Madison Square Park Conservancy‘s Senior Curator Brooke Kamin Rapaport speaks to the creation of a bronze landscape by Italian artist Giuseppe Penone in New York City.
Installation Magazine: What is your curatorial background?
Brooke Kamin Rapaport: Prior to Madison Square Park, I worked as an independent curator and art writer. As guest curator at The Jewish Museum in New York, I organized Houdini: Art and Magic (2010) and The Sculpture of Louise Nevelson: Constructing a Legend (2007). I was the assistant curator (1989 to 1993) and associate curator (1993 to 2002) of Contemporary art at the Brooklyn Museum where I organized numerous exhibitions including installations by contemporary artists in the Grand Lobby series. I worked with Meg Webster, Houston Conwill, Donald Lipski and Komar and Melamid to realize their monumental projects (1990-1995). I am a contributing editor and frequent writer for Sculpture magazine and also blog on artists’ materials and process at www.sculpture.org.
Have you ever worked with an installation of this scale before?
At Madison Square Park, working with Giuseppe Penone on Ideas of Stone was inspiring. The scale of the installation is majestic and the artist had an acute sense of where each bronze tree sculpture was best placed within the park’s landscape.
How was the location determined?
Giuseppe Penone visited Madison Square Park several years ago to view the site and to determine how people interacted in a green oasis in the middle of Manhattan. He recently commented on how the park’s perimeter – the historic skyscrapers, and dissonant cars, taxis, bicycles, traffic, and pedestrians – influenced his vision for the installation. He also had in mind the changing seasons and how the live trees would impact the sculpture trees. Penone sited the three sculptures, Idee di pietra – Olmo (Ideas of Stone – Elm), Triplice (Triple) and Idee di pietra – 1303 kg di luce (Ideas of Stone – 1303 kg of Light) and was sensitive to the correct placement of each work on the Oval Lawn.
How does the space influence the experience of the installation?
The three bronze sculptures are subtle and contemplative. Visitors to the park are mesmerized by their quietude and have taken to them as a refuge. Penone’s trees have become our trees, really, because they further animate and consider the flora already on site.
What was your experience working with the artist?
Giuseppe Penone was a pleasure to work with. He is a world-class sculptor, an exacting artist whose goal for Madison Square Park was not simply the display of his three bronze trees, but how the viewer will recognize and respond to them. At the outset of the installation, he determinedly walked around the site to take in installation angles and determine how best the viewer would experience the objects.
What challenges were presented given the large-scale of the work?
When the artist arrived on site in New York from Turin and surveyed the site, he immediately knew Ideas of Stone – Elm should move to the North area of the Oval Lawn. It was a switch from the original plan, but his updated idea for placement was correct.
What are your hopes for the installation? What kind of experience do you hope that the public will walk away with?
The public is fascinated because the bronze sculptures are true to life – they were cast in Italy from actual Elm, Nettle and Chestnut trees. Their location on the Oval Lawn – amidst mature trees – has been happily confounding to some. When people look closely, they are amazed that heavy, ponderous boulders are nestled into the tree branches and trunks. Those moments of fascination, enrapture and investigation is what we wish for our audience.
Featured image: Installation view of Giuseppe Penone’s Ideas of Stone (Idee di pietra) in Madison Square Park, 2013, photography by James Ewing, © of Madison Square Park Conservancy