The Madison Square Art program does it again. As residents of Flatiron rental apartments well know, in addition to providing a lovely, well-designed oasis of grassy lawns, winding paths, and plenty of benches, the great Madison Square Park has emerged as one of the city’s pre-eminent stages for public art, year after year commissioning unexpected works by some of the world’s most sought-after artists.
My own personal list of recent favorites from the Madison Square Art program–jaw-dropping pieces that somehow fit neatly into the park’s landscape–would include Roxy Paine’s steel trees of 2007, Jaume Plensa’s stunning big white head, growing in the grass last summer; and Antony Gormley’s mysterious metal men–were they angels? demons?–who watched over the area in 2010.
Anyway, this year’s summertime installation at Madison Square Park was unveiled last week, Pet Sounds by the California-based Charles Long, and it certainly is the brightest, blobbiest, and strange-noisiest installation the neighborhood’s ever seen.
And while I’m not quite convinced by the introduction of a large patch of gravel to the Madison Square Park’s main lawn (which gets crowded enough with sunbathers during peak season, and now will have 30% or so LESS lie-down-able space), Charles Long’s Pet Sounds certainly adds a fun, almost playgroundish interactive element to the proceedings.
The structure of Pet Sounds is simple: different colored handrails flank gravel pathways at the south, east, and western ends of the lawn, leading to a central plaza with benches… and where each handrail transforms into a big, flabby, organic-looking “pet” which, when stroked, emit a series of eerie cries, or songs.
Some of Charles Long’s pets reminded me of sea creatures–perhaps a manatee–while others, especially the bright pink one, looked more like giant wads of chewed up gum. Either way, Pet Sounds is definitely worth checking out, and it’s always nice to see that Madison Square Art refuses to play it safe.
Charles Long: Pet Sounds will be on view as part of Madison Square Art from now through September 9. Come before June 1 and get some excellent food at Madison Square Eats, as vendors like Roberta’s Pizza, Calexico, Mile End, Hot Blondies Bakery, ASIADOG and Birch Coffee take over the central square. Lots more info on everything here.
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