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Nick Cave invades New York underground with a symphony of glass and crystal dancers

On a scorching afternoon in late August, a highly concentrated team of specialized construction workers was moving down the corridor that connects Times Square y Grand Central Station, where the 42nd Street Shuttle is located.

There, under the streets of New York, more than two dozen figures made of vibrantly colored glass danced along the walls of the subway.

This Friday, September 10, MTA Arts & Design (Art and design of the local Metropolitan Transportation Authority) officially opened Every One (Everybody), the first of a three-part installation by artist Nick Cave, inside the new 42nd Street corridor.

The other two parts –Each One (Each) at the new ferry entrance and Equal All (All the same) on the central island platform wall – will be installed next year.

Nick Cave’s “crystal dancers”, a new attraction in Time Square.

To new times, new face

The $ 1.8 million budget for the project, commissioned by MTA Arts & Design, it is part of the global rebuilding and reconfiguration program of the 42nd Street Shuttle, which costs more than $ 250 million.

Cave, a sculptor, dancer, and performance artist, is known for their Soundsuits (sound suits), fabric sculptures that can be worn and they are made of materials such as twigs, wire, raffia and even human hair and often generate sound when the wearer moves.

Cave is also no stranger to staging art in train stations: in 2017 led a herd of 30 colorful life-size “horses” to Vanderbilt Hall from the Grand Central Terminal. When walking through the new improved corridor, figures on the wall are seen jumping and spinning in mosaic Soundsuits.

Nick Cave is the creator of Soundsuits, wearable fabric sculptures.

Nick Cave is the creator of Soundsuits, wearable fabric sculptures.

“It’s almost like watching a movie clip”Cave said from his Chicago studio when we interviewed him. “As you move around from left to right, you see it in motion.”

Since he was selected from a group of artists in February 2018, the sculptor began to wonder and worry about: How to transfer dynamic and fluid Soundsuits to static mosaic? The answer relieved him: no break in continuity.

A moving sculpture

When it came to New York to see Every One In early August, Cave commented, “I felt like I was in the middle of a performance, up close and personal.” And he added: “You felt directly this fast, different, visceral texture. You perceived the sensation in the movement and the flow of the material that totally resonated. “

He also explained that his sound suits have always been an amalgam of cultural references: concepts of shamans and masked dances that hide race, gender and social class who wears it and forge a new identity. They have ties to Africa, the Caribbean, and Haiti.

“It is very important that you can establish references, that you can connect with something,” Cave said. “In one of the mosaics in the hallway there is a sneaker. So that leads to this modern, urban moment. “Beneath a layer of pink and black raffia carefully crafted with shards of glass, a contemporary sneaker peeks out in shades of salmon, white and deep red.

German technology for an Australian idea

Cave likes the play that takes place there: the form is sometimes figurative, sometimes abstract. “At times it is identifiable and at times not,” he says. “But that’s the beauty of it all.” After finishing the design of Every One In early 2020, the sculptor chose the manufacturer Franz Mayer, from Munich, Germany, from a list provided to him by MTA Arts & Design.

The company, Mayer of Munich – one of the oldest architectural glass, stained glass and mosaic workshops in the world – understood Cave’s vision well.

The Mayer firm in Munich has been in the family of Michael Mayer, its current CEO, for generations. (Michael Mayer is Franz Mayer’s great-grandson.) Once the German manufacturer knows the artist and his perspective, the team can mosaic the scanned designs of the work.

Artists, Mayer says, “are the people with magic.”. The manufacturer prints the designs to scale, places them on a table and works on them. In particular, the Cave mosaic was made with a positive fixing method, which means that the glass pieces are glued directly onto a mesh backing, rather than creating the design upside down, like a mirror image.

For his new mosaic installation in New York, the artist ventures below Times Square.

For his new mosaic installation in New York, the artist ventures below Times Square.

“What is the stone that goes next to the next one and creates a certain symphony?” Mayer asks regarding the process. His team cut the pieces of glass, applied them to mesh mats, and the mosaic slowly and gradually grew outward.

A sculpture block with 11 digital screens

The finished piece measures about 44 meters on one side and 55 meters on the other, and is separated by 11 digital screens between them. For three minutes every 15, those screens will play videos of dancers performing in Soundsuits.

Shortly before the quarantine, Mayer visited Cave in his Chicago studio. Afterwards, the artist went to see the work in progress in Munich. While it was Cave’s first time working with mosaics, he is now more than interested in using this medium again.

I am thinking of mosaic as sculptureNot that it is only on the walls, but that it exists within the space that one travels when surrounding the work, “he observed.” So yes, I have been thinking about it since I entered this space.

And on 42nd street, his work will keep giants company: New York in Transit (New York in transit), de Jacob Lawrence, The Return of Spring (The return of spring) and The Onset of Winter (The beginning of winter), the Jack Beal, y The Revelers (The Revelers) by Jane Dickson are all glass mosaics from Times Square Station.

Roy Lichtenstein created his Mural de Times Square in vitrified enamel. Y Under Bryant Park (Under Bryant Park), by Samm Kunce, is itself a mosaic of glass and stone. “Times Square is the center of the world, of the country, “says Cave.

An artist connected to the community

Sandra Bloodworth, longtime director of MTA Arts & Design, highlighted the artist’s interest in other artists. Cave, he assured, is “an artist who cares about people, who is very connected with the community and very in touch with people’s feelings “.

Having an artist “rooted in that, whose work is what we are going to see when we return,” he continued, “when everyone returns and the city is revitalized, it is a simply perfect opportunity.”

Every One it is all movement, Cave notes. The crystal dancers, with their raffia and fur sound suits, reflect the hustle and bustle of the more than 100,000 people who traveled daily on the 42nd Street Shuttle before the pandemic: up to 10,000 passengers per hour.

The director of the MTA defined Nick Cave as an artist who cares about people Photo NYT

The director of the MTA defined Nick Cave as an artist who cares about people Photo NYT

On that scorching day in late August, the movement captured on the walls coincided with what was happening in the corridor under construction. A man in a helmet was splitting stone in the middle of the corridor with a water jet cutter.

Another carefully polished the newly installed mosaic with glass cleaner and steel wool. Sweat was dripping and workers were bustling all over the place, building new paths on the site. “We are not just spectators”Cave noted, “but we are also part of the act.”

Source: The New York Times

Translation: Román García Azcárate

E.S.​

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