14th Street has been a part of my daily routine for over 7 years. Every weekday morning I elbow my way onto the L train and ascend into Manhattan at 14th Street and Third Avenue. Given my familiarity with the location for Art in Odd Places: Recall, I decided to approach the Festival with minimal reference. I was curious, how were uninformed New Yorkers seeing, witnessing and experiencing Art in Odd Places?
I initiated my viewing experience on Thursday evening. I wasn’t sure what (if anything) would be on view for the festival at that time, but wound up growing intimately familiar with several commercial storefront installations. The hunt for art in an unusual context was exhilarating. After passing several blocks without a clear AiOP work, I referred to the digital app. I was intrigued by the potential of Jordan Eagles’ Blood Projections, but alas, I couldn’t locate the work. I quickly realized that this journey was going to require some concessions. The artwork, in conjunction with the festival, wasn’t going to scream out, “Here, here I am! Look!” So, I decided to reorient myself into actively looking. Looking with great curiosity and intrigue like that of a child or a tourist.
I continued west- through Union Square park, passed Fifth Avenue and voila! A Hank Willis Thomas collage. The collage was pasted on the side of what was once a bank and now serves as a CVS.
Figure 1 | Hank Willis Thomas | “Black is Beautiful”
The scale of this particular wheat paste installation surprised me. Prior iterations of Black is Beautiful have occupied full rooms but this collage was positioned within a theatre show bill frame.
Shortly following my sighting of Thomas, I discovered Linda Hesh’s Chance Meeting Doorknob Hangers. The bold text design paired with playful phrases facilitated dynamic interactions with the city. I witnessed several individuals taking photos of the doorknob hangers while others stopped just long enough to read the phrase. I began to view the hangers as door fortune cookies.
Figure 2 | Linda Hesh | “Chance Meeting Doorknob Hangers”
The doorknobs and the pinups were the only two AiOP projects found during my odd, Thursday journey.
I continued my AiOP hunt on Sunday afternoon. It was certainly an idyllic time to view an outdoor art and performance event with cloudless skies and soft fall winds. I devoted myself to viewing the full length of programming along 14th Street (east to west). I trekked to Avenue C and discovered a silver box that didn’t seem like a familiar bus stop object. The silver object was faintly engraved with the words “LISTENING POSTS.” I placed my earbuds into the open plug and entered a fragmented series of seemingly disjointed interview outtakes. An elderly sounding woman discussed City Hall- An elderly man spoke about New Zealand – Memories of tenants – Utopian housing communities. Eventually the loop started over. I then slowly pieced together the narrative connecting the young female voice to the elderly male voice. They were neighbors recounting memories of their time residing within a brownstone to the left of where the “Listening Post” stood.
Figure 3 | LudiCity | “Listening Posts”
When I realized that this particular sound piece was intimately tied to the stories of tenants residing within the building to my left, I realized how frequently I view building facades as mere brick and building material. It was a wonderful reminder that the space within carries countless meaningful memories.
I continued west and entered a soundscape emanating from above. I am guessing a bit here, but I believe it was the work of Jantar entitled Eight Spaces of Empty Place. It was a wonderful discovery. A small white bench was positioned next to a hunter green construction wall. My first instinct was to view the bench as a sculpture, but I was overthinking- it was a place to sit.
A place to listen. And so, I sat.
Melodic and extended drones looped amidst the cross way traffic. Suddenly the sonic constancy of NYC was revitalized through a shared composition. I could have stayed there for hours but I relinquished my seat to a father and his two children.
Figure 4 | Jantar | “Eight Spaces of Empty Place”
After experiencing Jantar’s piece, I finally felt committed to this journey of looking, listening and remaining curious.
I found Alicia Grullon in mid performance along the south side of 14th St. and Avenue A. Grullon’s face was covered with a layer of small, rectangular newsprint pieces. The pieces revealed food advertisements. As she sat applying more newsprint to her face, she seldom caught gaze with her viewers. I watched as passersby asked her questions (her mouth was covered) and snapped photos with their phones. A woman who appeared to be a local resident turned to me and said, “Isn’t this great?” I agreed and she continued on her path toward the corner market. Sitting next to Grullon were 3 bags of food.
1, 1lb bag of jasmine rice ($3,250)
1, 1lb bag of dried beans ($3,000)
1, 1lb bag of unknown “unbleached” contents ($2,750)
Figure 5 | Alicia Grullon | “Revealing New York: The Disappearance of Other”
Recognizing these 3 bags in conjunction to Grullon’s actions were critical to the work entitled, Revealing New York: The Disappearance of Other. As Grullon silently performed, she pointed to the vast inequalities present on the very street that she sat upon. The performative protest actions were quiet but nevertheless visually arresting. I stayed with the work for approximately 20 minutes and then continued west.
Union Square was sprawling with street performers (as per usual). I expected to find work in progress by several AiOP performance artists. I watched as Lawrence Graham-Brown prepared for his performance, Game: Hunt, Capture, Kill. Graham-Brown’s performance start time was delayed for approximately an hour so I continued walking throughout the park.
I listened to “Ave Maria” as it burst and popped through a pair boombox speakers. Afterward, I was “blessed” by Our Lady of 14th Street. Carolina Mayorga (Our Lady of 14th Street) was then pushed out of Union Square on her own version of a pope-mobile.
Figure 6 | Carolina Mayorga | “Our Lady of 14th Street”
I also found LuLu LoLo standing proudly and posing with volunteers for her work, Joan of Arc of 14th Street: Where are the Women?
Figure 7 | LuLu LoLo | “Joan of Arc of 14th Street: Where are the Women?”
After passing through Union Square, I realized that I had been on the Art in Odd Places experience for 2 hours! As a performance art practitioner, I was most drawn to the live works but I enjoyed discovering Nicholas Fraser’s fragile text works entitled Drift. As the wind blew through Fraser’s installation, reflections of NYC glistened across the sidewalk.
Figure 8 | Nicholas Fraser | “Drift”
When I passed by Tim Thyzel’s ingenious umbrella tumbleweed sculpture, he had just finished primping it up. Its form seemed to evolve throughout the festival as children interacted with the work.
Figure 9 | Tim Thyzel | “Umbrella Tumbleweed”
I also discovered a few signs with phrases akin to the one pictured below. I’m still not certain if this was an official part of Art in Odd Places but I found the signs interesting.
Figure 10 | artist unknown
Finally, I concluded my trek across 14th Street by arriving to the Chelsea Piers. I tried to find Flux Flags by Johannes Rantapuska & Milja Havas. I never found the flags, but the peaceful view was a fitting place to end my Art in Odd Places journey.
Figure 11 | Chelsea Piers
Art in Odd Places is categorized as a festival but I prefer to think of it as a series of art happenings. You can attempt to seek out each programmed work but as the city is in an ever changing flux there follows AiOP. To experience a work of art accompanied by elements of surprise, both enriches and enlivens the spirit of the work. This is a great challenge and rare among public events, something that I believe AiOP pulls off rather well.