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Top outdoor public art in NYC 2012 (slide show)

From wall art to street art to sculpture, TONY takes you on a tour of public art in New York.

Photograph: Jonathan Aprea

Click on the right of the image to begin the top outdoor public art slide show

Photograph: Anna Simonak

Paola Pivi, How I Roll
Doris C. Freedman Plaza, Central Park, through Aug 26

Up until now, the closest thing to an air show in Central Parks has probably been the pigeons descending on the bread crumbs scattered by little old ladies. But thanks to Milan-born Alaskan artist Paola Piva, Gotham’s great green space has something nearer to the real deal. How I Roll features a full-size, six-passenger Piper Seneca airplane doing lazy nose-over-tail flips, thanks to a pair of hydraulic posts holding the craft by its wingtips. It’s surreal and mesmerizing all at once.

Photograph: Anna Simonak
Photograph: Anna Simonak
Photograph: Anna Simonak
Photograph: Kayla Rice

Magdalena Abakanowicz, Walking Figures
Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, Second Ave at 47th St, through Sept 7

This line of bronze figures, each measuring more than eight feet tall, seems to be moving implacably, like an army on the march.

Photograph: Jessica Lin

Kiki Smith, Chorus
The Last Lot, W 46th St at Eighth Ave, through Sept 4

Smith pays tribute to performer Josephine Baker and Broadway’s Jazz Age heyday with this outdoor installation of freestanding sculptures of stars, made from brilliant multicolored stained glass.

Photograph: Anna Simonak

Charles Long, Pet Sounds
Madison Square Park, through Sept 9

The sounds of summer are taking on an extraterrestrial tone at Madison Square Park, where Charles Long’s public art installation dominates the Flatiron District’s sylvan oasis with an alien invasion of colorful, biomorphic blobs. Growing out of a series of pipe railings snaking through the park, Long’s fantastical forms have a presence that’s equal parts comic and menacing as they spill onto the ground, or benches and picnic tables. But have no fear; these visitors are friendly, as a gentle rub of their smooth surfaces produce various sounds leading to good vibrations.

Photograph: Anna Simonak
Photograph: Anna Simonak
Photograph: Anna Simonak
Photograph: Kayla Rice

JR, Brandon Many Ribs, Standing Rock Reservation, North Dakota
The High Line, ongoing

The High Line is a veritable open-air museum, providing views of outdoor works, some commissioned by the folks who run the place, and some not. This mural by poster artist JR falls in the latter category, but it so dominates the stretch of the High Line near the Hudson Yards that it’s hard to tell the difference. The work is an offshoot of the Inside Out Project, a global street-art initiative featuring giant pasteup portraits of people placed in locations around the world. Brandon Many Ribs is part of a series focusing on the Lakota who live on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. The image is made up of 64 individually printed panels.

Photograph: Kayla Rice

Charles Mary Kubricht, Alive-nesses: Proposal for Adaptation
The High Line, ongoing

Kubricht’s piece takes up space on a future portion of the High Line currently closed to the public, but it’s clearly viewable from the park’s northern end. The work consists of two shipping containers painted in a bold black-and-white geometric camouflage pattern called Dazzle, which was used on ships during World War I. Its similarity to certain kinds of hard-edge abstraction is striking, but mainly the artist is interested in how the paint scheme changes your perception of the containers, especially as you look at them from different directions.

Photograph: Kayla Rice

The High Line, through Apr 14

The High Line’s first group show, “Lilliput” eschews the usual large projects associated with outdoor art for a tongue-in-cheek presentation of miniature pieces installed in various locations—some literally off the beaten path (in the bushes, for instance) and others in plain view, like Francis Upritchard’s paean to simian love, The Seduction (pictured).

Photograph: Kayla Rice

“Lilliput”: Tomoaki Suzuki, Carson

This mini hipster in a black leather jacket proves that size is no obstacle to having attitude.

Photograph: Kayla Rice

“Lilliput”: Erika Verzutti, Dino Tropical

This figure is one member of a family of whimsical abstracted “dinosaurs” installed under the Falcone Flyover, the High Line’s elevated pathway between West 25th and 27th Streets.

Photograph: Kayla Rice

“Lilliput”: Allyson Vieira, Construction (Rampart)

This pyramid of takeout cups cast in bronze is meant to collect water and debris, and otherwise suffer the depredations of time.

