Wall Street. The financial center of the world; a place where the counting of cold hard cash establishes it’s identity, making some people very rich and others very poor. This city we live in, the Capital City of the World, forces us to adapt to a chaotic, multi – dimensional environment, with a psychology of multiple personality disorder as status quo. That’ s some potent cocktail! I mean, who would figure that Wall Street with it’s history being in the backyard of the 9\11 nightmare, would 12 years later morph into a stunning reborn arena, where financial power, architectural panoramas, and intellectual prowess meet – and with some really bold, innovative artwork thrown in to complete this awe inspiring picture?!The kind of photo realism in it’s true meaning, where the reality cannot really be depicted accurately on canvas, but the artist wants badly to try to convey the awesome sights she is witnessing before her. New Yorkers, and the visitors who can’t get enough of this place, stumble upon these art come to life scenarios just by walking the streets, requiring nothing more than open eyes, and hopefully an open mind as well.
Like for example, those massive black steel sculptures adorning a small triangular park, a gasp away from the Federal Reserve Building on Liberty Street , fronting that quirky street known as Maiden Lane. Now it’s the Louise Nevelson Plaza. Nevelson is the penultimate success story, and the first woman artist to have a park named for her! How cool is that? This woman built her unique sculptures from steel and wood rejects of the city’s construction sites, gutters, dumps, wherever she saw a piece of wood or material that interested her, she used it to create her sculptures as she saw them, in her mind’s eye. Steel, wood, metal, whatever she could salvage, went right into a new sculpture, art living and breathing it she was on fire! Innovative, fresh, and beautiful, some painted black, others white, some silver, they are pretty amazing to see. These majestic figures, located in the plaza in downtown NYC, get your attention and hold it. Sitting on a bench, sipping your Starbucks, you feel you are in the presence of some great wonder. And you are. No question about it.
“When I look at the city, from my point of view, I see Nyc as a great sculpture” Nevelson says in an interview years ago.
Art in Manhattan – Manhattan in Art. Same concept. Different outlook. Nevelson saw her city as her art bounty, an infinite source of inspiration, and in her Spring Street studio took the physical remnants the city had discarded and built something new. What had been torn up and down she resurrected and gave it a new life form. Art. This resurrection theme, reminds me of another dominating structure looming over this iconic neighborhood. The Freedom Tower! It’s so Here, There, and Everywhere, – you can’t miss it. It’s gorgeous, almost surreal, an art form in itself designed by David Childs, 1 World Trade Center, takes center stage as the contemporary, dominant super symbol of rebirth, resurrection, and freedom for all people of this once broken neighborhood, painfully crushed by an evil force claiming responsibility. A massive rebirth, a new look, the power of Good transforming the once tragic scene, is now consolidated in this glorious tower, that I can even see from Brooklyn, cutting through the clouds!
Stepping off the train on William Street, puts me at the corner of Pine, where the Chase Bank Plaza is located, but what my attention is drawn to almost hypnotically, are the huge Dubuffet sculptures, a tangled black and white maze like impression, fronting the bank as it’s welcome, clearly refusing to be overlooked, in spite of the Wall Street grandeur that encompasses it. It’s a Fatal Attraction for sure, reminiscent of actress Glen Close’s eerie legend statement “I will NOT be ignored”, from the popular movie. Easy Access. Profoundly elegant, bold, intriguing! In NYC, we can go to a neighborhood for one thing, and will often find something else. It’s that blend of art in city and city in art, a definitive quality that is just inescapable in Nyc. With so many artists leaving the city, and a superfluous of galleries catering to the wealthy, it’s a bonus for the people, the masses,that is most of us, to be able to just walk around and have the super giants of the art world accessible, street worthy, is pretty spectacular!
Jean Dubuffet, known for authenticity, disdaining highbrow traditional standards, ambivalent about painting as a career choice, coming from a wealthy family, he spent years going back and forth between his easel and his family’s wine business until finally, he committed to his passion, and begin doing portraits that were “anti-psychological and anti-personal.” Finally Surrealism called him and he answered the call without reservation!
He is the artist who defined “art brut”, what today is known as “outsider art”. The primitive, anti-intellectual viewpoint, where like Nevelson, held to his view of the world, committed to their passions, both stood their ground as they pursued their individual calling, and we can share in their visions as we walk the streets, with the Four Trees, by Dubuffet, the Shadows and Flags, by Nevelson, amidst the monied frenzy of the Wall Street state of mind!
Keep walking, and when you hit Bowling Green, and the NY Stock Exchange, you will be met with the infamous Charging Bull! Everybody loves this cartoonish, exaggerated figure, symbolizing the optimism and prosperity that Wall Street represents. The tourists can’t get enough of this bull, the sculpture that artist DiModica snuck onto the barren streets of the financial district, in the middle of the night, making it his personal gift to Nyc. An”art brut” of his own making, DiModica, didn’t ask for permission to make his art known he just TOOK it! Now, standing bullish, grand, and gaudy, glowering at the streets, the crowds, defining the NY Stock Exchange, in it’s penultimate identity,symbolizing the economic thermometer of finance, as art welcomes One person it welcomes Everyone. All inclusive! Easy Access!
Yes, this is a changed place this Triangle below Canal, commonly called Tribeca, Wall Street’s best friend. Defined now by the artistry of great architects! The Freedom Tower, rebuilt into a positive, model of hope, uplifted from the ashes of an unforeseen tragedy, and now a symbol of success and beauty, creative genius, welcoming a new world, looking upwards into infinity.
Ten years ago, I stood, looking at a pit of destruction, surrounded by thousands of sad faces. We were mourning, grieving, for the innocent lives lost, in fear of our own lives. The neighborhood was a morgue and no body wanted to be there.
Now Everyone wants to be there. It’s an experience of witnessing the power of good over evil, the genius of our art centric possibilities, the transformative spirit of rebirth and regeneration revealed in the building, the sculpture, the crowds, the energy, the Tower, the Love we have that keeps us New Yorkers going and going and going …….No Matter What!