Trust for Governors Island Announces New Public Art Commissions
Works by artists Mark Handforth and Susan Philipsz first to be unveiled in Art CommisionsGI program in Island’s new park spaces
Rachel Whiteread commissioned for site specific work on Hills, next phase of park
Island opens for public season on May 24, 2014
April 25, 2014. The Trust for Governors Island today announced the first projects in its new public art program, Art CommissionsGI .Works by the program’s inaugural artists, Mark Handforth and Susan Philipsz will be unveiled on May 24 when Governor Island opens for its 2014 season. Art CommissionsGI invites contemporary artists to create unique site-specific long term pieces for Governors Island’s park and public spaces. The Trust also announced today that Rachel Whiteread has been selected as the next artist to receive a commission for a work nestled in the Hills, the next phase of park already rising on the Island.
“Governors Island provides an opportunity like nowhere else in New York City to create public art,” said Ronay Menschel, Chair of The Trust for Governors Island. “We are so pleased to have the work of such extraordinary artists as Susan Philipsz, Mark Handforth, and soon Rachel Whiteread, in the new park and public spaces. Their works contribute to the unique qualities of the Island which make it such an important part of the City’s cultural and recreational life.”
Art CommissionsGI is curated by Tom Eccles, the Executive Director of Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies. Artists selected for the program create work that responds to the Island’s unique vantage point on the Harbor and Statue of Liberty, its landmark and newly designed landscapes, its chapters of history and its nascent democratic culture.
“Created by and for New Yorkers, Governors Island is New York City’s shared space for art and play,” said Leslie Koch, president of The Trust for Governors Island. “Art CommissionsGI builds on the Island’s reputation as a place that welcomes all forms of artistic expression to be enjoyed by New Yorkers.”
“As a site, there is nothing else like Governors Island,” said Tom Eccles, consulting curator. “Philipsz’s and Handforth’s works are a testament to the Island’s nature and character. These installations are as uncanny and mesmerizing as the Island itself.”
Mark Handforth’s exhibition of four totem-like works that pop up within Governors Island’s landscapes is titled “Sidewalk Island.” A Miami-based artist, Handforth works with material forms often found at street-level: lampposts, fire hydrants, traffic signs, fluorescent lights and other common place objects, seemingly effortlessly manipulating and enlarging their forms to surreal effect.
While his works are often monumental in scale, Handforth achieves a lightness and grace in “Yankee Hanger,” a giant, twisted coat hanger which greets visitors as they arrive from Yankee Pier and head into the new landscapes of Liggett Terrace and Hammock Grove. Handforth’s exhibition also includes “Saffron Star,” a five-point saffron colored star set in new lawn bordering the early 19th century wall of the Island’s South Battery, visible from Yankee Pier and the Brooklyn-bound ferry.
“Painted Phone,” is the focal point of the exhibition. A thirty feet tall bronze tree with lopped off limbs cradling a blue phone in the v-shape of its branches as if casually holding a cigar in its fingers, “Painted Phone” responds to the verticality of Lady Liberty in the distance with the vivid blue of the phone setting off the colors of the horizon. Nearby “Weeping Hydrant” is a molten cast iron version of its real-life counterpart, here like many of Handforth’s sculptures, subtly suggesting human form.
These pieces will be on view on the Island through 2015.
Susan Philipsz creates sculptures using sound and music to elevate listeners’ sense of their surroundings. The work is an often-haunting and elegiac catalyst to memory and the imaginary. For Governors Island, Philipsz was inspired by the military history of the Island and its location within the busy New York Harbor.
Commissioned as a permanent piece and selected through New York City’s Percent for Art process, “Day is Done” is a large-scale instrumental ‘call and response’ sound installation that spans the new park at Liggett Terrace and the Island edges at Yankee Pier. The work takes the four notes that make up the military bugle call Taps and separates them into two groups of four speakers located in Liggett Terrace and Yankee Pier.
In Philipsz’s work, each individual note comes from its own speaker, and they call out to each other across vast areas of space. Depending on environmental conditions, the solemn tune may come together in places and become recognizable depending on where the listener stands, but the notes can also be listened to individually where they may be reminiscent of ships horns.
The work is played every day at 6pm. Setting the work against the evening is both a reminder that ‘day is done’ and that it’s time to leave, but also adds an element of melancholy to the work as it can be experienced both on the Island and from the ferry leaving the Island behind.
Sidewalk Island and Day is Done are sited in and near the new park spaces designed by acclaimed landscape architecture firm West 8. The new 30 acre undulating landscape includes an expansive plaza with plantings and fountains, groves of trees and hammocks, ballfields and play areas, all with spectacular views of the Harbor and Statue of Liberty.
Rachel Whiteread’s commission will be sited on Discovery Hill, one of four hills now rising just south of the new park spaces. Scheduled for completion in 2015, the Hills are the culminating feature of Governors Island’s transformation. The Hills will be a place of inspiration and wonder with rolling lush landscapes, grassy overlooks, ascending pathways, unforgettable views and spaces for play and art. Made of recycled construction and fill materials, The Hills will rise 25 to 80 feet above the Island, and the summit of the tallest Hill will provide visitors with a 360-degree panorama of the Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor and the Lower Manhattan skyline.
Primarily known for her casts of ordinary objects and structures, Whiteread is a master at making audiences focus on the evocative absence represented by “negative space,” or those empty spaces without inhabitance.
Her piece on Governors Island will be a concrete cast of a New England-style wooden shed, meant to pose as a hidden retreat for introspection and reflection, provoking thoughts of Thoreau’s ‘Walden Pond.’ Over time, the surrounding vegetation of the Hill will grow along the sculpture’s surfaces, causing it blend into the hillside, contributing to its appearance as a weathered, secret hideaway. Bronze casts of such objects as cans and bottles will be scattered around the structure, representing the rusted and discarded human detritus found amid one’s retreat—acting as signs of life. Partially hidden from view, Whiteread’s piece will be a subtle yet deeply insightful addition to visitors’ journey throughout Discover Hill, offering a sense of wonder as people encounter this object that at once seems familiar and appropriate, and hauntingly disconnected from reality.
Art CommissionsGI joins OpenHouseGI as a signature program establishing Governors Island as a unique setting for art and culture. The OpenHouseGI program provides 150,000 square feet of space in historic buildings and acres of green space for recreational and cultural organizations to create events, exhibitions and festivals free of charge.
The Art CommissionsGI program is privately funded with generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts, ArtPlace America, Con Edison, New York Community Trust and individual donors. These commissions are produced in collaboration with the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. Mark Handforth’s “Painted Phone” was made possible with the support of George Lindemann. With thanks to Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery and Luhring Augustine Gallery.
Governors Island opens to the public on May 24 and will be open for seven days a week for the first time. The Island’s public season ends on September 28.
About The Trust for Governors Island
The Trust for Governors Island is the nonprofit corporation created by the City of New York that is responsible for the redevelopment and operation of 150 acres of Governors Island. The Trust’s mission is to transform Governors Island into a vibrant resource for New York City, making this island at the center of New York Harbor a destination with extraordinary public open space, as well as educational, not-for-profit and commercial facilities. For more information, visit www.govisland.com.