Photograph: Kayla Rice

“Lilliput”: Alessandro Pessoli, Old Singer with Blossoms

The artist’s nine-foot-tall sculpture suggests a postindustrial scarecrow.

Photograph: Kayla Rice

Thomas Houseago, Lying Figure
The High Line, through Mar 14

Installed as a contrast with the tiny figures in “Lilliput,” Houseago’s monumental sculpture under the Standard Hotel depicts a headless giant relaxing in the grass, unaware of what’s missing in its life.

Photograph: Kayla Rice

Malcolm D. MacDougall III, Microscopic Landscape
Union Square Triangle Park, through Jan 30

The jittery dynamism of this crystalline sculpture—based, according to the artist, on structures observed at the microscopic level—reflects the energy of its surroundings at Union Square, a major crossroads of New York.

Photograph: Kayla Rice

Rob Pruitt, The Andy Monument
Union Square, through Sept 4

Pruitt has put his chrome-plated facsimile of the late Pop artist on the corner of East 17th Street and Broadway, allegedly the same spot where Andy Warhol gave away signed copies of his magazine, Interview.

Photograph: Jessica Lin

Carole Feuerman, Survival of Serena
Petrosino Square, through Sept 23

This sculpture of a swimmer apparently drowsing on an inner tube debuted at the 2007 Venice Biennial, and its title is inspired in part by that city’s nickname: La Serenissima, or “the most serene.” The work does indeed offer a moment of tranquility in the middle of frantic Gotham.

Photograph: Jessica Lin

Robert Sestok, First Street Iron
First Park, though Oct 22

The Detroit artist’s ten-foot tall welded-steel tribute to New York City is placed on a spot once occupied by a tree.

Photograph: Jessica Lin

Lu Chun-Hsiung and Michel Kang, Dr. Sun Yat-sen
Columbus Park Playground, through Nov 12

Dr. Sun Yat-sen was the leader of the Chinese revolution in 1911, and to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Republic of China, this statue of him has been erected in the same Chinatown community where, a century ago, he finalized plans for the overthrow of his nation’s last imperial dynasty.

Photograph: Jessica Lin

“Common Ground”
City Hall Park, through Nov 30

This public group-art exhibition asks what civic sculpture means in the 21st century, with answers provided by an international roster of artists. Among them are Danish collaborative team Elmgreen and Dragset, whose It’s Never Too Late to Say Sorry, pictured, consists of a silver bullhorn used by regularly scheduled performers.

Photograph: Jessica Lin

“Common Ground”: Ian Hamilton Finlay, Huius Seculi Constantia Atque Ordo Inconstantia Post Eritatis A St. J.

French Revolution leader Louis Saint-Just’s statement that “The present order is the disorder of the future” provides the jumping-off point for this group of engraved stone slabs that recall the fallen monuments of ancient Rome.

Photograph: Jessica Lin

“Common Ground”: Jenny Holzer

Holzer’s familiar aphorisms have been carved into a set of four benches, two made from marble and two made from sandstone.

Photograph: Jessica Lin

“Common Ground”: Jenny Holzer

A detail of one of the benches.

Photograph: Jessica Lin

“Common Ground”: Matthew Day Jackson, Always Anyone, Anywhere, Anything, Anytime and for Any Reason

This shiny silver metal bat is actually a self-portrait of the artist, who appears to be rapidly spinning at a full 360 degrees.

Photograph: Jessica Lin

“Common Ground”: Christian Jankowski, Common Ground

In another self-portrait of sorts, Jankowski creates a wry headstone for himself.

Photograph: Jessica Lin

“Common Ground”: Justin Matherly, New Beaches

The cast-concrete form held aloft here by aluminum walkers is derived from the classical sculpture Laocoön and His Sons, which depicts the Trojan priest who was punished by Poseidon for trying to expose the Trojan Horse.

Photograph: Jessica Lin

“Common Ground”: Paul McCarthy, Daddies Ketchup

This giant inflated-rubber ketchup bottle, based on an actual brand, reduces the great-man subject typical of traditional civic statuary to an ironic condiment.

Photograph: Jessica Lin

“Common Ground”: Paul McCarthy, Daddies Ketchup

Photograph: Jessica Lin

“Common Ground”: Amalia Pica, Now, Speak!

