New Art Along The High Line as Section 2 Opens to the Public
Along with last weeks opening of Section 2 of The High Line come a series of new public artworks. Some of them, like Sarah Sze’s Still Life with Landscape (Model for a Habitat) are impossible to miss whereas Kim Beck’s Space Available is a subtle architectural intervention on rooftops adjacent to The High Line that could be easily overlooked as they blend seamlessly into their surroundings. The Culture Report gives you an overview of these new commissions and some background on the artists that made them.
The High Line was originally constructed in the 1930s, to lift dangerous freight trains off Manhattan’s streets. The last train ran along The High Line in 1980. After laying abandoned for 30 years, the elevated railway was converted into a public park that runs along the West Side of Manhattan from Gansevoort Street to 30th Street.
Still Life with Landscape (Model for a Habitat) by Sarah Sze is an elaborate architectural sculpture that allows park visitors to physically enter and pass through the space it outlines, while also attracting birds, butterflies, and insects with perches, feeding spots, and birdbaths. In her work, Sze uses ordinary household objects like milk cartons, takeout cups, bars of soap, feathers, lamps, potted plants, pens and plastic bottles to create sculptures and site-specific installations that feel like a sprawling universe. Sze graduated Summa Cum Laude from Yale University in 1991 and received a MFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York in 1997. She was a 2003 MacArthur Fellow and is currently a Professor at Columbia University.
Joel Sternfeld photographed the High Line over the course of a year in 2000 – 2001. The images he shot of the space before its conversion into a public park show it as it was for many years: overgrown with wild plants; an untamed meadow-like space cutting through Manhattan’s West Side. These images were important catalysts in conveying the potential for the space as a public green space, and helped convert many people into supporters of the movement to save it from demolition. A Railroad Artifact, 30th St, May 2000 is the first work in Landscape with Path, a series of photographs presented on a large 25-by-75-foot billboard immediately adjacent to the High Line at West 18th Street. Sternfeld teaches photography at Sarah Lawrence College and has influenced a generation of color photographers, including Andreas Gursky who borrows many of Sternfeld’s techniques and approaches. A collection of Sternfeld’s photographs of the High Line was published in 2002 in Walking the High Line.
Digintal Empathy is a sound piece by Julianne Swartz that greets visitors with messages of empathy and love in the park’s bathrooms, water fountains, and elevators. Digital Empathy plays on the notion that, in our culture we turn to technologies like online social networking, blogs, and instant messages to meet our basic human need for friendship and personal connection. The sites chosen are not only unexpected places in which to encounter public art, they are places designed for individuals or small groups of people, allowing for intimate encounters within an otherwise sprawling, communal space. Julianne Swartz considers the emotional and psychological implications of sound and hearing in her site-specific installations. Swartz has an MFA from Bard, where she currently teaches sculpture, and is a faculty member of the School of Visual Arts.
Kim Beck presents Space Available, three sculptures resembling the skeletal framework behind advertising billboards. Beck’s sculptures have the illusion of depth when viewed from the front, but as visitors move past them, the side views reveal that they are completely flat, cut from perspective drawings and built like theater props. These blank forms emulate the abounding indicators of the economic recession, such as empty storefronts and “For Sale” signs. Kim Beck’s work often draws from architecture and landscape making drawings, prints, paintings and installations that survey peripheral and suburban spaces. Her work suggests a reconsideration of the built environment, bringing the banal and everyday into focus. Beck currently lives in Pittsburgh where she is an Associate Professor at Carnegie Mellon University.
Sarah Sze, Still Life with Landscape (Model for a Habitat)
June 8, 2011 – June, 2012
On the High Line, between West 20th and West 21st Streets
Joel Sternfeld, A Railroad Artifact, 30th St, May 2000
June 2 – 30, 2011
Billboard east of the High Line at West 18th Street
Julianna Swartz, Digital Empathy
June 8, 2011 – June, 2012
Located within the water fountains, elevators, and public bathrooms on the High Line
Kim Beck, Space Available
March 4, 2011 – January, 2012
Rooftops along Washington Street, between Gansevoort Streets and West 13th Streets