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Mind Forged Manacles/Manacle Forged Minds
Photograph: Daniela G. Maldonado

This giant new public art piece in Brooklyn explores the concept of systemic racism

The large-scale sculpture features statues of African figures locked inside boxes.

Anna Rahmanan
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Anna Rahmanan
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A new large-scale sculpture by Bronx-born conceptual artist Fred Wilson has taken up residence in Brooklyn's Columbus Park—and there is a lot to say about it. 

Mind Forged Manacles/Manacle Forged Minds
Photograph: Daniela G. Maldonado

Put simply, Mind Forged Manacles/Manacle Forged Minds, as the 10-feet-tall public art piece is dubbed, is a metaphor for structural racism and related themes.

Onlookers will notice six statues of African figures locked inside two boxes. According to an official press release, "the ornamental gates serve as a metaphor for structural racism, the incarceration of Black men, the detainment of illegal immigrants [and] policing."

While not site-specific, the piece certainly connects and speaks to the various other monuments and buildings around it, including a sculpture of Henry Ward Beecher, the 9th century Congregationalist clergyman known for his support of the abolition of slavery, the statue of Columbus and the Kings County Supreme Court Building.

The installation, presented by More Art, is one of the projects funded through the Downtown Brooklyn + Dumbo Art Fund, under New York State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI).

"Creating spaces in our communities and public parks for such representative and powerful art is important," said Brooklyn borough president Antonio Reynoso in an official statement. "While some people prefer learning their history through stories or lectures and documentaries, creating expressive art allows someone to interpret historical facts and their relevance today. Fred Wilson's sculpture does just that."

Mind Forged Manacles/Manacle Forged Minds
Photograph: Daniela G. Maldonado

When stopping by to see the new massive work, we suggest you gaze at the structure while contemplating a slew of questions, including: who are we as a nation and how does history inform the way we conduct ourselves today? What is freedom? Who decides who is worthy of it? 

If you're looking for even more public art to admire this summer, consider heading to City Hall Park, where seven giant new sculptures were just installed. Through the end of August, you can also see enormous sculptures waving hello to New Yorkers on Broadway in Times Square as part of a free new exhibit that is open to the public. While you're in the area, head down to the subway by 43rd Street to see a new mosaic by artist Nick Cave that was commissioned by the MTA's public arts program.

And here is a complete list of the best outdoor art in NYC this summer.

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