Antony Gormley: Event Horizon
Arts & Entertainment
by James Gaddy, 02/23/2010
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Madison Square Park has been waiting for Antony Gormley for 11 years. But is the City skyline ready for him? On March 26, the Turner Prize–winning British artist installed 31 sculptures cast from his own body along the sidewalks, rooftops and parapets of the Flatiron District, including the Clock Tower (formerly known as MetLife Tower) and New York Life buildings. Event Horizon, as the work is called, reprises his 2007 installation of the sculptures along bridges and buildings near the Thames River in London.
Debbie Landau, the director of The Madison Square Park Conservancy, says the organization has been trying to schedule a Gormley exhibition since it began art programming for the park in 1999. "The way that he works is very conversational and encourages an engagement with the art," she says. The sculptures are 6 feet, 2 inches tall and cast in iron and fiberglass. Four of them are placed at ground level in and around the park and directly interact with the daily life of New York citizens. For example, one resides inside the park and faces the popular food stand Shake Shack, while another faces the Flatiron Building at the historic intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway. The 27 other sculptures are arrayed on the roofs of buildings around the neighborhood. The viewer who engages with sculptures at ground level, Landau surmises, will likely look up and then notice the other figures along various rooftops. As the process of discovery unfolds, the viewer stands motionless also—a living sculpture created through the act of looking. As others notice, and become still themselves, the park and the surrounding area become a "field of figures," Landau says.
The subject matter is a change of pace for the park, where the public art most often involves the use of land and nature in the urban setting. The artist Tadashi Kawamata, for instance, built tree huts throughout the park in 2008. A year before, Roxy Paine installed two stainless-steel sculptures of trees and one giant rock. "We have been wanting to do a figurative show," says Landau. Wish granted: Antony Gormley's Event Horizon runs through August 15.