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Stan Douglas, Elmgreen & Dragset, Kehinde Wiley : Moynihan Train Hall

Stan Douglas, Elmgreen & Dragset, Kehinde Wiley : Moynihan Train Hall

About

What makes a public building a truly civic space, able to evoke a sense of shared ownership and collective pride? In the new Moynihan Train Hall, a series of remarkable public artworks capture and express the spirit of democratic purpose, historical memory, and innovative design that characterize this new centerpiece of New York’s essential urban infrastructure.

The historic Pennsylvania Station, a Beaux Arts masterpiece designed by McKim, Mead & White, opened in 1910. Its demolition in 1963 marked the loss of a beloved architectural and civic landmark in the heart of the city. The state-of-the-art Moynihan Train Hall, completed in December of 2020 under the leadership of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, is a sensitive yet visionary renovation of the 1912 James A. Farley Post Office, the distinguished sister building to the original Pennsylvania Station.

Public Art Fund was invited by Empire State Development to develop and direct a program of ambitious art installations for three prominent sites within the Train Hall. In keeping with the redesigned building’s architectural integration of old and new, the art program commissioned three of the world’s leading artists to create large-scale, site-specific artworks that reflect broadly on notions of past, present, and future. These very different commissions, by Stan Douglas, Elmgreen & Dragset, and Kehinde Wiley, demonstrate each artist’s ingenuity and vision.

Stan Douglas has mined the history of the original Penn Station, giving heroic pictorial life to narratives from different moments in time using today’s most advanced digital technologies. Elmgreen & Dragset have dreamed an imaginary global metropolis into sculptural being, upside down, radiating the city’s irresistible urban energy. Using illuminated stained glass and inspired by classical frescoed ceilings, Kehinde Wiley has adapted the movements of breakdance—a form originated on the streets of the Bronx—into a lyrical allegory of dynamic human expression. Characterized by daring juxtapositions of old and new, these commissions are emblematic of the constant states of innovation and transformation which are quintessentially New York. They are captivating and powerful in different ways, each inspired by New York’s rich heritage, its diverse and talented people, and its creative spirit. Together, they give dazzling artistic definition to the generous, civic character of Moynihan Train Hall.

Stan Douglas, Penn Station’s Half Century

(b. 1960 in Vancouver, Canada; lives and works in Vancouver)
Penn Station’s Half Century, 2020
Ceramic ink on glass
Nine photographic panels installed in four niches: each niche 6′ 7 5/8” H x 22′ 2 ½” W x ½” D
Commissioned by Empire State Development in partnership with Public Art Fund

From 1910 to 1963 the original Pennsylvania Station stood one block east of Moynihan Train Hall, on the footprint of today’s Madison Square Garden. The demolition of the grand, Beaux Arts building, designed by eminent American architects McKim, Mead & White, is now considered an incomparable loss to the history of Gilded Age architecture and to the urban landscape of New York. In the Ticketed Waiting Room at Moynihan Train Hall, artist Stan Douglas’s nine photographic panels, arranged in three pairs and one triptych, reconstruct significant but little-known moments spanning the Station’s half-century lifespan, standing as vivid evocations of the city’s forgotten history. In order to recreate both the demolished building and these moments, Douglas undertook extensive archival research. Extrapolating from photographs, newspaper articles, and architectural plans, he restaged historical events by posing and photographing live performers in period costume. Douglas stitched together dozens of exposures to create each tableau, which he then set within exactingly rendered CGI (computer-generated imagery) backgrounds that faithfully reproduce the soaring ceilings and stately concourses of the original Station. Douglas selected events that chronicle the breadth of collective experience for which Penn Station served as a stage. With a cinematic quality, each scene revives history in uncanny detail, revealing this architectural landmark as a grand theater for the millions of human dramas that animate civic spaces and endow them with meaning.

Since the late 1980s, Stan Douglas has used photography, film, and theater to reconsider history and the means of its documentation, which define its shape in our collective memory. Born of exhaustive historical research, Douglas’s artworks bring new focus to overlooked events specific to a particular location. He frequently hones in on intimate, localized moments of spectacle and poignancy that speak to broader societal shifts. In restaging these events, Douglas consciously references the technologies he employs to bring them to life. In Penn Station’s Half Century, depictions of vaudeville performers, Hollywood set designs, and photo mural ad campaigns echo Douglas’s own artistic process, suggesting that photographic documentation has the potential to be a medium of fantasy as much as one of verisimilitude. Conceived specifically for the series of four architectural niches that anchor the rear wall of the Ticketed Waiting Room, the nine individual scenes are connected by multiple narrative threads and introduce subtle details that reveal themselves upon close examination. Penn Station’s Half Century is the artist’s first permanent public commission in the United States.