Pica’s concrete lectern offers you the chance to get things off your chest.

Photograph: Jessica Lin

“Common Ground”: Amalia Pica, Now, Speak!

Pica’s work in use.

Photograph: Jessica Lin

“Common Ground”: Thomas Schütte, Memorial for Unknown Artist

The German sculptor relies on the archetypal image of the artist—flowing beard, anguished expression—to create this tongue-in-cheek monument to the creative class.

Photograph: Jessica Lin

“A Promise Is a Cloud”
MetroTech Commons, Downtown Brooklyn, through Oct 7

Lunchtime crowds and weekend strollers alike are bound to find something compelling in this group show of public sculptures, exploring the ways in which meanings can change depending on one’s perspective. Abstract works by Erin Shirreff (whose Sculpture for Snow is pictured) and Ohad Meromi literally resolve from one form into the next as you shift your point of view, while Adam Pendleton’s flags and the electronic signboard by Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries play with thought-provoking textual fragments.

Photograph: Jessica Lin

“A Promise Is a Cloud”: Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries, The Struggle Continues

The Korean artist and one-man conglomerate’s digital signboard flashes emphatic messages to passersby.

Photograph: Jessica Lin

“A Promise Is a Cloud”: Ohad Meromi, Stepanova

Meromi’s sculpture is an homage to the Russian avant-garde constructivist artist Varvara Stepanova (1894–1958).

Photograph: Jessica Lin

“A Promise Is a Cloud”: Adam Pendleton, Black Dada flags

Typographic forms and allusions to early-20th-century art are some of the elements fluttering in the breeze above MetroTech’s Myrtle Promenade, in the form of these flags.

Photograph: Jonathan Aprea

Tom Fruin, Watertower
20 Jay St, Dumbo, Brooklyn, through June

Fruin gives the familiar New York skyline the look of medieval stained glass with this work created from pieces of salvaged Plexiglas.

Photograph: Virginia Rollison

HWKN (Matthias Hollwich and Marc Kushner), Wendy
MoMA PS1, through Sept 8

Summer in Long Island City has become synonymous with MoMA PS1’s “Warm Up” series, and in turn, those evenings of drinking and dancing to DJs in PS1’s courtyard have become an annual showcase for the latest in architectural experiments by young designers. This year’s entry is a pale-blue sea anemone of a structure with a name usually associated with fast food. But this spiky cerulean wonder not only chills hot summertime crowds with fans and cooling mists of water, its stretched-fabric shell is impregnated with special nanoparticles that supposedly filter pollutants from the surrounding air.

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

John Giorno, Eating the Sky
Socrates Sculpture Park, Long Island City, Queens, through July 30

The phrase on poet John Giorno’s billboard can be read either as an expression of life’s possibilities or one about life’s end.

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

“Civic Action: A Vision for Long Island City”
Socrates Sculpture Park, Long Island City, Queens, through Aug 5

The artists in this group presentation of outdoor projects were asked to imagine alternative visions for Long Island City’s gritty industrial setting. Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Untitled, pictured, is intended as a pavilion in which local food vendors can offer their wares to a hungry public. The canvas, bamboo, wood and steel structure is very much in keeping with the artist’s previous performances involving Thai cuisine.

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

“Civic Action”: George Trakas, Sunion Point

Trakas’s sculpture-cum-pier provides a point of access to Long Island City’s generally inaccessible waterfront.

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

“Civic Action”: Mary Miss, SUNSWICK CREEK: Reflecting Forward

Miss’s maze of surveyor poles and infographics charts the course of an ancient creek. which is now buried beneath Socrates Sculpture Park.

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

“Civic Action”: Mary Miss, SUNSWICK CREEK: Reflecting Forward, detail

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

“Civic Action: A Vision for Long Island City”: Natalie Jeremijenko, Salamander Superhighway

Salamander Superhighway and Jeremijenko’s other “Civic Action” pieces are all parts of a larger work, titled UP 2U, in which the artist explores various aspects of the urban ecology. This piece, for instance, proposes a form of infrastructure for amphibians that are facing extinction, especially when crossing traffic-choked roads.

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

“Civic Action”: Natalie Jeremijenko, BIOCHAR MARKS THE SPOT

This piece is meant to demonstrate the benefits of using biochar, a form of charcoal, to enrich nutrient-poor soil.

