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Nearness, Public Art in Times Square

Nearness, Public Art in Times Square

Normally when I’m rushing through Times Square, it’s the viewers – mostly from out-of-town – I have to watch out for. They gather in groups outside the ABC television studio window to watch the taping of the morning show, or wander around, camera at the ready, eyes lifted skyward oblivious to those of us who are trying to get to work on time. Sometimes, they cover the sidewalk like a slow-moving tide that rarely breaks.

Truthfully, Times Square can be frustrating for regulars in a hurry but there’s really no place like it.

Nearness, Public Art in Times Square

Arles del Rio’s Nearness, Times Square

To complicate matters, for several weeks the City had crews resurfacing the plaza in front of the ABC studio (those bricks are new) and repairing 43rd Street so a large swath of the Square inaccessible. Do you ever notice how much road and construction work take place in the summer? I was relieved when the work was done, when the Square was back to its normal size.

A few days after, as I hurried from Broadway on to 43rd Street, I stopped in my tracks. Directly in front of me in the plaza, the same one that for weeks construction crews had cordoned off, was a mass of cut-out figures. Now I have visitors and installations to avoid, I thought. But it was fleeting.

Truthfully, I love art. It lightens my heart when I find it in places I don’t expect. This did. These framed life-sized chain-linked embroidered cut outs of the human body, some standing together in twos or threes, like in a photo, some solo – made me smile.

Chain link art? Artists sure know how to make art of the everyday, that’s what I love about them, I though. Then I remembered reading my blogger friend, Jeff Titelius’s post on Nikolai Astrup. He once used denim as a medium. Now that’s thinking outside the box.

As I walked towards the figures, I realized that I could see people through the cut-outs. Then instead of walking around as I had done, one man walked right through one. This is pretty cool, I thought as I glanced at my watch – yes, I had time to check them out – and pulled out my cell phone.

Created by Arles del Rio, Nearness, according to the Times Square website, “deals with restrictions, distance, the forbidden and achieving longings despite impediments.”

Sometimes art is inaccessible, leaving the viewer wondering about the artist’s intent. What I like about Nearness is its simplicity. It communicates, engages, and invites you to interact.

One morning as I walked through, I noticed a new sign telling people not to climb on to the installation. I was late and promised to take a photo of it on my way home. The following morning, Nearness was gone. I was disappointed. I brightened up when I saw on the Times Square website that it had only moved to the next block. Nearness will be on view until August 18th so if your travels take you to Manhattan, be sure to check it out.

A Little About Arles del Rio:

Arlés del Rio was born on November 6th, 1975, in Havana, Cuba. He has participated in many national and international exhibitions including The XI Havana Biennial, and his public installation “Fly Away” was part of the Behind the Wall Project (Detrás del Muro) also exhibited at The XI Havana Biennial and The 8th Floor Gallery in NYC. Recently, Arlés participated in group exhibitions such as “Premio Maretti” and “Stealing Base”. He was nominated for the 2012-13 Vermont Studio Center Fellowship Award sponsored by the Reed Foundation. His work is part of private and institutional collections in several countries including the USA, Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland and Greece. – From Times Square website.

Where Nearness will be next:

July 20 – August 1, 2014: Broadway plaza between 42nd & 43rd Streets

August 2 – 9, 2014: Broadway plaza between 43rd & 44th Streets

August 10 – 18, 2014 Duffy Square at Broadway & 46th Street

Linking up with Nancie’s Travel Photo Thursday.

Be sure to head over and check out more travel photos from around the world.

Sculptures From the 1964 New York World’s Fair

Sculptures at the 1964 New York World's Fair

The sculpture below, Forms in Transit, was the first one I saw when I arrived at Flushing Meadow Park Corona Park for the 1964 New York World’s Fair festival a few weeks ago. I didn’t realize it was a sculpture until I began researching other sculptures I saw in the Park that day.

Sculptures at the 1964 New York World's Fair

Forms in Transit

Festival organizers commissioned five sculptures that were to remain in the park after the Fair was over. Each representing space exploration, the main theme of the Fair. Here are the ones I saw.

Forms in Transit is quite large, 43 feet long, and made of aluminum and sheet metal. It looks like an aircraft but it embodies the concept of motion and change. Sculptor Theodore Roszak designed Forms in Transit.

