West Side Rag »Riverside Park this summer offers kilometers of outdoor art that surprises and belongs to it
Posted on Jun 20, 2021 at 4:13 pm by Carol Tannenhauser
By Lisa Kava
If you’re looking for unique outdoor art near you this summer, Riverside Park is the place for you. Lifelong Upper West Sider, Karin Bravin, has curated an extensive public art exhibition called Re: Growth, which opened on June 10th and will run through September 15th.
The exhibit spans miles of Riverside Park from West 64th Street to West 151st. Re: Growth features works by 24 artists in a variety of media, including sculptures, interactive augmented reality pieces, flags, banners and photographs. It coincides with the 35th anniversary of the Riverside Park Conservancy.
Art installations are spread across the park, partly on the water, partly on the upper promenade. It can take an entire afternoon to see them all, but you can also make multiple visits, exploring part of the park at a time. Each installation is provided with a QR code that can be scanned to find out more about the artist and the respective work. All blend in with the natural beauty of Riverside Park.
Two photographs from the series “Containers” by the artist Joiri Minaya, which can be found on the promenade around West 85th and West 89th Street, show photographs of women in bodysuits “with prints showing depictions of tropical nature in interaction with landscapes”. The pieces fit perfectly into the surrounding green spaces, as if they were part of the landscape.
Art can be found everywhere: in the grass, on fences or on rocks. Some pieces may surprise you while walking. Keep your eyes wide open and walk slowly to be sure that you are taking in everything.
After walking down the steps through the underpass in the 1980s, just across the river you’ll come across a large distinctive and swirling sculpture in bright shades of blue mixed with yellow and hints of bright red and orange. Wendy Letven’s “Four Currents” is an uplifting, happy piece that immediately casts a spell over the viewer. It is described as “a convergence of the energies of its location in Riverside Park,” the powerful flow of the river, the urban environment, the radiant energy of the sun and the wind that bends the trees.
To the left, in the grass and on a hill, the biggest piece of the show is hard to miss, DeWitt Godfrey’s conglomerate of cylindrical steel shapes, which were combined into the piece entitled “Stuk”.
Bravin, who owns the BravinLee Programs gallery in Chelsea with her husband John Lee, grew up next to Riverside Park in Schwab House, where her mother still lives. She settled in the same neighborhood as an adult and raised her own children. “Riverside Park has always been my backyard,” she says.
Bravin originally delved into the world of public art when she curated another exhibition at Riverside Park called Studio in the Park in 2006. The previous exhibition featured 11 local artists. Bravin worked on other public art projects over the years, including an exhibition on building barriers with the Downtown Alliance and a project on the Lehman College campus, but she always had plans to return to Riverside Park.
“Riverside Park is a little gem that not everyone visits,” Bravin told West Side Rag in a telephone interview. “I’ve had this idea in my head for the past 15 years to do it again. I kept thinking about it. When Covid struck, I decided this was the right time. It was now or never. “
In November 2020, Bravin reached out to Dan Garodnick, President and CEO of the Riverside Park Conservancy, with her idea. To her delight, he was quick and interested to respond. “He’s very creative and ready to take a risk,” said Bravin.
“Karin turned to me at the perfect moment,” said Garodnick. “We wanted to do something big and bold to celebrate the emergence of people after a difficult year and to honor the 35th anniversary of the Conservancy. A public art exhibition was a perfect fit. “
On the promenade, just before the dog run on 87th Street, a large horizontal banner suddenly appears, attached to a fence on the right. The banner shows a geometric pattern in bright pink, white, brown and black. “No Dumping Drains to River” by artist Niki Lederer consists of reused umbrella canopies that “come from umbrellas that were thrown away by frustrated New Yorkers after heavy rain in the streets, gutters and garbage cans”.
“Working on the exhibition really changed the pandemic for me,” Bravin told WSR. “That gave me an outdoor focus. In winter I went for walks in the park, explored rooms, measured fences and cleared snow. ”She also went to the winter meeting and talked to artists about the logistics of the project. “I always start with an artist I know well, who says yes and talks to me about the subject. Then I’ll add an artist I’ve never worked with before, but who I want to work with. “
One of the second guys was Mary Mattingly, whose play entitled “Riverside Reading Room” comes out after you drive through the underpass on 90th Street. At first glance it seems like a simple, quiet little house; a quiet place to work, read or reflect. But if we take a closer look and read the sign, we learn that its shelves are “filled with remains, fossils, rock and earth in growth cycles”, that it is made of “reclaimed wood from today’s tree species in New York”, and that the work “ shows the challenges for the life of flora with climate change ”.
While the artist had previously shown David Shaw on BravinLee Programs, Bravin had never worked with him on a public art project. His piece “Last Steps”, which can be found by the river on 95th Street, is a fascinatingly high green ladder that towers high into the sky. Most of the ladder is empty; There are only three rungs on top of just one side, which amaze the viewer. On the sides of the ladder there are silver and blue parts that shimmer fluorescent when exposed to sunlight. The sign states that the work is “both a picture of our frustrated, unattainable, and perhaps misguided pursuit of progress, as well as a symbol of the hope that seeks to rebuild the world.”
“Untitled” by Brooklyn-based artist Rico Gatson is a giant banner that combines “five pre-existing paintings in the style of a film strip”. The banner on 105th Street can be seen on both sides of the West Side Highway as you drive.
Bravin had hoped the exhibition would bring joy to the artists and the public. Your wish has already been granted. “The artists were so happy with this project,” she explained. Since the artists were responsible for their installations themselves, many had the opportunity to interact with residents in the park while installing their work. “Some artists have told me their favorite part is engaging with the public,” said Bravin. The exhibition has also attracted viewers who are not normally interested in art. “Galleries could be intimidating, but public art is open to everyone. It does something positive for the community. “
Garodnick is very happy with Re: Growth. “The response was incredible. People love this exhibition and we get great feedback every day. After that painful year, this exhibition celebrates the resilience of the city and the toughness and spirit of all New Yorkers. The art speaks for our collective rejuvenation and restoration. “
To learn more about Re: Growth, including a list of participating artists and a sitemap, click here.
To learn more about the curator Karin Bravin, click here.