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

“Civic Action”: Natalie Jeremijenko, FARMACY

The space constraints of urban farming are addressed in this installation of edible plants, being grown in Tyvek bags suspended from a steel tower.

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

“Civic Action”: Natalie Jeremijenko, FARMACY

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

“Civic Action”: Natalie Jeremijenko, TREExOFFICE

Tired of the cubicle grind? This tree house equipped with Wi-Fi proposes a plein air solution to the challenges of office work.

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

“Civic Action: A Vision for Long Island City”: Natalie Jeremijenko, TREExOFFICE

Photograph: Melissa Sinclair

Katherine Daniels, Ornamental Paths
Joyce Kilmer Park, Bronx, through June

The geometric patterns woven into the fencing that runs throughout the park are meant to recall the Art Deco motifs from apartment buildings on the nearby Grand Concourse.

Photograph: Melissa Sinclair

John Ahearn and Rigoberto Torres, Homage to the People of the Bronx: Double Dutch at Kelly Street I (Frieda, Javette, Towana and Stancey) (1981–82)
Intervale Ave at Kelly St, Bronx, ongoing

A fixture on the side of this Bronx apartment building for 30 years, this life-size, lifelike fiberglass relief—one of several around the South Bronx—was created by taking casts of people who live in the neighborhood.

Photograph: Melissa Sinclair

John Ahearn and Rigoberto Torres, Life on Dawson Street (Thomas, Barbara, Pedro with Tire, and Pat and Lelena at Play) (1982–83)
Dawson St at Longwood Ave, Bronx, ongoing

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Padilla-Harris, MistWave
Cedar Grove Beach, Great Kills Park, Staten Island, through Sept 5

The collaborative team of Andrea Padilla and Stanley Harris was inspired by Hokusai’s famed woodblock, Under the Wave Off Kanagawa, in constructing this interactive sculpture and water feature designed to cool beachgoers.

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Flow .12
Randalls Island, through Sept 30

For the second year in a row, Randalls Island hosts outdoor projects created by emerging artists associated with the Bronx Museum’s Artist in the Marketplace (AIM) program. Placed near the water, each of the works draws attention to the Randalls Island shoreline in one fashion or another. The title of Sean Wrenn’s Awakening Asylum, pictured, refers to the island’s history as the site of an orphanage, a poorhouse, an insane asylum, a juvenile reform home, a rest home for Civil War veterans and a burial ground for the indigent. The piece also recalls the greatest catastrophe in New York City prior to 9/11: The General Slocum steamship disaster of 1904, in which more than 1,000 people died, the result of a shipboard fire that is believed to have started at the Hell Gate waterway passage just off Randalls Island. The sculpture’s circular form, and the twin posts holding it up, are meant to recall the General Slocum’s paddle wheel and funnels.

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

“Flow .12”: Gabriela Bertiller, Glamourous Picnic

Table meets tablecloth in these cast-concrete sculptures covered in white and red glass tiles which not only evoke the idea of the picnic as summertime ritual, but also provide a place to have one.

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

“Flow .12”: Laura Kaufman, Meters to the Center

Kaufman’s three-pronged piece is meant to mimic the structure of the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge looming over Randalls Island, while the numbers signify the distances from the island to the centers of the earth, moon and sun.

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

“Flow .12”: Michael Clyde Johnson, Untitled (Two Viewing Rooms, Offset)

Johnson has created a kind of Donald Judd–styled pergola out of two cubic structures set one in front of the other at different elevations. The higher one faces out over the water, creating a viewing platform at the top of a series of wide steps that also function as bleachers.

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

“Flow .12”: Nathan Gwynne, Famous Faces of Randall’s Island

Gwynne’s aluminum cutout figures depict personages associated with the history of Randalls Island, including this one of Robert Moses, New York’s imperious Parks Commissioner during the city’s midcentury heyday. He was responsible for the bridges connecting Randalls Island to the rest of the city, as well as for the recreational facilities on the island itself. The hole where his face should be provides photo ops for visitors in the best tradition of Coney Island and other old-school amusement parks.

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

“Flow .12”: Nathan Gwynne, Famous Faces of Randall’s Island

Randalls Island was home to the 1936 Olympics trials, which sent runner Jesse Owens, shown here, on to his historic gold-medal victories in Berlin.