Sculptures at the 1964 New York World's Fair

“Freedom of the Human Spirit”

Freedom of the Human Spirit, designed by Marshall Fredericks, depicts a nude man and woman with wild swans soaring skyward.

Sculptures at the 1964 New York World's Fair

“The Rocket Thrower”

Donald De Lue’s Rocket Thrower stands 43 feet high and depicts a chiseled man whose right hand is launching a small sphere into the sky that leaves an arching trail of flames behind. He throws a swirl of stars with his left hand that circle the rocket.

A man walked by as I aimed my camera at the sculpture and said I should take a look at the finger of his right hand. If you look closely, it seems he is giving the finger.

Sculptures at the 1964 New York World's Fair

The Unisphere

Designed by a landscape architect, Gilmore D. Clarke, for the New York World’s Fair, the Unisphere is, according to Wikipedia, the world’s largest global sculpture. It is 140 feet high, 120 feet in diameter and weighs 700,000 pounds, 900,000 if you include the base.

The Unisphere is massive and impressive, especially with the water jets turned on. It dominates the park and I ended up taking photos of it from several angles.

After I finished last week’s post, I found some photos that really capture the excitement of the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Hope you’ll take a look here.

Linking up this week with Travel Photo Thursday that Nancie organizes. Be sure to stop by to see other photos from locations around the world.

 

At the New York World’s Fair Festival

New York World's Fair

I wasn’t around to attend the dazzling New York World’s Fair that was held at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in 1964 so a week ago when I saw a poster announcing a festival on Sunday to celebrate its 50th anniversary, I knew exactly where I’d be.

Flushing Meadows Corona Park was the site of both the 1939 and 1964 New York World’s Fairs, which celebrated art, culture, technology, the Space Age, transportation and American ingenuity. (Space was clearly on the minds of the organizers as old photos of the Fair show several futuristic displays. One poster I saw claimed to have “seen the future.”)

Today, the park is more recognizable as the home of tennis in New York. Flushing Meadows (isn’t that just the best place name you’ve ever heard?) is also a popular weekend destination for Queens residents and on that sun drenched Sunday, the perfect place to be.

New York World's Fair

Unisphere

I was pretty excited as the Number 7 train pulled closer to Flushing Meadows and I could see the Unisphere, the 12-story high stainless steel replica of the globe, the symbol of the Fair, peeking out above the trees.

Following the directions I had gotten from Hopstop, I got off at the 111 Street Station and checked with the attendant to make sure I was at the closest entrance to the sprawling 1,255-acre park. Pointing, he told me follow 111 Street for five blocks and I’d see it. When I descended the stairs from the elevated station, I double-checked with two police officers at street level to make sure I was heading in the right direction.

As I walked towards the park, it struck me that I had seen more posters in subway stations in Manhattan than I’d seen at 111th Street. Except for police officers who were manning the intersections along the street, nothing else advertised the festival.

One Hundred and Eleventh Street skirts part of one end of the Park and it took about 15 minutes from the subway station to the Festival, which was sponsored by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.

By the time I got there, a little after 1:30 p.m., the place was humming with people who were checking out the vintage car display, including a Mustang, which was at the World’s Fair. (Somehow, I didn’t get a photo of the Mustang. I’m not sure if this was the same one that the Ford Motor Company unveiled at the Fair.) The cars were all in mint condition as if each had just rolled off the showroom floor.

The star of the show was the Batmobile. It occupied its own space away from the vintage cars and was cordoned off by red coiled wire which was just as well because, I’m sure people would want to sit in it and have their photo taken. 

The second New York World’s Fair opened on April 22, 1964 and ran until October 18, 1964. It had as its theme, Peace Through Understanding. Opening exactly five months to the date President John Kennedy was assassinated, it was, I’m sure a huge morale booster. It resumed from April 21 to October 17, 1965. 

The Fair attracted more than 50 million people who visited pavilions showcasing the best from each state and several countries including Mexico, Japan, Pakistan, Philippines, Vatican City, Austria, Sweden and Spain.

At the Vatican Pavilion, they saw Michelangelo’s Pietà. Ford introduced the Mustang, Bell showed off its videophone and IBM gave demonstrations of what computers could do. Visitors also sampled foods, like Belgian waffles and shish kebabs, which were introduced at the Fair. There were rides for children, futuristic displays and sculptures commissioned especially for the Fair.

