About the Exhibition
Metronome, a monumental public art wall located on the façade of One Union Square South, marks one of the largest private commissions of public art in New York’s history. Commissioned by The Related Companies, L.P., the Manhattan-based owner/developer of One Union Square South, under the direction of its founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Stephen M. Ross and David J. Wine, President of Related Residential Development, Metronome was designed by the artist team Kristin Jones (b.1956, Washington, D.C) and Andrew Ginzel (b.1954, Chicago, IL). Costing almost $3 million to produce, Metronome is an important gift to the city, which will successfully marry art with architecture.
“We are extremely pleased that The Related Companies is able to underwrite this public art commission. Art is an important way to contribute to the aesthetic value of a community, and we see Metronome as playing a key role in enhancing the Union Square neighborhood and, indeed, all of Manhattan,” stated Stephen M. Ross.
Visible for twenty-eight blocks, Metronome punctuates the southern terminus of Park Avenue South—just as Grand Central Station, with its south-facing clock, punctuates the street’s northern terminus. Overlooking Union Square, Metronome is constructed on the northern façade of One Union Square South, a 500,000-square-foot retail, entertainment and residential complex. Since One Union Square South occupies an entire block, developers at The Related Companies felt strongly that the art wall should complement the architecture of the building. “We see Metronome as transforming the way people view One Union Square South—bringing a new aesthetic to an exceptional location in the city,” explained David J. Wine.
In January 1996, The Related Companies invited the Public Art Fund to organize a national artists’ competition by invitation to select a design for the complex’s proposed public art wall. More than 100 submissions of the 200 nominations were selected to be reviewed by an advisory panel made up of representatives from: The Related Companies, the Municipal Art Society, the Union Square Community Coalition, and the 14th Street/Union Square Local Development Corporation Business Improvement District. The advisory panel also included members from the design team of Davis Brody Bond, LLP, the architects of One Union Square South, and additional members of the Public Art Fund. From the more than 100 submissions chosen for review, six artists were invited by The Related Companies to create proposals for the art wall and, in December 1996, artists Kristin Jones and Andrew Ginzel were awarded the commission.
According to Susan K. Freedman, President of the Public Art Fund, “We were extremely honored that The Related Companies asked us to spearhead the artists’ competition for the art wall. The winning proposal submitted by Kristin Jones and Andrew Ginzel will become a stunning addition to the city, providing an exciting and appropriate timepiece for the millennium and beyond.” She continued, “The creation of Metronome demonstrates that private commitment to public art is very much alive and well in New York City.”
Metronome, the title given to the new public art wall by Kristin Jones and Andrew Ginzel, explores the relationship between the city and time, evoking contemplation about how the city is in a constant state of flux. The work itself is composed of three primary components, containing a total of eight elements, which together create a composite work embracing the past, present and future of the city. Metronome encourages a dialogue between the public and their city as the eight elements evoke the city’s pulsing rhythms, daily rituals, and its astronomical and geological history.
The central component of Metronome measures 100 feet high and 60 feet wide and is formed of an undulating brick wall, entitled The Vortex. The Vortex, with its wave-like appearance, introduces the metaphor of the rotation of the earth that refers to the passing of time. This wall emanates from the heart of the work—a dark circular void measuring five feet in diameter and entitled The Infinity. This component is surrounded by gold leaf overlay, entitled The Source, which dissipates across The Vortex into gold fragments that diminish in frequency across the vertical plane. At the top of the central panel rests The Relic, a colossal hand of George Washington cast from the equestrian statue situated below in Union Square Park. The hand has been enlarged and serves as a direct connection between the building of One Union Square South and the park.
As a counterpoint, a massive rock, The Matter, thrusts up through the undulating brick wall below, grounding the work. The Matter is suggestive of geological time since it represents the bedrock of Manhattan. Meanwhile, The Focus, a metal cone measuring approximately 67 feet, draws the viewer’s eye towards The infinity and strikes a tone at noon and midnight, further contributing to the sense of the importance of time to the piece.
To the left of the central rectilinear panel, on the glass façade of the building, is a digital timepiece called The Passage, which counts the twenty-four hours of the day while simultaneously subtracting the time remaining in the day. The Passage, unlike the stability of The Matter, is meant to convey the energy, exhilaration and ultimate flux that is the essence of New York City. To the right of the central panel is the lunar timepiece, The Phases, which is symbolic of astronomical time. This timepiece is composed of a sphere, half of which is covered in old leaf, set into a socket that is synchronized to revolve with the phases of the moon. This gradual element is intended to contrast with the constantly changing digital timepiece.