Rendering of “Big Bling,” which will stand 40 feet high (Photo courtesy of Madison Square Park Conservancy)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The Madison Square Park Conservancy announced at the beginning of this month that a multi-tier sculpture from American artist Martin Puryear will be the next public installation in the park beginning next May. The structure, which resembles a gilded rollercoaster and called “Big Bling,” will be the largest temporary outdoor public work that Puryear has completed, at 40 feet long and almost 40 feet high.
The structure is the 33rd public art installation by Mad. Sq. Art, the contemporary art program of the conservancy, and will be made of birch plywood and 22-karat gold leaf with multiple levels and wrapped in a fine chain-link fence. It will also include a gold-leafed shackle anchored near the top of the structure.
Puryear, who lives and works in the Hudson Valley region, tends to focus his work on handmade pieces using methods such as carpentry, boat building and other similar trades. His signature material is wood, which he is using for the Madison Square Park sculpture and which serves to anchor the physicality of the enormous piece.
Senior curator Brooke Kamin Rapaport said that the conservancy has been working with Puryear for about a year and a half to develop the piece. They approached him to create a commissioned work for the conservancy, and Big Bling is what he proposed.
“It’s an extraordinary work and though it’s a temporary outdoor piece, it maintains all of the strengths and power of his indoor projects,” she said.
Fata Morgana is now on view at Madison Square Park. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Brooke Kamin Rapaport, Martin Friedman Senior Curator, Madison Square Park Conservancy
Public outdoor sculpture is a communal activity. During periods of art installation, visitors to Madison Square Park can watch a project unfold over days and weeks. People discuss their perceptions and ask questions of me, my colleagues at Madison Square Park Conservancy, the install crews, and the presenting artist. Oftentimes, park goers watch this process with a sense of wonderment and pride; I have seen groups of neighbors applaud an artist at key moments during a temporary work’s on-site creation. Once complete, the public role in public art is further revealed as people interact with the piece by walking around the sculpture, taking their lunch next to the work or considering the merits of the project in conversation with co-workers, friends and family.
Creating outdoor sculpture in an urban oasis like Madison Square Park is unlike any other art experience. In preparation for major shows, museums and galleries draw the curtain for behind-the-scenes activity. When the curtain is pulled back, an indoor exhibition is complete and camera-ready. There is great theatricality on the opening day. By contrast, in constructing public art in real time right before your eyes, people view almost cinematic progress as a sculpture is made.