"1 March 1914" (niche 1, panel 1)
Stan Douglas Details on the historical figures featured in "1 March 1914," one of nine photographic panels that comprise "Penn Station’s Half Century," 2020. "Penn Station’s Half Century,"2020 is commissioned by Empire State Development in partnership with Public Art Fund for Moynihan Train Hall ©Stan Douglas. Courtesy of the artist, Victoria Miro and David Zwirner.

1 March 1914
(niche 1, panel 1)

On March 1st and 2nd, 1914, vaudeville performers from across the Eastern Seaboard were stranded in Penn Station during an epic snowstorm that brought rail traffic to a halt. Bert Williams, the legendary singer, comedian, and first African-American to direct a motion picture, recognized the talent in the room and instigated an impromptu vaudeville show to the delight of his fellow travelers. Douglas reproduces this serendipitous moment, where acrobatics transformed the cavernous Waiting Room into a theater in-the-round, and musical numbers turned its staircase into a stage.

Click the thumbnail to the left to view a reference image.

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"2 March 1914" (niche 1, panel 2)
Stan Douglas Details on the historical figures featured in "2 March 1914," one of nine photographic panels that comprise "Penn Station’s Half Century," 2020. Penn Station’s Half Century, 2020 is commissioned by Empire State Development in partnership with Public Art Fund for Moynihan Train Hall ©Stan Douglas. Courtesy of the artist, Victoria Miro and David Zwirner.

2 March 1914
(niche 1, panel 2)

On March 1st and 2nd, 1914, vaudeville performers from across the Eastern Seaboard were stranded in Penn Station during an epic snowstorm that brought rail traffic to a halt. Bert Williams, the legendary singer, comedian, and first African-American to direct a motion picture, recognized the talent in the room and instigated an impromptu vaudeville show to the delight of his fellow travelers. Douglas reproduces this serendipitous moment, where acrobatics transformed the cavernous Waiting Room into a theater in-the-round, and musical numbers turned its staircase into a stage.

Click the thumbnail to the left to view a reference image.

"22 April 1924" (niche 2, panel 1)
Stan Douglas Details on the historical figures featured in "22 April 1924," one of nine photographic panels that comprise "Penn Station’s Half Century," 2020. "Penn Station’s Half Century," 2020 is commissioned by Empire State Development in partnership with Public Art Fund for Moynihan Train Hall ©Stan Douglas. Courtesy of the artist, Victoria Miro and David Zwirner.

22 April 1924
(niche 2, panel 1)

In 1924 Celia Cooney, famously known as the “Bobbed Hair Bandit,” became a folk hero after evading arrest following a series of brazen robberies with her husband. Alternately characterized by the press as a working-class hero or a corrupted libertine, the sensationalized Cooney was finally apprehended in Florida and returned to New York City to face charges. Douglas depicts the moment Cooney arrived at Penn Station, restaging the New York Evening Post’s report of the event: “An unruly throng jammed the station platform…Fists flew, men shouted, women screamed…[Cooney] smiled broadly to the newspaper photographers and winked as a battery of flashlight “guns” exploded.”

Click the thumbnail to the left to view a reference image.

"7 August 1934" (niche 2, panel 2)
Stan Douglas Details on the historical figures featured in "7 August 1934," one of nine photographic panels that comprise "Penn Station’s Half Century," 2020 "Penn Station’s Half Century," 2020 is commissioned by Empire State Development in partnership with Public Art Fund for Moynihan Train Hall ©Stan Douglas. Courtesy of the artist, Victoria Miro and David Zwirner.

7 August 1934
(niche 2, panel 2)

In 1934 Angelo Herndon, a celebrated labor organizer, gave a series of speeches in New York City during his release on bail from a Georgia prison chain gang. Herndon had been charged with insurrection for organizing a peaceful interracial demonstration of unemployed workers in Atlanta. His case, twice brought to the Supreme Court, raised consciousness nationally around the inequities of the judicial system in the American South. Douglas portrays Herndon’s arrival at Penn Station, where Communist party members and supporters gathered in the thousands to hail him as a martyr in the cause for racial justice and workers’ rights.

