Our Starry Night
This spring, a new sculpture by James Yamada entitled Our Starry Night, will be on view at Doris C. Freedman Plaza at Fifth Avenue and 60th Street. Built from powder coated aluminum and punctuated with 1,900 colored LED lights, Our Starry Night is a 12-foot-tall sculpture that acts as an interactive passageway to Central Park. As visitors to the park walk through the sculpture at all hours of the day and night, it will illuminate in response to each person individually.
When visitors walk through the portal in the piece, they trigger a metal detector hidden inside the structure's casing. This activates the LED lights that perforate the exterior of the sculpture. Common everyday metal objects such as cell phones, keys, belts, jewelry, cameras, computers, and the like will trigger the lights; the luminosity and the light patterns seen in the piece will correspond to the quantity of metal detected. Our Starry Night is literally activated by the public, reinforcing the notion that art — and particularly public art — is dependent on the people around it.
The sculpture will only be illuminated while the participant is standing within the passageway, and therefore he or she will not be able to see the light patterns being created on the exterior surfaces. The lighting will instead be visible to passersby on the street corner and in the park, who will see the faade of the sculpture illuminate. Those passersby will be the receivers of the information and will be in a position to observe the correspondence between how much metal each participant is carrying and how that will be revealed on the surface of the sculpture.
In this work, Yamada calls our attention to the expanding, yet increasingly subtle presence of surveillance in the contemporary world. It also points towards such philosophical and political considerations as the loss of privacy in the name of greater safety and the use of personal information. By aesthetically and physically engaging viewers, Yamada questions these topics, and in so doing, involves us in the way information is revealed and used.
Yamada works in a variety of media and has previously created interactive works that have included aspects of nature, satellites, weather, and wildlife, among other themes. For example, his sculpture Under a Brilliant Sky (2004) which was exhibited at Art Basel, consists of a light-box sign displaying the title of the piece, which Yamada connected to a solar panel installed outdoors; the phrase then glowed and dimmed with the sun, in effect, creating a portrait of the sky.
About James Yamada
James Yamada was born in Bat Cave, North Carolina in 1967, and received his MFA in painting from Yale University in 1993. He has had recent exhibitions at Raucci/Santamaria Gallery, Naples; Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York; Momenta Art, Brooklyn, New York; and Sculpture Center and P.S.1, both in Long Island City, New York. Yamada lives and works in Brooklyn.
Location and Directions
Our Starry Night will be on view at Doris C. Freedman Plaza, at 60th Street and Fifth Avenue, at the entrance to Central Park. Subways: N, R to Fifth Avenue; 4, 5, 6 to 59th St/Lexington Ave. The work is free to the public and is on view daily.
Doris C. Freedman Plaza is named for the founder of the Public Art Fund and has been the site of more than 50 artist projects and commissions since 1977, featuring works by both internationally known and emerging artists including Liz Larner, Sarah Sze, Paul McCarthy, Keith Edmier, Mark Handforth, and Damián Ortega.
About the Public Art Fund
Since 1977, the Public Art Fund has worked with over 500 emerging and established artists to produce innovative temporary exhibitions of contemporary art throughout New York City. By bringing artworks outside the traditional context of museums and galleries, Public Art Fund provides a unique platform for an unparalleled public encounter with the art of our time.
Current and recent critically acclaimed exhibitions and presentations include Rodney Graham's The Rodney Graham Band live, featuring the amazing Rotary Psycho-Opticon at the Abrons Arts Center (2008); Sarah Lucas's Perceval at Doris C. Freedman Plaza at 60th Street and Fifth Avenue (through May 2008); Dara Friedman's Musical at multiple midtown Manhattan locations (2007); Alexander Calder in New York at City Hall Park (2006-7); Martin Creed's Variety Show at the Abrons Arts Center (2007); Sarah Morris's Robert Towne at Lever House (2006-7); Anish Kapoor's Sky Mirror at Rockefeller Center (2006); Sarah Sze's Corner Plot at Doris C. Freedman Plaza (2006); Nancy Rubins's Big Pleasure Point at Lincoln Center (2006); William Kentridge's 9 Drawings for Projection at the Central Park and Prospect Park Bandshells (2005); and Alejandro Diaz's A Can for All Seasons on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx (2005). Upcoming projects include Chris Burden's What My Dad Gave Me at Rockefeller Center (opening June 2008) and Olafur Eliasson's The New York City Waterfalls installed at four locations along the East River in Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Governors Island (opening late June 2008).
Public Art Fund is a non-profit art organization supported by generous contributions from individuals, foundations, and corporations. James Yamada's Our Starry Night is part of the Public Art Fund program In the Public Realm, which is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts; and in part by the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency; and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.
at Doris C. Freedman Plaza at Fifth Avenue and 60th Street - New York