Art on the High Line. Public sculpture in New York City.

Art on the High Line.  Public sculpture in New York City.

Just back from a break away, in New York city.  Quite frankly, there’s so much to say about the place, and especially about the amazing art, public art, sculpture, public sculpture, architecture,  town planning, heritage conservation, artists, street-scapes, mood, scene and politics,  that if I tried to say even 1%, (really) – I’d be here for the next 6 months solid writing away,  while my Dublin guiding business went down the pan, and meanwhile you’d all just roll your eyes anyhow, then navigate away, asking in sadness or disgust-  “Sheez, is this guy ever going to shut up about New York?”

Well yes I am readers.   It’s breaking the habit of a lifetime admittedly, but shut-up is my new middle name.  It’s a real dilemma too,  because there’s a lot I’d like to say.  But there just isn’t enough time in the world to do it properly.  And ultimately it’s a dilemma that can be solved anyway, I believe this time,  with that age-old scrip-writers’ maxim:  –  “Show,  don’t tell” 

Over the next few weeks, I’ll reflect on all things artistic, architectural, conservation, community and public space-related, almost purely through the medium of pictures.  A series of photo essays, if you will,  with minimal captions,  and even those purely for the purposes of strictly necessary explanations, purely  of the “Where is this?” / “Who is it by?” – variety.    (And sometimes, not even that.    So there).  Any other utterances will be kept to a rare,  brilliant, thoroughly gnomic minimum.

Here we go.  First up 3 picture- posts about 3 superb pieces of Public sculpture, seen in New York City.  Here’s Public sculpture post 1 of 3.   Art on the High Line.

Highline 1 Arran Henderson Dublin tours

Highline 2 Arran Henderson Dublin tours

somehwre along the High Line, that superb linear park in New York, and recently extended, we came across this sight (site?)  below….

Lego 1 Highline Art Arran Henderson Dublin tours

What are these towers made of?   You know the answer.  Look.

Lego 2 Highline Art Arran Henderson Dublin tours

Lego 3 Highline Art Arran Henderson Dublin tours

These huge towers, are all made of Lego.

Lego 5 Highline Art Arran Henderson Dublin tours

They change all the time, as hundreds of visitors try to change, extend, heighten, improve, alter, adapt, fuse,  join together, or otherwise alter them.

here is what the artist had to say about it all.  It all makes beautiful sense.

Lego 7 details Olafur Elison Highline Art Arran Henderson Dublin tours

Lego 6 Olafur Elison Highline Art Arran Henderson Dublin tours

Okay, I give up.  I’m going to have to say something more about this work.

When you’ve been gawping at art for 25-30 years, one can get a bit jaded.   But Mr Olafur Elison’s project struck me, very forcibly, as a really joyful, utterly accessible, and yet also utterly successful piece of public art.    It helps that it is,  to employ an overused word very site-specific.     Yes,  it is a work about building and buildings, using a famous building toy, in a city that is always famously rebuilding itself, and with a work sited under an actual building site.   That is really sight specific, and greatly enriches the work (and also the ideas that flow from it. )

Also,  to use an really vastly overused word, it was genuinely, fruitfully, inspirationally interactive.  The work was constantly in flux.  The work itself made re-made and created by the “viewer”.   The viewer becomes maker and collaborator.  Therefore they (we/ me you) are much more likely to feel involved, implicated and included in the process (obviously) and therfore to spend far more time with it.

But crucially, this extra time, and the sheer pleasure of interacting with the work, has an additional effect.  By spending more time with the work and process,  people are far, far more involved and therefore far more likely to reflect.    The work invites thought, through action, involvement and reflection,   (Reflection, both in the “now” and again later).

Nor is the work a polemic, theory, idea or worse, a “statement” (yawn) by the artist.  Still less is it some sort of riddle (double-yawn)   It is an invitation;  to play and participate and act and enjoy and build and experiment and collaborate and to work alone, or together, or any way you want.    It doesn’t knock you over the head with a load of theory, but it does nonetheless, immensely thought-provoking;  opening up, to those who wish to think about such things,  all sorts of interesting ideas about buildings, and cities, and how they are made and mix and complete and, in a sense, how they are all destroyed one day.

For example, and it really is just one example, Elison’s lines and ideas about “inevitable entropy” (in his statement, read above)  are well taken, and beautifully expressed by his (our?)  piece.

“Inevitable entropy” “inevitably brings about thoughts of the late Robert Smithson, a New York conceptual artist working mostly in Land Art, (and through his brilliant, constantly provocative writings)   Smithson is one of my artistic heroes.   When I was a more practicing artist, he inspired me to dig up large sand dunes on an island near where I live,  and to turn them into large craters, (for God sake)

Anyway, Smithson was obsessed with entropy, the often slow but always inevitable, decay and break-down of all objects, matter, and indeed of all systems.

I wish I’d taken pictures of the floor of the table where all these huge splendid Lego sculpture-skyscrapers were being built,.

Because under the towering masterpieces, was another landscape, a sea of broken objects and shattered former buildings,  where the whole idea of breakdown found beautiful, economic and elegant expression.

There is so much more to sat about this project.  But i am going to try and at least half- keep my earlier promise.

I will leave the rest to yourselves, and to the pictures and the endless fertile imagination, generosity and spirit of this work.

Lego 3 Highline Art Arran Henderson Dublin tours

Highline 3 Arran Henderson Dublin tours

Whitney end of Highline 1 Arran Henderson Dublin tours

At the end of the High Line these days is of course the brand new Whiteny museum.   But we’ll save that “picture essay” for some other week.  For this week we stick with public sculpture, not the stuff in galleries and museums, however brilliant or august.

Tune in tomorrow for part 2 of 3,   and another work of Public sculpture in New York.

Thank you for reading.

PS:   For regular readers only and just for the sake of clarity:  I am back in Dublin and yes, am running the art and architecture tours here again now.   There are 5 different tours, of Georgian architecture alone,  in Dublin over the next 6-7 weeks.   Please see the home page if you’d like to explore the details.   Thank you again.

3 thoughts on “Art on the High Line. Public sculpture in New York City.

    1. Yes, it’s amazing. And I totally agree, it gives you a very different view on the city, just being 20-25 feet up above street level. That’s only about two stories up, (if say, you were inside one of those huge buildings). But the fact you’re outdoors and moving through the city, yet floating too, serenely, above it all, (and of course above and free from cursed traffic) all means it’s a radically different experience. In fact, it’s SO much nicer than being on the streets below, it does make you wonder about the subtle, incremental diminished way, traffic has on our everyday lives (and every day of our lives almost too_.

      The only city I’ve ever been to that had no cars was Venice. No cars, essentially, makes a city like a entirely different type of world. A better world really, you’d probably have to say!


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