Across NYC, 50 new public artworks respond to COVID and systemic racism crises

Posted On Thu, July 2, 2020 By

Posted On Thu, July 2, 2020 By In Art, City Living

L to R: Rafael Domenech, Peripheral poem 68 (countermonument pavilion); Andre D. Wagner, Old School, Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn NY 2020; Sharon Madanes, Pulse. All photos courtesy of the artists.

When coronavirus began to bear down on the city, the Public Art Fund conceived a way to bring an artful approach to the crisis. They teamed up with 50 New York-based, emerging artists for a multi-platform exhibition Art on the Grid. As the exhibit developed, though, “the parallel epidemic of systemic racism came into sharp and painful focus,” they tell us, which led to both crises setting the backdrop for this powerful public art series. Now on display on 500 bus shelters and more than 1,700 LinkNYC kiosks across the five boroughs, the exhibit showcases themes such as healing and loss; community and isolation; intimacy and solitude; and inclusivity and excitability.

Doron Langberg, Joe and Edgar, 2020. Courtesy the artist and Yossi Milo Gallery, New York. Photo: Intersection, courtesy of NYC & Company

The 50 artworks are displayed on spaces typically reserved for advertising and public messaging. They’ll be unveiled in two phases, the first of which occurred on Monday with 10 artists (those shown here). The second will showcase 40 more artworks on July 27. They’ll all be on view through September 20. To see all the works, the Public Art Fund has created this interactive map of all the locations and artwork details.

Arielle Bobb-Willis, West New York 2020, 2020. Digital photograph. Courtesy the artist.

Arielle Bobb-Willis, who created the work above, said of her piece:

This year has been a test for everyone’s mental health to say the least. The countless killings of black men, women, and children, the carelessness of our government, and the virus are incredibly triggering. Having to adjust can be difficult. Although photography helps with my depression it isn’t a fix-all. My healing process is ever-evolving and I wanted to create something that captures the continuous effort needed to stay afloat. This work is just a reminder to all that we will never give up on the pursuit of peace and happiness.

Andre D. Wagner, Old School, Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn NY 2020, 2020, Willis Ave between E. 144th St and E. 143rd St, The Bronx. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY. Photographic work as a part of Art on the Grid, presented by Public Art Fund on JCDecaux bus shelters citywide.

Andre D. Wagner, whose black-and-white photo is above, explained:

As the city starts to slowly open up, and I was thinking about the themes of reconnection and renewal, I wanted to make a work that felt uplifting. One day I was waiting at a bus stop in Brooklyn when I saw a man I know by the name of “Old School” spinning a basketball on his fingers. Basketball at the parks in the summer is a right of passage for Black boys and men, a way for us to escape and bond. So capturing this moment of joy was both nostalgic and about hope for the future.

You can see all 10 of the first artworks in the gallery here:

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