Click the thumbnail to the left to view a reference image.

"20 June 1930" (niche 3, panel 1)

20 June 1930
(niche 3, panel 1)

Douglas’s third sequence of images in the series depicts three design interventions in the Station’s Waiting Room that signaled broader technological and societal changes. The scenes unfold over three decades, each shown in the early morning of June 20th, the summer solstice, as the sun pours into the Waiting Room and passengers begin to trickle into the grand space.

Penn Station’s Waiting Room boasted a novelty display of a trimotor airplane to promote a new, 48-hour coast-to-coast travel service operated by Transcontinental Air Transport in partnership with Pennsylvania Railroad and Santa Fe Railroad. The route took passengers by train to Ohio, by air to Oklahoma, by rail to New Mexico, and finally, by air to California. The ten-passenger vessel, dubbed The City of New York, was christened by pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart at its unveiling, for which it had to be taken apart and reassembled to fit into the hall. Though the line was too expensive for mass transit, it presaged the increased popularity and efficiency of air travel over the century and, consequentially, the dwindling demand for long-distance train travel.

"20 June 1944" (niche 3, panel 2)

20 June 1944
(niche 3, panel 2)

Douglas’s third sequence of images in the series depicts three design interventions in the Station’s Waiting Room that signaled broader technological and societal changes. The scenes unfold over three decades, each shown in the early morning of June 20th, the summer solstice, as the sun pours into the Waiting Room and passengers begin to trickle into the grand space.

During World War II, railroads proved vital to the war effort as the primary means for transporting goods and service people across the country. In 1943, six massive photo murals by designer Raymond Loewy were hung on the west wall of the Waiting Room to celebrate the almost 50,000 Pennsylvania Railroad employees’ service to the nation. Each depicted a representative from various professions within the Railroad: conductor, engineer, soldier, sailor, marine, and, most remarkably, “red-cap” porter, an essential occupation filled exclusively by Black men in the decades before desegregation. Ultimately, World War II would act as a catalyst for progressive changes throughout the 1950s and ‘60s in the United States, including efforts towards better labor conditions and a more racially equitable country.

"20 June 1957" (niche 3, panel 3)

20 June 1957
(niche 3, panel 3)

Douglas’s third sequence of images in the series depicts three design interventions in the Station’s Waiting Room that signaled broader technological and societal changes. The scenes unfold over three decades, each shown in the early morning of June 20th, the summer solstice, as the sun pours into the Waiting Room and passengers begin to trickle into the grand space.

By mid-century, air and automobile travel eclipsed rail as America’s primary modes of transportation, and McKim, Mead & White’s grand train station came to be regarded as outdated. In the final scene in this triptych, Douglas illustrates both the subtle ravages of time—such as the fading colors in Jules Guérin’s painted frieze of topographical landscapes, begrimed over the years by the residue of train exhaust—and a dramatic attempt to keep pace with modernity. In 1956, designer Lester C. Tichy was hired to create a futuristic Electronic Ticket Sales & Service Bureau, dubbed the “clam shell.” Though criticized for clashing with the historical architectural context of Penn Station, Tichy’s ticket counter became an important influence on celebrated modernist buildings that succeeded it, including Eero Saarinen’s swooping TWA terminal at JFK Airport. The installation of the ticket bureau proved a harbinger of the decade’s changing tastes and commercial priorities, as the McKim, Mead & White Station was demolished only six years later, in 1963.

"10 November 1941" (niche 4, panel 1)

10 November 1941
(niche 4, panel 1)

During World War II, Penn Station was a primary arrival and departure site for deployed soldiers, and thus a site for joyous reunifications and heart-rending goodbyes. Taking on a prominent place in the American imagination, the Station exemplified the hope, gratitude, sorrow, and sacrifice experienced by so many Americans during wartime. Douglas’s tender scene, based on photos of the time, shows a final moment of affection as soldiers bid farewell to loved ones.

