If you take 14th Street and walk across the city, it’s sheer madness. The street, which is one of the widest downtown, sweeps you past neon chain stores, four-lane roads and the mania of Union Square. And for this week only, it also takes you past an array of outdoor art – but you’d better have your eyes open.
Art in Odd Places is a yearly exhibit that puts art outside for members of the public to admire for free. This year, dozens of artists presented their take on the theme ‘numbers’ and the results – sculptures, paintings, graffiti, posters, sound installations – were placed along 14th Street, stretching from the Hudson River to the East River.
I joined the trail at 7th Avenue and walked east, keeping my eyes open for several different pieces that I’d seen were along the route. It was sort of like a scavenger hunt – and I no doubt
amused annoyed the commuters elbowing their way along the pavement while I moseyed along, my eyes upward.
The truth is, I didn’t do very well. I hardly found anything I was looking for – and I guess that’s the danger of outdoor art. 14th Street is always bustling, meaning that I could have missed the art entirely – or that it simply could have been ripped down or removed.
It started out okay though, as I spotted the Samantha Holmes’ ‘Reflections’ beneath scaffolding between 7th and 6th Avenues. The idea of this intricately-designed piece, which was built with the help of a Harvard physicist and resembles a mosaic, is to make New Yorkers look up from the pavement to the stars and the gods.
The next one I spotted was Jerry McGuire’s Wallart – handpainted posters commenting on big businesses putting profits over people. Each bright blue poster declares: ‘Wallart, Save Money, Live Poorer, 99% of the entire store.’
I had little success finding others – I also looked out for Ariel Kader’s ‘Social Trash’, in which she interprets the way that rubbish bags on the pavement are placed by relating them to social relationships. For bags placed close together, for example, she might label them ‘mom’ and ‘dad’. By comparing us to rubbish, it’s supposed to show us in a consumerist society.
I also would have liked to have seen ‘The Dirty Laundry Line’ – fliers telling you to call a free hotline to ‘air out your dirty laundry’. But without seeing the actual fliers, I still could take part as I carried on my route – by calling 800-304-1410 and either leaving a message or listening to those left by other people. Give it a try, it’s hilarious. Some are clearly jokes while others are sad and sincere.
‘I love to dance naked!’ one admits, while another whispers: ‘I speak Spanish but when Jehovah’s Witnesses in my community try and hit me up and try to talk to me about their god, I pretend like I only speak English.’
Another adds: ‘I had this girl right and she broke up with me but she didn’t need to do all that. She was nasty so I stole her dog and shaved that shit off.’
Defeated, but not entirely beaten – thanks to my two early sightings – I decided to leave 14th, but I suppose there’s still time for me to spot some of the pieces. Art in Odd Places is along 14th Street until Sunday and you can check out what’s where here.
Photo credits: Art in Odd Places, Bez Cheviot, Ariel Kader, Facebook