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

“Flow .12”: Nathan Gwynne, Famous Faces of Randall’s Island

This image of Jimi Hendrix recalls his July 1970 concert on Randalls Island, just a couple of months before his untimely death.

Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

“Mark di Suvero at Governors Island: Presented by the Storm King Art Center”
Governors Island, through Sept 30

You don’t have to travel upstate to see some of Storm King Art Center’s offerings: The sculpture garden brings work by one of its best-known artists, sculptor Mark di Suvero, to Governors Island. Large-scale sculptures dating from 1977 to 2012 (including 1995’s Rust Angel, pictured) are set up in various places, and true to the artist’s style, the massive pieces are made of industrial materials such as salvaged steel and I beams. This exhibit follows last year’s hugely popular presentation of Di Suvero on the same island.


Mark di Suvero, Chonk On (2000)

The artist painted this sculpture bright red specially for this show.

Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

Mark di Suvero, Old Buddy (For Rosko) (1993–95)


Mark di Suvero, For Chris (1991)


Mark di Suvero, Mahatma (1978–79)


Mark di Suvero, New Beginning (2002)


Mark di Suvero, She (1977–78)


Mark di Suvero, Figolu (2005–11)


Mark di Suvero, Dreamcatcher (2005–12)

This new work is being shown in public for the first time.


Mark di Suvero, Will (1994)


Mark di Suvero, Po-um (2003)

Photo: Caroline Voagen Nelson

Mark di Suvero, Tamimiami (2010)

Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

“2012 Interactive Sculpture Garden”
Governors Island, through Sept 23

Playing with recycled plastic buckets, putting on your show inside a giant television or just taking an art-sheltered nap are some of the things you can do this summer, courtesy of Figment’s third annual gathering of outdoor sculptures on Governors Island. The nonprofit org selected ten projects from an open call for submissions that brought in some 40 proposals. The winners include Steven Millar’s architectural structure Revision (pictured), which is made from three attic dormers, and features an interior collage of mirrors.

Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

“2012 Interactive Sculpture Garden”: Benjamin Jones, TreeHouse

Marking its second year on Governors Island, this arboreal abode is both play space and classroom, hosting a variety of hands-on activities, as well as installations by other artists.

Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

“2012 Interactive Sculpture Garden”: Suprina, The Circle of Intention

Inspired by Tibetan prayer wheels, this pumpkinlike shelter is actually a sort of nonreligious chapel for meditation, welcoming visitors into an interior where the walls are covered by the phrase “statement of intention,” written in 30 of the many languages spoken in New York City. A video camera on the exterior allows you to record your own thoughts, which the artist will stream online.

Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

“2012 Interactive Sculpture Garden”: Zaq Landsberg, Face of Liberty

This one-to-one–scale replica of the Lady in the Harbor’s upturned punim planted in the grass offers a number of possibilities for viewers. You can walk all over it—something that would be physically impossible with the real thing—or pretend to be Charlton Heston in the last scene of the original Planet of the Apes.

Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

“2012 Interactive Sculpture Garden”: Asha Ganpat, Live!

The artist created this oversize representation of an old-school TV set as a stage for anyone wanting to climb and put on a show, making every day a Saturday Night Live on Governors Island.

Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

“2012 Interactive Sculpture Garden”: Romy Scheroder, No Place to Sit (NP2S)

This group of chairs, with legs that are shorter in front than they are in back, amounts to a balance challenge for anyone wishing to take a load off.

Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

“2012 Interactive Sculpture Garden”: Kathy Creutzburg, Pulling It Too Tight

The artist’s whimsical herd of wooden beasties offers unkempt tails and manes made of yarn, allowing you to do animal makeovers by twists and turns.

Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

“2012 Interactive Sculpture Garden”: Robert Otani, Eagle’s Nest

Made of bamboo and branches, Otani’s soaring, wing-shaped pavilion provides a serene respite for kids and adults.

Public art in New York is a year-round phenomenon, but it’s also true that summer is the time when, like everything else, art really moves outside. Uptown and down, and out to the farthest reaches of the boroughs, outdoor art seems to be everywhere: on rooftops, beaches and of course in the parks. There’s a lot to see, and a lot of travel involved in seeing it, but to guide you toward what’s best, TONY offers this handy look at some of the public projects enlivening the city.

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