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.

25 comments on “Nearness, Public Art in Times Square

  1. Oh so cool! I saw a photo of this on a friend’s instagram feed recently, I’ll definitely have to trek to Times Square before the exhibit is over to check it out!:-)

  2. What an amazing display. And good of you to catch it for us all who won’t be anywhere near New York to see it in person. Really nice also, was the information you provided about the artist. Most interesting (as always) Marcia.

  3. What a great idea. It’s interesting how we versus a visitor interacts in a city and I know I share your frustration at times. But what a delight to come upon this art installation and I love the fact it’s so accessible.

  4. What a fascinating exhibit! I loved you described the work “It communicates, engages, and invites you to interact.” Truly it does have all of the ingredients of great work!! I have never heard of Arlés until now so I thank you for this wonderful introduction. Now, I am off to research more about him and his craft.

  5. What an interesting public art installation! There is a slim chance that I might get to New York while it is still in place and I would love to see it!

  6. This is the kind of happening that makes me love New York. I especially like that you can step through the installations. I can imagine your dismay to find them gone and then surprise to find they have just shifted. It shows that when we stick to the same route we can miss things altogether. How smart the authorities were to shift them.

  7. That is definitely different and unexpected. I wonder if del Rio used the silhouettes of actual people to make this. Can people still walk through them but just not climb ON them? By the way, I think you are so lucky to have Times Square as part of your normal routine. If I was there, I’d be one of those gawking tourists blocking your way.

  8. I love street art of any description, and this looks fascinating! It’s always such a nice surprise to come across it unexpectedly, especially somewhere that’s always so frenetic as Times Square – what better reason to slow down?! Thanks for sharing!

  9. I love coming across art like this when you least expect it. Nearness looks so interesting — I’m sure I’d be stopping, staring and getting in someone’s way. Thanks for the background on Arles del Rio, too. I don’t believe I’ve seen his work before.

  10. My travel plans to New York have been delayed so I probably will only be at the earliest there sometime mid September. So looks like I will miss it 🙁 It looks really cool and it’s fun that you can step through the cut-outs.

  11. I have always loved the street art and look forward to it wherever I travel to! This was a cool idea, loved it 🙂

  12. Hi Marcia, first time I’m hearing about this art installation. I avoid going through Time Square. I don’t like going there unless I have a purpose. This art installation can be a good excuse to brave my way there. I love art, too. It may even make me like Times Square a little bit. Thanks for this bit.

  13. Great example of the power of public art: it’s there when you least expect it and often ends up creating a bigger impact than a piece in a museum could do. Not to mention the contact it offers with people who wouldn’t normally go to museums. Nice find and glad that you shared it with us.

    Funny, talking about Times Square: just the other day we came across Tom Oterness’s sculptures on the beach outside The Hague here in The Netherlands – and it turned out that he has many pieces in NYC and on Times Square as well. The big clock by the HMV is for instance his. Thought it was a funny coincidence and worth mentioning here for anyone heading to Times Square after reading your great post.

  14. Very interesting installation, Marcia. Looks a bit like a mini version of Christo’s Gates. I generally avoid Times Square when I’m in NY but will now check their website so I don’t miss something special.

  15. Love interactive public art, the kind that invites you into it – quite literally in this case. Do you live in New York, Marcia?

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