Leonardo Drew: City in the Grass at Madison Square Park

Leonardo Drew commissioned to create new site-specific installation at Madison Square Park

Madison Square Park Conservancy today announced that Leonardo Drew has been commissioned to create a new site-specific installation for the Park next spring. Marking the Conservancy’s 38th commissioned exhibition and the artist’s first major public art project, City in the Grass will present a topographical view of an abstract cityscape atop a patterned panorama. Building on the artist’s signature technique of assemblage and additive collage, the 100-foot long installation will be Drew’s largest and most ambitious work to date, incorporating new materials and a new conceptual premise. City in the Grass will be on view from June 3, 2019, through December 15, 2019, at the Park’s Oval Lawn.


"In this teeming urban space, Leonardo Drew's goal has been to bring people close in to his work, to study the swells and folds of his cityscape and to locate a personal place within the purposeful voids in the work," said Brooke Kamin Rapaport, exhibition curator and Deputy Director and Martin Friedman Senior Curator of Madison Square Park Conservancy. "This is a symbolic and literal multilayered project. The artist builds layer on layer of materials while using the metaphor of a torn carpet as a complicated reference to home, comfort, and sanctuary. Viewers can look down onto City in the Grassas if they are giants assessing a terrain; upon sitting along the Oval Lawn's green expanse, they will be able to embed themselves within the fabric of the sculpture."


For City in the Grass, Drew has conceived of an expansive aluminum structure that will undulate along the Park’s lawn following its subtle slopes and valleys. Meticulously layered with a mixture of multicolored sand and dirt, the structure will mimic a patterned carpet as its coarse, decorative surface gathers and folds, reflecting the artist’s interest in East Asian decorative traditions and global design more broadly. In various sections the artist will install wood reliefs emerging from the lawn, reminiscent of aerial views of protruding cityscapes. 


Celebrated for his assemblage reliefs that push the frontiers of collage, Drew composes his work with three-dimensional clarity and a symbolic logic. City in the Grass, the artist’s first horizontally oriented work, will follow his practice of using what he refers to as “new stuff.” While his treatment of materials—which often includes techniques like burning, oxidizing, and weathering—evokes found objects, Drew chooses to work with new materials that provide him with complete control of his material choices and compositional form. 


Added the Conservancy’s Executive Director Keats Myer, “We look forward to welcoming Leonardo Drew’s City in the Grass next summer to our Oval Lawn. Through this monumental, interactive, and visually dynamic work, Drew will encourage visitors to consider and celebrate their relationships to the cities they inhabit and explore, and the agency that each individual possesses in their making.”


In a significant departure for Mr. Drew — known for his wall-size, grid-based assemblages stuffed with weathered objects — he will orient a new work horizontally across the central lawn of Madison Square Park and introduce new materials including multicolored sand. Opening June 3, “City in the Grass” will be a sprawling undulating carpet stretching more than 100 by 30 feet, with a panoramic cityscape built on top of the colors and patterns of a Persian rug.

“This is a beautiful challenge,” said the artist, 58, explaining that the “public invasion” of the park is testing how far he’s willing to let people physically interact with his work. “Brooke is daring, and that’s why she will ask artists to realize outdoor works when they’re not outdoor-work artists. It does take a leap of faith. She’s there before you’re there.”


City in the Grass is organized by Brooke Kamin Rapaport, Deputy Director and Martin Friedman Senior Curator of Mad. Sq. Art and commissioner of the United States Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale; Tom Reidy, Senior Project Manager; Julia Friedman, Senior Curatorial Manager; and Tessa Ferreyros, Curatorial Manager. 


On view from June 3rd, 2019 through December 15th, 2019


Find out more: https://www.madisonsquarepark.org/uncategorized/leonardo-drew-city-grass

November 10, 2018