A Striking Sculpture Is Coming to the High Line in May

Installation view, Phyllida Barlow, ‘folly’, British Pavilion, 57th Venice Biennale, Italy, 2017
Installation view, Phyllida Barlow, ‘folly’, British Pavilion, 57th Venice Biennale, Italy, 2017 | Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Ruth Clark © British Council
Photo of Rachel Gould
Art & Design Editor30 April 2018

An arresting sculpture by British artist Phyllida Barlow is soon to be unveiled on the High Line.

Gritty and industrial, holedhoarding was showcased amid folly, the immersive world Barlow created for the British Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale. On May 5, the 30-foot-tall sculpture will take on a new context as prop on Manhattan’s beloved High Line pathway.

A patchwork box featuring two asymmetrical holes is propped up by steel bars, at the base of which debris (cinderblocks and wooden planks, among other building materials) is strewn. The sculpture is an extension of Barlow’s unusual Pop-art-meets-Arte-Povera aesthetic, by which she employs bright colors and found materials such as plaster, lumber, textiles, Styrofoam, and cardboard to foster playful and, at times, disorienting environments.

prop will be presented by High Line Art, an organization that commissions and produces public art projects across Manhattan’s elevated walkway. “With her large-scale installations, Barlow constructs imposing works that play between the monumental scale of public art and architecture and the precariousness of her chosen materials and compositions,” said High Line Art in a press release. “Her works evoke the dual façades of theater and architecture and the stories they construct.”

The reconfiguring of existing artworks for new spaces is a common practice for Barlow, who has historically presented new iterations of old pieces. “As with much of Barlow’s oeuvre, the work points to the area’s industrial past and how architecture, like art, is perpetually cannibalized from one generation to the next,” said High Line Art. Not only will prop be the first artwork to inhabit the High Line’s Northern Spur Preserve; it will also be the artist’s first public commission in the United States.

prop is a reminder of what might remain from an industrial past,” Barlow said in a statement. “It is an ambiguous object—although dependent on a hoarding structure, it cannot be that… the existing hoardings visible along the High Line are vast, supported by industrially fabricated structures; prop is a mere shadow of those contemporary monuments; in comparison to them, it is is a frail copy—a prop in every way: a fake, and a pretense—other than its vacant circular orifices offering a sight line to what lies beyond…”

prop will be on view from May 5, 2018 through March 2019 at the Northern Spur Preserve over 10th Avenue at 16th Street, New York, NY 10011.

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