"15 September 1944" (niche 4, panel 2)

15 September 1944
(niche 4, panel 2)

The last scene in Douglas’s photo series shows a soundstage from the 1945 film “The Clock” by director Vincente Minnelli. The popular film, shot entirely at the MGM studio in Culver City, CA, starred Judy Garland opposite Robert Walker, who played a soldier discovering New York City and finding love the day before his deployment to war. Douglas captures the vacant set—populated only by technicians, props, and lighting instruments—that would become the backdrop for the couple’s fortuitous meeting as well as their emotional parting. Much like Douglas’s own process, Minnelli’s film used artifice to recreate the nostalgic romance associated with the Station and its status as an iconic site in United States culture.

Elmgreen & Dragset, The Hive

Elmgreen & Dragset
Michael Elmgreen (b. 1961 in Copenhagen, Denmark; lives and works in Berlin, Germany), Ingar Dragset (b. 1969 in Trondheim, Norway; lives and works in Berlin, Germany)
The Hive, 2020
Stainless steel, aluminum, polycarbonate, LED lights, and lacquer
45’ 5” L x 22’ 5” W x 12’ D
Commissioned by Empire State Development in partnership with Public Art Fund

Suspended from the ceiling of the 31st Street Mid-block Entrance Hall, The Hive is a 1:100 scaled architectural model that offers a surreal and fantastical vision of a global metropolis. Dozens of illuminated high-rise buildings descend toward visitors, their downturned orientation inviting new and varied perspectives as visitors move around the space. Artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset has combined miniaturized skyscrapers of their own invention with iconic high-rise buildings from megacities around the world, distilling these towers into their most essential forms. This fictional city combines landmarks from Chicago, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, London, and Paris as well as iconic New York City silhouettes.

Titling the work The Hive, the artists suggest a link between natural and human-built structures, like the complex and evolving architecture of a beehive. They have also compared the ceiling-mounted buildings to luminous stalactites that pay tribute to the highly developed cities we live in today while reminding us of our cave-dweller origins. Familiar yet foreign, this uncanny, hybridized representation of an urban center highlights the globalization of architectural design and evokes the influence and interconnectedness of the world’s great cities. Like an inverted reflection of the cityscape just beyond the Train Hall doors, The Hive expresses the quintessential idea of New York City as a melting pot where cultures, nationalities, and ethnicities coexist to become greater than the sum of their parts.

Since 1995, the artistic duo Elmgreen & Dragset have created sculptures and installations that encourage novel perspectives on the structures and systems that govern our lives. Their works transpose and relocate everyday objects into unexpected arrangements and settings, often with subversive humor. Through recontextualizations of the familiar, the artists transform the quotidian fixtures of our lived environment—ATM machines, sewage pipes, suburban swimming pools—inviting new narratives and activating associations with broader societal tensions. Elmgreen & Dragset’s strategy of displacement fundamentally shifts our perception of our surroundings and often resists notions of conformity within our built and socio-cultural environments. In keeping with their practice and in visual dialogue with the artists’ works Magic Mushrooms (2015) and City In The Sky (2019), The Hive allows us a surprising perceptual and spatial relationship to a familiar view, the city skyline. The looming stature of the inverted skyscrapers is at once overpowering and enthralling. It evokes the magnetic draw of cities and the continual urbanization of our world. With buildings up to 9’ tall and integrating over .8 miles (1.3km) of LED strip, this is one of their most technically complex installations. The Hive is the artists’ first permanent public sculpture in New York.

 

Elmgreen & Dragset gratefully acknowledge their studio (Niklas Schumacher, Margo Lauras, Moritz Pitrowski, Rhiannon Thayer, Darius Am Wasser, Phoebe Emerson, Leona Tobien, Sasha Mballa-Ekobena) as well as Steelworks, Studio Barthelmes, UAP, Torsilieri, and Craft Engineering.

