When I visit Ryman at Marlborough days before the opening, the arrangement of the pieces is different from how it was at his studio: The flowers are clustered around the gallery's white columns, and the litter more neatly arranged beneath the overhanging petals. "They didn't want people stepping on the sculptures," he explains. He understands, of course, but having to compromise the reality of the garden irks him a bit. Later, he takes out his laptop and shows me a digital model of the 30-foot stainless-steel roses he wants to install along the medians between 50th and 57th streets on Park Avenue. The Parks Commission, envisioning the uplifting effect, is enthusiastic, he says.
"I was thinking of putting a crushed Coke can or cigarette butt inside a few of the flowers," Ryman adds, grinning, "so, you know, only people in the offices above can see them."