FriendsWithYou Brings Rainbow City to NYC


Samuel Borkson and Arturo “Tury” Sandoval III are trying to infect New York with a “happy virus.” The artists, who together form FriendsWithYou, are making their debut in the city this week with the installation Rainbow City, which, sponsored by AOL, is now on view at The Lot at 30th Street underneath the newly opened second section of the High Line. Tomorrow is the debut of the team’s first solo New York exhibition entitled “:)” at The Hole NYC on Bowery.

We caught up with FWY to chat about their 16,000-square-foot world.

Rainbow City is a universe of brightly colored and striped helium-filled sculptures on a striped floor. Each uses a single color, Borkson explained, so together they make up, well, a rainbow, or rather, a pantheon. Borkson calls them “gods.” And while there are some human-piloted characters walking around to the tune of the soundtrack that plays, the stationary ones also seem to have lives of their own. Some exhale smoke and some just appear to be breathing because of the gas inside of them.

“Because our medium is helium in these monolithic-type sculptures, it is kind of like they are breathing — they are living with you and almost dwarfing you — it helps to convey this religious and spiritual experience that people are used to inside of churches and inside of your usual spiritually evoking environment,” Borkson said.

When asked how Rainbow City holds up given that New York can be prone to extreme summer weather, Borkson explained that the city is reparable and sturdy. They treat it well too; Borkson said the sculptures are “like our little babies.”

And for all of FWY’s talk of their creation being comparable to a religious experience — they have said it’s inspired by the Hindu celebration Holi — the installation does resemble a refined Candy Land, meant for fun.

“It is really making play god-like, really making joy the actual thing to be praised versus just a standing figure,” Sandoval said.

Rainbow City was exhibited twice last year before making its journey to New York — at Toronto’s Luminato Festival of the Arts and at Art Basel Miami, where FWY lives.

“This is a really amazing incarnation of Rainbow City because it’s in one of the most personal but impersonal cities and it kind of gets to really at the heart of what we are really trying to do which is battle this crazy isolation that people feel,” Borkson said.

And their New York takeover doesn’t stop there. In addition to their gallery show, :), their creatures have been making stops all over town, but the city-within-the-city really is their sanctuary.

“We are giving this to people to incorporate in their lives somehow,” Borkson said. “New York City especially being your surroundings are all crazy concrete and really dark and not so colorful necessarily this is like a beautiful, magical, even monolithic garden that is blasting through the concrete city and growing right before your eyes.”

Rainbow City is on view through July 5.