New York is full of public art this fall, what with Leo Villareal’s neon-hued Buckyball in Madison Square Park and Tatzu Nishi’s Discovering Columbus on the Upper West Side. Only a block away from Nishi’s towering installation, another large-scale installation–this one by Brazilian artist Saint Clair Cemin–brings abstract, modern sculpture to one of the busiest streets in the city.
Saint Clair Cemin on Broadway is the artist’s first public art installation in New York, where he has lived since emigrating from Brazil in the early 1980s. The outdoor exhibition is part of a small gallery show at Paul Kasmin Gallery, where six of Cemin’s more precious sculptures were on view until October 13th. But if you missed it, fret not: head uptown thirty blocks, and you’ll find seven of his monumental works tucked into pedestrian malls and niches along New York’s famous north-south artery, Broadway. Starting at West 57th and ending at West 157th, the 100-block-long installation stretches from midtown Manhattan nearly to the northern tip of the island.
Cemin works with abstracted, organic figures, which he often explains as relating to profound human emotions–the loss of his mother, for example. They “string together the rational, the unknown, the unconscious, and the dream,” write the curators of Six. In The Center (2002), shows a huge, abstracted white figure with hands clasped before him (or her), seemingly bowing to the pedestrians below. Without features or specific clothing other than a wide-brimmed hat and long coat, it might depict a Spanish priest or Orthodox rabbi. In Vortex, which sits in front of the Museum of Arts and Design, 40 feet of stainless steel spiral upwards. It’s full of wordless aspiration, longing, and ambition, reflecting the bustling commuters around it. The Four, installed outside of the 72nd Street subway station, is full of bombast, a copper ziggurat formed by aggregated pyramids. The monuments are increasingly abstract, but as universal symbols, they make sense amidst the endless flow of cabs, pedestrians and workers heading home after a long day.
Cemin was a fixture in the downtown art scene of the ’80s, where he participated in early happenings and renovated industrial art spaces in SoHo. He’s watched the neighborhood as it transformed from a gritty no-man’s-land to the tourist and real estate hotspot it is today. But Cemin says his work stands on its own apart from any historical context. “Each decade had its character, but I feel that from the very beginning my work has shown to be somewhat atemporal,” he tells Co.Design over email. “The difference between ‘uptown’ and ‘downtown’ is not relevant in what concerns the public in the streets. The majority of people do not go to galleries, but they are very responsive to what I do. It is an intuitive response and I count on it.”
Saint Clair Cemin On Broadway has none of the bombast of Discovering Columbus, but his pluralistic tone is a welcome antidote to more conceptually-driven work on view this fall. Still, he says he’s excited to head over to Columbus Circle to check out Nishi’s work. “I’m ready to discover Columbus with the help of Tatzu,” he adds. Meanwhile, Cemin On Broadway is on view through mid-November, so go check them out soon. More information about the pieces can be found here.