Kehinde Wiley, Go

Kehinde Wiley (b. 1977 in Los Angeles, CA; lives and works in New York City and Dakar, Senegal)
Go, 2020
Stained glass with aluminum frame, gypsum molding, steel structure, and LED light panel
17’6” L x 55’8” W x 10” D
Commissioned by Empire State Development in partnership with Public Art Fund

Commanding the expansive ceiling of the 33rd Street Midblock Entrance Hall, Kehinde Wiley’s hand-painted glass triptych celebrates the vibrancy and virtuosity of bodies in motion at monumental scale. Go is an exuberant depiction of young, Black New Yorkers in poses drawn from breakdance, the modern dance style, which originated on the streets of New York during the 1960s and 70s among African American and Latino youth. Wiley draws on the classical European tradition of frescoed ceilings, using a pronounced foreshortening technique (often associated with 18th century master Giovanni Battista Tiepolo) to create the impression of figures ascending to the heavens above. He captures them mid-gesture, against billowing clouds in a brilliant blue sky, lunging and twisting in poses that embody the combination of precision, athleticism, and expression inherent to this acrobatic style of performance. Wiley casts his subjects in roles traditionally reserved for saints and angels, depicting them instead as unique individuals attired in their regular streetwear. These contemporary avatars of the sublime are awesome in their gravity-defying abilities, yet familiar to any subway rider; an image of joy at the intersection of the epic and the intimate. Go extends the metaphorical language of light and divinity to reveal the talent, beauty, and power of Black bodies. Translating the urban environment into a celestial dreamscape, Wiley communicates an optimistic spirit of buoyancy, possibility, and survival.

Over the last two decades, Kehinde Wiley has gained recognition for his highly naturalistic paintings of Black and Brown people in poses and formats drawn from the Western art historical canon. He has often invited young people he encounters in urban centers around the world to embody a pose of their choosing from the portraits of European old masters, underscoring complicated and enduring socio-political histories that have determined the exclusion of people of color from much of art history. In recent years, Wiley has expanded his practice to the genres of statuary and public monument as well as the medium of stained glass. The three-part, backlit work responds astutely to its architectural context, echoing Moynihan Train Hall’s skylights and incorporating details of the ornamental ironwork from the building’s façade into the elaborate molding that frames the composition. Go is his first permanent, site-specific installation in glass.

Kehinde Wiley gratefully acknowledges Brad Ogbonna, Chelsea GuerdatDavid Muller of DCM Fabrication, Dee and Ricky Jackson, Dominick Conetta of DUN-RITE Specialized CarriersGabriella WilksJanine CirincioneJesenia PinedaJey Yaro, Jitka and Richard Kanta of SKLO, John Fedoroff, John Thomas, Kylie CorwinLya PouleyyMalak LunsfordRosey Selig-AddissSable BoykinSarina MartinezSasha BoykinSean Kelly, and Taquane Butler.

About Creative Partnerships

Extending our core mission to present dynamic exhibitions by the world’s most compelling artists and make culture accessible to all, Public Art Fund: Creative Partnerships brings strategic planning, curatorial, project management, and communications expertise to leading cultural institutions, corporations, and civic organizations across the globe. Through these collaborations, Public Art Fund commissions permanent installations and temporary exhibitions in line with the unique vision of our partners and the specific parameters of each site, resulting in new artworks that activate public spaces, create engaged constituencies, and amplify the impact of our partners’ own initiatives through the power of public art.

En Español: Sobre la Exposición

¿Qué hace que un edificio público sea realmente un espacio de la ciudad, capaz de evocar un sentido de propiedad compartida y de orgullo colectivo? En el nuevo Moynihan Train Hall, una serie de notables obras de arte públicas capturan y expresan el espíritu del propósito democrático, la memoria histórica y el diseño innovador que caracterizan este nuevo eje de la infraestructura urbana esencial de Nueva York.

La histórica estación de Pensilvania, una obra maestra de estilo Beaux Arts diseñada por McKim, Mead & White, se inauguró en 1910. Su demolición en 1963 marcó la pérdida de un apreciado monumento arquitectónico en el corazón de la ciudad. El moderno Moynihan Train Hall, terminado en diciembre de 2020 durante el mandato del gobernador Andrew M. Cuomo, constituye una renovación sensible pero visionaria de la oficina de correos James A. Farley de 1912, el distinguido edificio gemelo de la estación de Pensilvania original.

Empire State Development invitó a Public Art Fund a desarrollar y dirigir un programa de ambiciosas instalaciones de arte para tres lugares prominentes dentro de Train Hall. Siguiendo con la idea de integración arquitectónica de lo antiguo y lo moderno del edificio rediseñado, el programa de arte le encargó a tres de los artistas más destacados del mundo la creación de obras de arte a gran escala específicas para el lugar que reflejaran en líneas generales las nociones de pasado, presente y futuro. Estos tres encargos tan diferentes, a Stan Douglas, Elmgreen y Dragset y Kehinde Wiley, demuestran el ingenio y la visión de cada artista.

