Manhattan’s Madison Square Park has opened its 38th outdoor installation to the public today, dropping an evocative, interactive “cityscape” from sculptor Leonardo Drew into the park that will stay up until December 15.
The 100-plus-foot-long City in the Grass stands as a solitary statement on its own but also makes ample reference to the city surrounding it, including the Empire State Building, which looms over the park. The piece is a tapestry of colors, textures, and materials that simultaneously evokes growth, comfort, ruins, and intimacy on the park’s Oval Lawn.
Three stepped spires, the tallest of which tops out at 16 feet, anchor City in the Grass and are an obvious allusion to the Empire State Building to the north. Each spire is made from a mixture of plaster and latex paint, and Drew says that their eclectic appearance is a reference to Cuba’s dilapidated hotels, where peeling paint reveals the underlying structure.
Surrounding each spire is an abstracted landscape of black and white wood offcuts of varying heights, reminiscent of buildings, but without a specific reference. These urban islands “float” in between waves of steel panels adorned in colored sand and patterned after Persian carpet designs, literalizing the “ebb and flow” of urban life through peaks and valleys. The peeling, layered look of the carpet, complete with holes and seams that let the grass below poke through, is meant to evoke the feeling of a familiar, well-worn home item.
While the piece may look like it was assembled from found materials, Drew was quick to point out that he doesn’t use found objects; every piece and tear is deliberate. Drew is typically known for his wall pieces and City in the Grass is his first outdoor public installation. Appropriately enough, the piece is meant to encourage public interaction. While City in the Grass might look fragile, visitors are encouraged to sit, stand on, and explore it from every angle (just don’t climb on the spires).
City in the Grass was commissioned by the Madison Square Park Conservancy. As the exhibition will remain up throughout the fall and winter, visitors can experience the materials weathering in real time in response to the natural landscape around it.