When The Standard Plaza at The Standard, High Line reopens for summer each year — with its new cuisine, cocktails, and even art installations — it’s an affirmation that many a sun-filled, rosé-soaked days are ahead. We’ve said au revoir to the Ice Rink and bonjour to a French Riviera inspired menu. Who needs St. Tropez when we’ve got a delicious fromage blanc flatbread and grilled loup de mer? OK, so we don’t have the delicate blue water of the Côte d’Azur or the white sandy beaches. But! We do have rosé that flows like the ocean…
And, boy, did it flow last night at the celebration party for Rashid Johnson’s new sculpture, commissioned by High Line Arts. It was the perfect night to kick off the Plaza and celebrate with our friends — from Bob Colacello to David Kordansky (who represents Rashid) to Cecilia Alemani — an artist, and organization, with so much zest. Between bites of grilled shrimp and sips of rosé, Rashid took us up to see his sculpture and talk about how it landed on the High Line.
It’s been four weeks since he installed Blocks, a hallow steel grid — reminiscent of Sol LeWitt’s open cubes — filled with busts sculpted from shea butter. It’s smack-dap between the new Whitney and The Standard, High Line, in the center of the walkway. You can’t miss it — for the moment at least, but who’s to say how Mother Nature will work her magic in the coming months.
“I’m happy to see how it’s been invaded and molested,” said Johnson with a tickled smile. He’s referring to a large green plant that has shot up and wrapped its wispy vines around the sculpture’s thin, black metal. This err, molestation was part of the plan when Johnson conceived the work and choose this location. He said, “I made the sculpture very hollow, which enables you to think about it as something that is willing to be impregnated, to be filled.”
“What happens once the work is impregnated,” we ask curiously.
He grins. “If a work is willing to take in information then it’s willing to deliver information. That’s important. But, the combination of things it takes in: plants and nature (in this case), and its relationship to the material of the sculpture: the steel and the shea butter, is the marriage that produces the conversation. That’s what I was really looking for.”
He has a point. It’s readily apparent with a thoughtful look around: you could say that Blocks mimics the very concept of the High Line. An old, elevated railroad track that was only a hunk of steel until an injection of nature turned it into a park. It is the union of those seeming opposites that make the park so unique, and creates the conversation between history, nature, art, and all that surrounds the High Line; including a hip hotel and a new museum.
We head towards the Gansevoort Street stairwell to return to the Plaza. The trees fade away as we tromp down metal stairs towards concrete sidewalks and asphalt streets.
Rashid pauses for a moment to light a cigarette and says, “We all want to live in urban environments, yet we all want suburban luxuries. We miss the trees and the plants, which is completely natural.”
The tall, broadly built artist and his even bigger presence disappear into a crowd of friends and supporters, all of whom are deep in conversation.
Cecilia Alemani, Ludovica Barbieri, Massimiliano Gioni
Justine Ludwig, Madeline Warren
Julius Johnson and friend
Photos courtesy of BFA.