Stan Douglas explotó la historia de la estación de Pensilvania original, dando vida pictórica heroica a las narraciones de diferentes momentos mediante el uso de las tecnologías digitales más avanzadas de la actualidad. Elmgreen y Dragset soñaron una metrópolis mundial imaginaria como una escultura invertida, que irradia la irresistible energía urbana de la ciudad. Por su parte, Kehinde Wiley, mediante vitrales iluminados e inspirándose en techos con frescos clásicos, adaptó los movimientos del breakdance, una forma de baile que se originó en las calles del Bronx, en una alegoría lírica de la expresión humana dinámica. Estos encargos, que se caracterizan por yuxtaposiciones atrevidas de lo antiguo y lo moderno, son un emblema de los constantes estados de innovación y transformación que constituyen la quintaesencia de Nueva York. Son cautivadores y poderosos de diferentes maneras, cada uno inspirado en la rica herencia de Nueva York, su gente diversa y talentosa y su espíritu creativo. Juntos, dan una deslumbrante definición artística al carácter generoso y público de Moynihan Train Hall.

Stan Douglas, Penn Station’s Half Century (Medio siglo de la estación de Pensilvania)

(n. en 1960 en Vancouver, Canadá; vive y trabaja en Vancouver)
Penn Station’s Half Century (Medio siglo de la estación de Pensilvania), 2020
Tinta cerámica sobre vidrio
Nueve paneles fotográficos instalados en cuatro nichos: cada nicho mide 6′ 7 5/8” 8 (2 m) de alto x 22′ 2 ½” (6,75 m) de ancho x ½” (1,27 cm) de profundidad
Encargado por Empire State Development en asociación con Public Art Fund

De 1910 a 1963, la estación de Pensilvania original se encontraba a una cuadra al este de Moynihan Train Hall, en el espacio del actual Madison Square Garden. La demolición del gran edificio de estilo Beaux Arts, diseñado por los eminentes arquitectos estadounidenses McKim, Mead & White, se considera en la actualidad una pérdida incomparable para la historia de la arquitectura de la Edad Dorada y para el paisaje urbano de Nueva York. En la sala de espera tras sacar el boleto en Moynihan Train Hall, los nueve paneles fotográficos del artista Stan Douglas, dispuestos en tres pares y un tríptico, reconstruyen momentos poco conocidos pero significativos que abarcan el medio siglo de vida de la estación, y se destacan como evocaciones vívidas de la historia olvidada de la ciudad. Para recrear tanto el edificio demolido como estos momentos, Douglas llevó a cabo una extensa investigación de archivo. Mediante extrapolación a partir de fotografías, artículos de periódicos y planos arquitectónicos, hizo posar y fotografió a actores con trajes de época, recreando así acontecimientos históricos. Douglas unió decenas de fotografías para crear cada cuadro, que luego colocó dentro de fondos de imágenes generadas por computadora representadas gráficamente con rigurosidad, que reproducen de manera fiel los techos altos y la majestuosa explanada de la estación original. Seleccionó acontecimientos que describen experiencias colectivas de gran magnitud en las cuales la estación de Pensilvania sirvió como escenario. Cada escena, de calidad cinematográfica, revive la historia con un nivel asombroso de detalle, mostrando este monumento arquitectónico como un gran teatro para los millones de dramas humanos que animan los espacios públicos y los dotan de significado.

Desde fines de la década de 1980, Stan Douglas ha utilizado la fotografía, el cine y el teatro para reconsiderar la historia y los medios de su documentación, que definen su forma en nuestra memoria colectiva. Las obras de arte de Douglas, concebidas a partir de una exhaustiva investigación histórica, aportan un nuevo enfoque a los acontecimientos de un determinado lugar que fueron pasados por alto. Con frecuencia, se enfoca en momentos íntimos y localizados de escándalo y conmoción que hablan de importantes cambios sociales. Al recrear estos acontecimientos, Douglas hace referencia en forma deliberada a las tecnologías que emplea para darles vida. En Penn Station’s Half Century (Medio siglo de la estación de Pensilvania), las representaciones de artistas de vodevil, las escenografías de Hollywood y las campañas publicitarias de murales fotográficos hacen eco del proceso artístico de Douglas, lo que sugiere que la documentación fotográfica tiene el potencial de ser un medio tanto de fantasía como de verosimilitud. Las nueve escenas individuales, concebidas específicamente para la serie de cuatro nichos arquitectónicos ubicados en la pared posterior de la sala de espera, están conectadas por múltiples hilos narrativos e introducen detalles sutiles que se revelan al examinarlos de cerca. Penn Station’s Half Century (Medio siglo de la estación de Pensilvania) es la primera obra pública permanente que se le encargó al artista en Estados Unidos.

