Sunrise Curtain, part of Russian-born artist Peter Rostovsky’s 2012 Percent for Art commission for IS/HS Spring Creek in Brooklyn, greets visitors with a large, pixilated sunrise above the school’s main entrance. The Percent installation also includes Sunrise Band—twelve adjacent oil paintings of different sunrises — in the school auditorium. Using the metaphor of the sunrise to allude to the dawn of knowledge, these two works welcome the viewer into the school, and back into the world as they leave the building. “I am particularly interested in how painting, as a traditional medium interfaces with new technologies,” says Rostovsky. His work brings an optimistic motif to the school while also casting a speculative eye to the technology that increasingly acts as a filter between us and the everyday.
Hardly apparent as an artwork during the day, the magic of Jim Conti’s light tower installation Assent Ascent fully reveals itself at night.
For two days every year, Open House New York (OHNY) Weekend gives the public a chance to engage more deeply with the built environment and learn about aspects of our city that are hidden in plain sight. This year Percent for Art commissions in two boroughs will be featured in the weekend’s activities on October 12 &13, located in New York Public Library’s Bronx Library Center, and Queens Public Library’s branches in Long Island City and Flushing. The pieces, pictured above, range from architectural elements like Yong Soon Min’s etched glass wall to interior features like Iñigo Manglano Ovalle’s exploration of DNA as a catalog, reflecting the diverse ways permanent art can enhance our public spaces.
Earlier this week, Percent artist Carrie Mae Weems was named a 2013 MacArthur Foundation Fellow for her work “examining the complex and contradictory legacy of African American identity, class, and culture in the United States.”
On September 10, local officials and community leaders gathered to unveil a new plaza in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. Marcy Plaza, located near the intersection of Marcy Avenue and Fulton Street, provides the neighborhood with brand new space for farmers markets, arts programming, people watching, and the myriad other uses New Yorkers find for public space. At the north end of the plaza, an intricate mosaic artwork is inlaid on the ground—Mathematical Star, a recently completed Percent for Art commission by Ellen Harvey.
On Aug 17th, 2013, the renowned Greek American artist Stephen Antonakos passed away at the age of 86. Antonakos was famous for his neon art, an interest he “discovered” when walking the streets of New York one night in the late 1950s. In 1990 he received a public commission through Percent for Art to integrate his neon installation as part of the renovation of the Marine Transfer Station at 59th Street. This work reflected his ideas about how purely geometric forms, “a vocabulary of great eloquence and efficiency,” can directly relate to architecture and space. Antonakos believed that neon alone “is capable of saying so much more,” since other unnecessary correspondences would limit the work’s meaning.
Its craggy face crowned by blue sky, Ursula von Rydingsvard's 10,000 pound bronze sculpture Ona - which we wrote about last month - is being installed in front of the Barclay’s Center in downtown Brooklyn. You can learn more about von Rydingsvard’s Percent commission, along with hundreds of others, in the Percent for Art project directory.
Stylized fishing rods, angels, or maybe ankhs, depending on the angle (all with a disco ball finish) sit in the West Harlem Piers Park along the Hudson River Waterfront. Nari Ward’s 2008 Percent commission - Voice I, Voice II, Voice IV and Signage Rail - was inspired by area residents the artist observed fishing from the site while doing research for this set of stainless steel sculptures.
On July 25th, Mierle Laderman Ukeles gave a talk at MoMA PS1 in Queens as part of the Speculations (The Future Is ____) series.The hour-long lecture provided insight into the artist’s ecologically-themed work as well as her role as NYC Department of Sanitation’s first and only artist-in-residence for the past 36 years. The artist also discussed the design of her Percent for Art commission—supported by the Sanitation Department—for the 2,200-acre Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island, a former landfill being developed into the massive Freshkills Park.
On July 17, the Public Design Commission’s annual Awards for Excellence in Design celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Percent for Art program. Signed into law in 1982 by Mayor Ed Koch and enacted the following year, the Percent for Art law became a model for other public art programs in the region.
In honor of this milestone, we revisit the fabrication of Percent’s first commissioned piece, Growth, a sculpture by Jorge Luis Rodriguez installed in East Harlem Art Park in 1985. The painted steel sculpture sprouts from the grounds of a formerly underutilized park—a community space transformed by this simple, dynamic work. Since the launch of Percent, the City has commissioned more than 300 projects in schools, courthouses, plazas, and other sites throughout the five boroughs, with 80 works currently in development. Click through to read about several new initiatives celebrating the 30th anniversary.
In 2003, Brooklyn-based sculptor Ursula Von Rydingsvard completed the Percent for Art commission pictured here, katul katul, a sculpture suspended in the atrium of the Queens Family Courthouse in Jamaica, Queens. The airy katul katul started out as a massive cedar block, as all of Von Rydingsvard’s pieces do. After carving a full-scale model of the sculpture from wood, the artist cast it in 220 sections of the plastic copolyetheline, which allows the cloud-like sculpture to filter light from the ceiling to the ground floor of the building.
Von Rydingsvard was recently commissioned by Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for a permanent piece honoring the arena’s one year anniversary. Ona, which is Polish for “she,” will also be carved from cedar before being cast in bronze. At 20 feet tall and 10,000 pounds, this striking piece will be the artist’s first permanent installation in the borough she calls home.
At the Weeksville Heritage Center in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn sits a sculpture made entirely of repurposed pieces of car tires, a Percent for Art commission by artist Chakaia Booker. Weeksville was a free black community founded in 1838 and rediscovered in 1968 by a determined instructor from the Pratt Institute and his friend from the Metropolitan Transit Authority who helped him scout the area with his very own propeller plane. Using archival maps and other records, they found four old shingled houses that didn’t align with the surrounding street grid – remnants of one of the country’s first free black communities, an incredible piece of history hidden in the middle of bustling Brooklyn. Ms. Booker’s bold piece pays homage to this remarkable past.
Public fountains are sputtering to life across the city, splashing away memories of the way-too-long winter. This includes Triumph of the Human Spirit, a Percent commission completed in Foley Square in 2000. Designed by sculptor Dr. Lorenzo Pace to commemorate the African burial ground discovered during the construction of a federal building nearby, this gleaming black granite monument soars over Manhattan’s Civic Center.
Adam Simon completed 12 x 3 x 4 at PS310 in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn in the summer of 2012. Deciphering the individual objects in the 22-foot-high mural is one of the artwork’s primary attractions. The colorful images are drawn from the lives of elementary school children; a bicycle, a scooter, a laptop, a jump rope, and other items a student is likely to encounter overlap to form a vibrant milieu.
More images of the piece can be viewed on the artist’s website.
Artist Michael Waugh received a Percent commission for IS611, a public school being built around the corner from the Brooklyn Bridge in Dumbo. Waugh employs a technique derived from ancient Hebrew calligraphy called micrography where sentences are hand written in dense tangles that form images when viewed from a distance. His series the more i see of men utilizes text from a number of government documents (for example the first image above consists of text from the 1981 final report issued by the Commission for a National Agenda for the Eighties) to render drawings inspired by 18th century etchings of dogs.