SYMBOLIZING THE BLACK BODY, Simone Leigh‘s black ceramic busts embellished with textured glaze or countless tiny roses are a sight to see. Imagine a monumental version of one of her sculptures installed on the High Line, rising so high it is visible from the street below. It’s a possibility that might materialize next year.

The High Line, the elevated park in New York City, is inaugurating a new site for public art commissions. Modeled after the Fourth Plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square, the High Line Plinth will offer a similar rotating program of public art installations on The Spur, the newest section of the park at 30th Street and 10th Avenue. The venue is meant to broaden the audience for contemporary art and spur dialogue among the general public.

High Line Art announced 12 shortlisted artists whose proposals are being considered for the first two commissions. Two African American artists, Brooklyn-based Leigh and Los Angeles artist Charles Gaines are among the group, which also includes Jonathan Berger, Minerva Cuevas, Jeremy Deller, Sam Durant, Matthew Day Jackson, Lena Henke, Roman Ondak, Paola Pivi, Haim Steinbach, and Cosima von Bonin.

“The High Line Plinth will provide artists with an opportunity to work on a larger scale than ever before possible on the High Line, and to engage with the breathtaking vistas that open up around this new site,” Cecilia Alemani, director and chief curator of High Line Art, said in the announcement.

“As a new landmark to this space, the High Line Plinth will create a new symbol of this incredible nexus of horticulture, art, and public space in the ever-evolving metropolis that is New York City. I am excited to work with artists who think critically about the meaning of public space and public life, and create artworks that not only respond to the site, but also spark conversations among a wide audience.”

“The High Line Plinth will create a new symbol of this incredible nexus of horticulture, art, and public space in the ever-evolving metropolis that is New York City. I am excited to work with artists who think critically about the meaning of public space and public life.”
— Cecilia Alemani, Director and Chief Curator, High Line Art


CHARLES GAINES, Rendering of “Tilted Tower,” 2016. Proposal for the High Line Plinth. | Commissioned by High Line Art, presented by Friends of the High Line and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Courtesy of the artist in collaboration with Peter Tolkin Architecture and Friends of the High Line

 

HIGH LINE ART reviewed 50 proposals from a diverse group of artists recommended by an international advisory committee. The artists hailed from various countries, worked in a range of mediums, and were in various stages of their careers. Beginning Feb. 10, maquette versions of the shortlisted proposals will be exhibited on the High Line at 14th Street through April 30.

A conceptual artist who emerged during the Black Arts Movement of the 1970s, Gaines usually works in two dimensions. He makes photographs, drawings and works on paper plotted out on grids—investigations of series and systems, cognition and language. For the High Line, he proposed a leaning tower that pays homage to the U.S. Postal Service and the legacy of print journalism.

    PROPOSAL: Charles Gaines (b. 1944, Charleston, SC. Lives and works in Los Angeles, CA) proposes Tilted Tower, an aluminum 40-foot tower with a gridded network of chambers, tilted at an angle of 82 degrees leaning towards the James A. Farley Post Office on 30th Street and 9th Avenue. Inside each chamber is a fabricated replica of a mailbox, each outfitted with a plaque dedicated to a discontinued New York-area newspaper. The work pays homage to the US Postal Service and print journalism, two institutions that have historically bridged the space between democracy and capitalism. Gaines aims to remind viewers of the significance of private and public community services that democratize civil society.
 


SIMONE LEIGH, Rendering of “Cupboard VII,” 2016. Proposal for the High Line Plinth. | Commissioned by High Line Art, presented by Friends of the High Line and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Courtesy of the artist and Friends of the High Line

 

Working in a range of mediums from sculpture and installation to video and performance, Leigh’s investigations of female subjectivity and ethnography, are informed by her training in American ceramics and interest in ancient African pottery. Leigh’s High Line proposal is her first monumental work. It continues, on a larger scale, her figurative sculpture series, “Anatomy of Architecture.”

    PROPOSAL: Simone Leigh (b. 1968, Chicago, IL. Lives and works in New York, NY) proposes “Cupboard VII,” her first monumental work in her continuing series of sculptures, Anatomy of Architecture, which conflates vernacular forms from places as varied as West Africa and the American South with the body. This figurative work continues Leigh’s practice of using form and material culture to forward her ongoing exploration of black female subjectivity.

Los Angeles-based Sam Durant envisions mounted an unmanned Predator drone on the plinth. New York artist Jonathan Berger proposed a 183-bell carillon that is both sculpture and instrument. Minerva Cuevas of Mexico City conceived a sculpture in which an elephant is lifted upside down by a crane. Lena Henke, a German artist who lives and works in New York, wants to install a monumental breast composed of soil, sand, and clay “that will slowly erode and change at the mercy of the weather.”

After the public review period, High Line Art will consider public responses to all 12 sculptural models and in spring 2017 select the two artists whose visions will be the first realized. The inaugural High Line Plinth commission will debut in 2018. CT

 

BOOKSHELF
“Charles Gaines: Gridwork 1974-1989” was published to coincide with the exhibition. A few titles document the history and explore the vision of the High Line and the ways in which the park has helped to transformed its surrounding neighborhood. Consider “High Line: The Inside Story of New York City’s Park in the Sky,” “Joel Sternfeld: Walking the High Line,” and “The High Line,” the latest volume that “charts the journey of this global landmark from the designer’s point of view.”