Elmgreen & Dragset, The Hive (La Colmena)

Michael Elmgreen (n. en 1961 en Copenhague, Dinamarca; vive y trabaja en Berlín, Alemania), Ingar Dragset (n. en 1969 en Trondheim, Noruega; vive y trabaja en Berlín, Alemania)
The Hive (La Colmena), 2020
Acero inoxidable, aluminio, policarbonato, luces LED y laca
45’ 5” (14,83 m) de largo x 22’ 5” (6,80 m) de ancho x 12’ (3,65 m) de profundidad
Encargado por Empire State Development en asociación con Public Art Fund

The Hive (La colmena), suspendida del techo del hall de entrada a mitad de cuadra de 31st Street, es un modelo arquitectónico a escala 1:100, que ofrece una visión surrealista y fantástica de una metrópolis mundial. Decenas de edificios altos iluminados descienden hacia los visitantes. Su orientación hacia abajo invita a nuevas y variadas perspectivas a medida que los visitantes se mueven por el espacio. El dúo de artistas Elmgreen y Dragset combinó rascacielos en miniatura de su propia invención con edificios icónicos de gran altura de megaciudades de todo el mundo para representar la esencia de estas torres.  Esta ciudad ficticia combina edificios de Chicago, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Londres y París, así como siluetas icónicas de la ciudad de Nueva York.

Al titular la obra The Hive (La colmena), los artistas sugieren un vínculo entre las estructuras naturales y las construidas por la humanidad, como la arquitectura compleja y en evolución de una colmena. Además, han comparado los edificios montados en el techo con estalactitas luminosas que rinden homenaje a las ciudades desarrolladas en las que vivimos en la actualidad al tiempo que nos recuerdan nuestros orígenes cavernícolas. Esta singular representación híbrida de un centro urbano, que resulta familiar y extraña al mismo tiempo, destaca la globalización del diseño arquitectónico y evoca la influencia y la interconexión de las grandes ciudades del mundo. Como un reflejo invertido del paisaje urbano detrás de las puertas de Train Hall, The Hive (La colmena) expresa la quintaesencia de la ciudad de Nueva York como un crisol donde las culturas, las nacionalidades y las etnias coexisten y se convierten en algo más grande que la suma de sus partes.

Desde 1995, el dúo artístico Elmgreen y Dragset ha creado esculturas e instalaciones que fomentan perspectivas novedosas sobre las estructuras y los sistemas que gobiernan nuestras vidas. Sus obras trasponen y reubican objetos cotidianos en disposiciones y escenarios inesperados, con frecuencia, con humor subversivo. Mediante recontextualizaciones de lo familiar, los artistas transforman los elementos cotidianos de nuestro entorno vivido (cajeros automáticos, tuberías de alcantarillado, piscinas suburbanas) invitando a nuevas narrativas y activando asociaciones con grandes tensiones sociales. La estrategia de desplazamiento de Elmgreen y Dragset cambia fundamentalmente nuestra percepción del entorno y, con frecuencia, opone resistencia a las nociones de conformidad dentro de nuestros ámbitos construidos y socioculturales. En consonancia con su práctica y en diálogo visual con sus obras Magic Mushrooms (Hongos mágicos) (2015) y City In The Sky (Ciudad en el cielo) (2019), The Hive (La colmena) nos permite una sorprendente relación perceptiva y espacial con una vista familiar: los edificios de la ciudad perfilados contra el horizonte. La imponente talla de los rascacielos invertidos es a la vez abrumadora y fascinante. Evoca la atracción magnética de las ciudades y la continua urbanización de nuestro mundo. Con edificios de hasta 9 pies (2,75 m) de altura y más de 0,8 millas (1,3 km) de tira de LED, esta es una de sus instalaciones más complejas desde el punto de vista técnico. The Hive (La colmena) es la primera escultura pública permanente de los artistas en Nueva York.