When I showed a co-worker some of my cell phone photos, her eyes lit up. “I’d never seen anything like it,” she gushed. “It was all space-agey and just out of this world fantastic. If you’ve been to Disney, you’ll have an idea of what the Fair was really like.”

Walt Disney had a huge impact on the Fair, designing several shows and introducing the song, It’s a Small World, in tribute to the world’s children.

The posters and the slogans that advertised the Fair spoke of a future of ground breaking technological innovations. In some instances, I’m thinking now of the videophone that Bell showed off, they were spot on. The technology was revolutionary for its time but it’s difficult not to compare it with what we have now.

Generally speaking, the festival felt flat to me. I realized later that a part of me was expecting it to capture the feeling of the Fair – the excitement, the sense of wonder I imagine people felt them. But honestly, it would have been impossible to do. An event as monumental as the New York World’s Fair can probably never be duplicated and now feels redundant – especially when we have Disney as a fixture in our lives.

New York World's Fair - Unisphere

The Unisphere

Other activities celebrating the anniversary of the 1964 New York World’s Fair will take place through October. Check out this link for details and photos from the Fair.

Linking up this week with Noel’s Travel Photo Mondays and Nancie’s Travel Photo Thursday.

African Burial Ground National Monument, NYC

African Burial Ground National Monument

Before the American Revolution, New York had more enslaved Africans – its most valuable commodity – than any other colony in the North. There were also free Africans, some descended from those freed by the Dutch West India Company. Men cleared farmland, filled swamps, and built structures and roads like Broadway and The Wall (today’s Wall Street). Women sewed, cooked, harvested, and cared for owners’ children as well as their own. From an early age, children carried water and firewood. The work was hard and death rates for Africans were disproportionately high. – National Park Service / US Department of the Interior

Between 1690-1794, approximately 15,000 enslaved and free Africans were buried in a 6.6-acre plot in Lower Manhattan near what is now Duane and Elk Streets. The area was identified on maps of the time as the Negros Burial Ground.

In 1991, an archeological team that was field-testing a construction site in Lower Manhattan (a requirement on any project which uses public funds that may have the potential to impact historic resources) made a surprising discovery – skeletal remains 24 feet below ground.

They stopped excavation when it was determined that the remains were from the Negros Burial Ground. In all 419 bodies of men, women and children were unearthed. Bone fragments and other items uncovered at the site were sent to Howard University for examination.

The remains held a compelling narrative about the life of New York City’s African population.  It showed that many were malnourished, suffered from delayed bone development and recurrent illnesses. Nine percent of those buried at the site were children 2 years of age and younger.

Many of the dead were adorned with beads, which were culturally significant, and shells that were believed to “enclose the soul’s immortal presence.” Some had their eyes covered with coins.

At first, the government wanted to exhume and preserve the remains and continue construction of the 34-story Ted Weiss federal building but the community was outraged. Months of protests led to an agreement. A third of an acre of the site was set aside for a memorial.

In 1993, the African Burial Ground was designated a National Historic Landmark, and a National Monument in 2006. In 2003, the remains were reinterred in seven raised mounds at the site.

A memorial, which was designed by Rodney Léon was completed in 2007.  It features a sunken Libation Court, a gathering space for cultural ceremonies, and is surrounded by a Circle of the Diaspora that is inscribed with signs, symbols, and images from the African Diaspora.

There’s also an Ancestral Chamber that provides sacred space for contemplation, and a Wall of Remembrance that describes events that contributed to the creation of the African Burial Ground. The location where the remains were reburied are marked by Ancestral Pillars.

African Burial Ground

Exhibit at the Visitor Center

A visitor center, which is located on the ground floor of the Weiss Building, features a permanent exhibition which tells the story of the lives of Africans in New York through photos, scrapbooks and installations. Life-size and lifelike sculptures of men and women gathered around a coffin is the centerpiece of the exhibition.

African Burial Ground National Memorial Particulars

The African Burial Ground Memorial site, which is at the corner of Duane and Elk Streets, is closed during the winter. However, the African Burial Ground Visitor Center, located around at 290 Broadway at Duane Street is open Tuesday-Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are accepted.

Further Reading:
Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 [simpleazon-image align="center" asin="0195140494" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51A0v0-vafL._SL160_.jpg" width="108"]

Linking up this week with Nancie’s Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox.