You’ve touched it, sat on it, squinted at it from across the street. The abundance of public art is one of New York City’s best features, and when the snow melts and the air warms, there’s nothing better than walking by that weird, bulbous sculpture you pass on your way to work every day and actually noticing it. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation’s Art in the Parks program puts artwork of all stripes in parks across the boroughs. Here’s a roundup of the most wonderfully strange art installations that are coming down this spring and summer. Catch them before they disappear!
Tree of Life
Until June 1, 2015
Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
Seven members of the Art Students League of New York collaborated on this eighteen-foot sculpture, which would find a happy home on the head of a court jester. The base is made up of fourteen metal poles that branch out at the top, with a representation of a different invertebrate native to Van Cortlandt Park dangling from each. You can find it in the southwest section of the park, near the Van Cortlandt House Museum.
Until August 30, 2015
Doris C. Freedman Plaza
Central Park, Manhattan
For her first public commission in the U.S., Italian-born, Paris-based artist Tatiana Trouvé mapped out and measured 212 walking paths in Central Park. She then created 212 spools, each one corresponding in length to one pathway, and mounted them on a huge, three-tiered metal structure in the southeast corner of Central Park. It’s meant to encourage contemplation about the act of taking a walk, which is akin to breathing for most New Yorkers. So walk on over to Desire Lines — it’ll be a good excuse for your first visit of the spring.
See also: The Village Voice‘s Exclusive Banksy Interview
Until August 19, 2015
Sara D. Roosevelt Park, Manhattan
No, those aren’t remnants of a construction project — that’s art. Specifically, it’s 30,000 pounds of recycled rubber and salvaged wood, and it takes up almost an entire city block in Sara D. Roosevelt Park on the Lower East Side. American artist Jarrod Beck designed the piece to mimic tectonic plates. A quick glance reveals a dusty pile of rubber, but when you look closely, the undulating layers are mesmerizing, almost hypnotic.
Until May 4, 2015
Union Square Park, Manhattan
Sculptor Jim Rennert originally conceived of this statue of a suited man looking up to the sky as a two-inch figurine. At twelve feet, the sculpture more than surpassed Rennert’s expectations, and he entitled the result THINK BIG as a way of inspiring others to, well, think big. The sculpture stands in the middle of the median where Broadway and Fourth Avenue merge into Union Square East, and if you stand there while the traffic rushes by to your left and right and gaze up at the Manhattan skyline, you’ll feel like Michael Bloomberg and Robert Moses all in one. Go, feel the power!
Until April 19, 2015
Madison Square Park, Manhattan
Move over, Shake Shack — there’s a new attraction in Madison Square Park, and it’s a lot more appealing than an hour-long wait for a burger. New York artist Paula Hayes‘s Gazing Globes have taken over the south end of the park, each one filled with pieces of cast-off technology — used batteries, recycled plastic bits, old computer parts — and coated on the bottoms and sides with a dusting of glitter made from crushed CDs. The installation, which went up in the middle of the February cold snap, is an attempt, the artist said, to give the park “an arctic feeling, a winter wonderland.” Call me crazy, but I think it looks just fine in the spring sunshine.
Con Ed Ball
Until April 6, 2015
Broadway and 79th, Manhattan
Vermont artist Lars-Erik Fisk’s Con Ed Ball is part of “Broadway Morey Boogie,” a series of installations placed at ten sites on Broadway between Columbus Circle and 166th Street. Fisk’s piece — which looks kind of like a circular spaceship emblazoned with the utility company’s familiar blue-and-white-striped logo — is in keeping with a series of “ball” pieces he’s done: He’s made a VW Bus Ball, a John Deere Tractor Ball, a UPS Truck Ball, and more. We’re just glad Fisk decided to drop one of his balls on Broadway.
96th Street Aperture
Until April 6, 2015
Broadway and 96th, Manhattan
Also part of “Broadway Morey Boogie,” Milwaukee artist Paul Druecke‘s 96th Street Aperture looks just like any other informative plaque you’d see in a public park — except this one has a giant hole in the middle of it. The coolest thing about this piece is that the image in the middle changes depending on where you’re standing, so the viewer is, in a sense, part creator. Did I just blow your mind?
Until March 31, 2015
First Street Green Park, Manhattan
Anthony Heinz May‘s sculpture is so simple it sounds redundant: It’s a tree made of wood. Many of his pieces combine natural materials and the gridded, pixelated patterns so common on our digital platforms. Don’t worry if you can’t pronounce the name of this piece — May conjured up the title after discovering a translator of Unami/Delaware languages, dialects spoken by New York’s original Native American inhabitants. Pronounced “Touee-tee Heet-kook,” it means “few trees.”
Until September 14, 2015
Tappen Park, Staten Island
The weather is no longer an excuse to keep you off the Staten Island Ferry. Now that it’s warming up, journey down the Hudson River and visit this installation at Tappen Park, just a five-minute SIR ride from the St. George Terminal, where the ferry docks. Created by DB Lampman, an artist and resident of Staten Island, The Dance is a solemn piece. Inspired by Henri Matisse’s painting of the same name, the installation features five white-clad figures floating fifteen feet above the ground. Lampman, who trained as a dancer until the age of twenty, was inspired by her Staten Island community’s rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Sandy.
Until March 31, 2015
Tribeca Park, Manhattan
Nothing says “New York” like a pile of garbage! Seoul-based artist Gimhongsok is responsible for this piece, which resembles a giant, crinkly teddy bear made of garbage bags. In reality, the five-foot-tall Bearlike Construction is made of bronze, and sits in the tiny park at Beach Street and West Broadway. If you speed past it, you’d be forgiven for mistaking the installation for actual garbage. It’s not, of course, but it is pretty cool to live in a city where trash and art compete for public space.