By Carol Tannenhauser

The noose (with a slash through it) is up. The paintings (inside the pyramid) are finished. More than a month after its official opening, the 2016 Model to Monument exhibit of newly created sculptures of monumental size is finally fully installed in Riverside Park South. It is stunning in setting, scale, and subject matter. See the photos below to get a feel for it — or better yet, check it out in person!

Placed along the Hudson River from West 59th street to West 72nd street, the eight sculptures – ranging in height from 10’ to over 25’ – are the products of seven talented artists and a unique partnership between the Art Students League of New York and the NYC Parks & Recreation Department.

Model to Monument (M2M) Creating Public Art for Public Spaces is a nine-month, highly selective program of the Art Students League, in which sculptors learn from a master the process of making public monuments by engaging in it, from concept, to sketches, to making maquettes (models), to the fabrication and installation of their sculptures in Riverside Park South. The exhibit is supported by individuals, foundations, and public funds.

This is the sixth and last year M2M will be held at this location. At the opening ceremony on June 16th, Art Students League Executive Director Ira Goldberg announced that there will be “construction” next year. (The crowd gasped!) M2M will go on, but in an undisclosed venue. The new sculptures will remain in place for one year, but don’t wait. It’s summer; the scent of the wildflowers is almost supernatural, the river breezes are unbelievably rejuvenating.

“I live nearby – this river – all my problems – it carries them away,” said Masha Braslavsky, a painter. “The flowers heal; the trees heal; it is an amazing place to be this park. And the sculptures – it’s a pleasure to have them here. Every year they have a theme.”

According to a press release from the Art Students League, “This year’s M2M sculptors explore the theme of ‘The Public Square’…and offer ‘an interpretation of the ancient idea of the public square as a locus of communal themes and discourse,’ as described by writer Michael D. Rips.

“The Year Six M2M artists are: Aaron Bell, Sheila Berger, James Emerson, Tanda Francis, Markus Rudolph Holtby, Sarah Thompson Moore, and Shiho Sato.”

See images of the sculptures, and learn more about them, below:

On Wednesday, around noon, artist Aaron Bell triumphantly placed the once-banned noose atop his sculpture “Stand Tall, Stand Loud.” (See our latest story about it here.) A woman pushing her grandchild in a stroller picked up her pace. “It’s scary,” she said. A man who stopped to watch disagreed. “I think it’s important, because it speaks to the now, which is not so different from fifty years ago,” he said, alluding to the period when Martin Luther King, Jr. Uttered the words inscribed on the base of the sculpture: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”‬

James Emerson, inside “Bridge,” finishing up. Is that a beam of inspiration?

The river is so much a part of the exhibition. In the distance, left, is Sarah Thompson Moore’s “Everything Between,” which “seeks to heighten senses and alter perspectives for the viewer.” Enter it, as well as James Emerson’s red “Bridge,” right, which uses contemporary iconography within a classic pyramid to represent themes that connect us all, “transcending cultural and generational differences,” Emerson said.

Artist Sheila Berger polishing her sculpture, “AVIS GLORIAE ET LAUDIS” (Bird of Glory and Praise), which places an ordinary NYC bird on a pedestal worthy of a Roman emperor. More than one passerby said, “I love the bird!”

The companion piece to Sheila Berger’s bird. This tree is fashioned from a street sign, but hides the “NO,” inviting “STOPPING ANY TIME.” And it sways in the breeze!

“Everyone Breaks,” by Tanda Francis (center). Unbelievably transfixing and powerful!

Marcus Rudolph Holtby’s “Leaves of Grass” considers Walt Whitman’s classic text within the history of Riverside Park South as a re-purposed industrial park.

Shiho Sato hopes that those who use the park regularly will develop an ongoing dialogue with the three monumental-scale human forms of her “Fragments.”

ART, NEWS | 7 comments | permalink
    1. suitcaseanne says:

      The noose is an abomination….

    2. Mark says:

      Congratulations to Aaron. May his message and his work stand the test of time. RIP Eric Garner.

    3. PedestrianJustice says:

      Great coverage, Carol. Have admired several of these over the past few weeks. The Bird of Glory and Praise stopped my dog in his tracks!

    4. Liz says:

      WOW!! What great works of art.

    5. Susan Gutterman says:

      Thank you for this excellent article. I join those who were moved by the MLK tribute & quotation — more apt this year than ever.
      The silver bird is wonderful — I wish it could stay there forever, or in some other city park.
      I will miss these exhibits very much. This is the best one of all of them.
      Susan Gutterman