Elmgreen y Dragset le agradecen a su estudio (Niklas Schumacher, Margo Lauras, Moritz Pitrowski, Rhiannon Thayer, Darius Am Wasser, Phoebe Emerson, Leona Tobien, Sasha Mballa-Ekobena) así como a Steelworks, Studio Barthelmes, UAP, Torsilieri y Craft Engineering.

Kehinde Wiley, Go (Adelante)

(n. en 1977 en Los Ángeles, CA; vive y trabaja en la ciudad de Nueva York y en Dakar, Senegal)
Go (Adelante), 2020
Vitral con marco de aluminio, moldura de yeso, estructura de acero y panel de luz LED
17’6” (5,35 m) de alto x 55’8” (16,96 m) de ancho x 10” (25 cm) de profundidad
Encargado por Empire State Development en asociación con Public Art Fund

El tríptico de vidrio pintado a mano de Kehinde Wiley, que domina el extenso techo del hall de entrada a mitad de cuadra en 33rd Street, celebra el dinamismo y el virtuosismo de los cuerpos en movimiento a escala monumental. Go (Adelante) es una representación desbordante de vida y entusiasmo de jóvenes neoyorquinos negros en poses tomadas del breakdance, el estilo de baile moderno que se originó en las calles de Nueva York durante las décadas de 1960 y 1970 entre la juventud afroamericana y latina. Wiley se inspira en la tradición europea clásica de techos con frescos y utiliza una técnica de escorzo pronunciado (que suele asociarse al maestro del siglo XVIII Giovanni Battista Tiepolo) para crear la impresión de figuras que ascienden a los cielos. Los captura en medio de un gesto, sobre un fondo de nubes espesas en un cielo azul brillante, moviéndose con ímpetu y retorciéndose en poses que plasman la combinación de precisión, atletismo y expresión inherente a este estilo acrobático de baile. Wiley coloca a sus personajes en roles tradicionalmente reservados para santos y ángeles, representándolos como personas únicas ataviadas con su ropa de calle habitual. Estos avatares contemporáneos de lo sublime son increíbles en sus habilidades para desafiar la gravedad, aunque resultan familiares para cualquier viajero del metro: una imagen de alegría en la intersección de lo épico y lo íntimo. Go (Adelante) extiende el lenguaje metafórico de la luz y la divinidad y revela el talento, la belleza y el poder de los cuerpos negros. Al traducir el entorno urbano en un paisaje de ensueño celestial, Wiley comunica un espíritu optimista de flotabilidad, posibilidad y supervivencia.

En las últimas dos décadas, Kehinde Wiley ha ganado reconocimiento por sus pinturas sumamente naturalistas de personas negras y marrones en poses y formatos tomados del canon histórico del arte occidental. Con frecuencia, ha invitado a jóvenes que encuentra en los centros urbanos de todo el mundo a encarnen una pose que elijan de los retratos de los viejos maestros europeos, subrayando historias sociopolíticas complicadas y prolongadas que han determinado la exclusión de las personas de color de gran parte del arte. En los últimos años, Wiley ha ampliado su práctica a los géneros de estatuas y monumentos públicos, así como al medio de vitrales. La obra, que consta de tres partes con iluminación posterior, responde con astucia a su contexto arquitectónico: aprovecha los tragaluces de Moynihan Train Hall e incorpora detalles del trabajo de hierro ornamental de la fachada del edificio en la elaborada moldura que enmarca la composición. Go (Adelante) es su primera instalación de vidrio permanente específica para un lugar.

Kehinde Wiley les agradece a Brad Ogbonna, Chelsea Guerdat, David Muller de DCM Fabrication, Dee y Ricky Jackson, Dominick Conetta de DUN-RITE Specialized Carriers, Gabriella Wilks, Janine Cirincione, Jesenia Pineda, Jey Yaro, Jitka y Richard Kanta de SKLO, John Fedoroff, John Thomas, Kylie Corwin, Lya Pouleyy, Malak Lunsford, Rosey Selig-Addiss, Sable Boykin, Sarina Martinez, Sasha Boykin, Sean Kelly y Taquane Butler.