh’s “Brick House,” a 16-foot bust of a black woman with cornrow braids and a torso resembling a type of African clay house. Created as the inaugural commission for the High Line Plinth, a focal point of the Spur, the work is distinguished by its imposing height. But if you mosey up to the Spur itself, you’ll notice the figure’s blotted-out eyes, which more effectively position her as someone to be seen, not simply looked at. Through Sept. 2020.
Greenwich Village, Manhattan
For Pride Month, the Public Art Fund has reinstalled a billboard that the conceptual artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres first presented at this exact location in 1989, nearly seven years before his death from complications related to AIDS. One of his “date pieces,” “Untitled” lists quintessential moments in the fight for gay rights in stark white print against a black background. Torres tried to create “an architectural sign of being, a monument for a community that has been ‘historically invisible,’” he once said. Through June 30 at Christopher Street and Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village.
Marcus Garvey Park, Manhattan
José Carlos Casado, Kim Dacres and Daniel A. Matthews
For a commission organized by the Public Art Initiative of the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance, José Carlos Casado references black female subjectivity in “I Don’t Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Ah Me … ” The work, situated near Madison Avenue and 123rd Street in Harlem, contextualizes how Mr. Casado felt after reading Maya Angelou’s seminal memoir “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Working with archival-printed aluminum pieces, he made an amorphous, multicolored tower (one that becomes interactive with an augmented-reality app), and placed it within a 14-foot purple cage that, incidentally, wild birds use as a temporary perch. On the southern end of the park, Kim Dacres and Daniel A. Matthews have installed a black female bust, “Peaceful Perch,” near 120th Street and Fifth Avenue. Repurposing motorcycle tires, Ms. Dacres contorted this dark, textured material, contouring the figure from its folds and protrusions. Mr. Matthews helped fabricate the base, and situate it on the curved lawn above the park’s main path. Through Sept. 30.
Shantell Martin doesn’t have many rules for where her work goes. From the New York City Ballet’s home theater last winter to a Catholic Church on Governors Island this summer, Ms. Martin’s drawings have decorated some unusual places. Her line drawings feature cartoonlike faces and stick figures, almost always in black ink on a white background. “Church,” the mural Ms. Martin drew on Our Lady of the Sea, a deconsecrated church built in 1942, encourages viewers to re-engage with this disused building. Through Oct. 31.
Riverside Park South, Manhattan
Sarah E. Brook
Sarah E. Brook wants people to feel a little disoriented when they’re looking at “Viewfinding,” her sculpture installation in Riverside Park South. Ms. Brook positioned five tall wooden structures in a row, each containing thin, brightly-colored panels that reflect the light — most dramatically at sunrise and sunset. For the piece, Ms. Brook had an open call for queer-identified poets. Her final selections — 26 in all — are engraved on acrylic plates that have been neatly placed on a bench at the structure’s base. The engravings are meant to amplify queer voices and, paired with the vertical installation, explore “how vastness can dismantle limiting narratives of being,” she wrote on her website. Through Aug. 22 at 67th Street.
John Ahearn and Rigoberto Torres
The plot at the corner of Intervale Avenue and Kelly Street in the South Bronx has been many things over the years. In 1982, when John Ahearn and Rigoberto Torres scaled its adjacent wall to mount “Banana Kelly Double Dutch” — molds of four local girls in a tableau of the game — it was a small park. Mr. Ahearn and Mr. Torres have restored and reinstalled the work twice in the intervening years, first in 1986 and then in 2017, when Mr. Ahearn and Mr. Torres saw an opportunity to freshen it up after hearing the site was set for redevelopment. Last summer the girls, glistening like new, were returned to their original home — which now overlooks the parking lot of a nursing home. Open indefinitely.
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