Art flourishes alongside nature at Riverside Park

In Riverside Park, behind the locked bars of an Amtrak maintenance entrance near 108th Street, a large still life of flowers leans against a wall. The canvas appears to be rotting and unraveling in a tangle of roots and fallen leaves, with new flowers springing three-dimensionally from the surface. The artist Valerie Hegarty wanted to mix fiction and reality: she imagined a Dutch painting Vanitas – a reminder of mortality – had been stolen from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and hidden here, to be abandoned when the pandemic struck.

“It has deteriorated, but now that spring has hit the city things are growing back after the destruction,” said Hegarty, who has placed a painted papier-mâché sculpture of an albino pigeon holding a flower on a nearby ledge. shining in its beak as a sign of hope. “The Vanitas painting speaks of impermanence, which we all felt quite badly last year.”

Hegarty is one of the 24 artists who contribute to in situ projects responding to this moment of loss and renewal in the exhibition. “Re: Growth, a celebration of art, Riverside Park and the New York spirit. “ The exhibition, organized by the curator Karine Bravin, populates the landscape from 64th to 151st Street and runs until September 13. It is the largest art exhibition in the history of the park, according to the Riverside Park Conservatory, who produced it.

“I spent much of the pandemic walking around the park and thought it would be a great time to see public art,” said Bravin, who came up with the idea for Daniel Garodnick, president and chief executive officer of conservation, in the dark days of November.

“I thought ‘regrowth’ as ​​a theme would be incredibly uplifting as we come out of this tragic year and start our lives over,” Garodnick said. The show is sponsored by 32 individuals and companies. In 2020, conservation saw a 62% increase in its small donor category, bringing in just over $ 600,000. (Other parks have seen similar pandemic increases in donation and use. Prospect Park in Brooklyn, for example, has seen a 100 percent increase in the dollar value of individual donor contributions over the past 15 years. recent months, according to Sue Donoghue, president of Alliance Parc Prospect.)

As spring progresses into midsummer and New Yorkers begin to feel more comfortable shedding masks as the needs increase for those who are vaccinated, the spectacle can encourage long walks and bring visitors to explore new parts of the park. “It’s about discovery, about travel, about finding work,” Bravin said. Signage at park entrances and at each facility includes a QR code that leads to a map and information on the exhibition as well as on each work and artist.

Some facilities in the middle of the grassy areas along the waterfront loom from afar. Near 82nd Street is a 15-foot-tall curved sculpture made up of stacked Corten steel cylinders created by DeWitt Godfrey; it evokes the natural geometry of honeycomb or plant spore patterns. At 91st Street, people can enter the “Riverside Reading Room”, a small open house erected by Marie mattingly and lined with shelves of fossils, rocks, soil, and plants such as aloe, dracaena, and horsetail palm as a meditation on growth cycles and climate change.

Other facilities may sneak up as you pass. A garden of around thirty biomorphic shapes – created by Sui Park hand-dyed zip ties in a vibrant palette of green, orange, yellow and pink – seem to sprout from the ground in a lush enclave just below 79th Street. On a rock outcrop near 75th Street, a blanket of molded green shapes creeps across the expanse like ivy or moss. Each unit is the lower end of a Mountain Dew plastic bottle, riveted together by Jean Shin. The installation takes on a dazzling fluorescent glow when struck by the sun.

“Most for single use Plastic is not recycled, and our consumer waste invades the world, ”said Shin, who wants to create an encounter that makes us question these everyday objects and our relationship to nature. “What is the real cost of this convenience for our landscape and our body? “

On the pier jutting out to 70th Street over the Hudson River, Dahlia Elsayed affixed 16 vividly patterned streamers in couplets along a row of lampposts. Referring to design elements from traditional North African and Asian rugs, each pair also includes phrases taken from terminology used by pilots – such as “Pick up signals / with minimal resistance” and “Graphic to / charms “- which can be read like a poem as you walk this trail.

“I had been thinking about the flying carpets and the possibility of leaving in this magical way while I was locked in and staring at four walls, like everyone else,” Elsayed said. “These flags invite you on a journey.”

The privately funded conservation, celebrating its 35th anniversary of restoring and enhancing the park, has spent much of the last year focusing its efforts above 125th Street, adjacent to Harlem. “Our north park initiative brings more resources to areas of the park that had traditionally seen less investment from the city,” Garodnick said, noting an allocation of $ 2.3 million from the city per year. last for the upgrading of the infrastructures of the north park. He hopes the exhibit will attract people to upscale neighborhoods.

Along the river at 125th and 149th streets, as well as at 64th and 79th streets, signage guides visitors to a free augmented reality application, which allows them to discover, via their iPhone, Shuli Sadéwild organic orbs that appear to float above the water and the landscape. Near 148th Street by the river, two concrete figures of Joshua Goode suggest Neolithic votive statues, except that their heads have the distinctive cartoon silhouettes of Bart and Lisa Simpson.

At the corner of a fence surrounding a ball field at 145th Street, Glen Wilson mounted two 8-by-10-foot photographs of young black mail carriers, one taken in her neighborhood in Venice Beach, Calif., and the other in Harlem. After printing the images onto soft industrial plastic and cutting them into strips, Wilson woven the monumental photographs into the fabric of the chain link so that it appears the women are looking at each other at an intersection in the fence.

“It’s that bi-coastal look across the country and the celebration of hard work and people that essentially carries the weight and trust of the neighborhood,” said Wilson, who is interested in Riverside Park as a democratized space. . “The park represents the best of civic pride. We all know we have a part of it and we all know we belong to it. “

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