Harlem’s parks are truly community hubs—so it’s only fitting that they are now filled with art that pays homage to the neighborhood’s diverse population and vibrant culture. This tour spans Jackie Robinson Park and the East River Esplanade, and includes an abundance of newly commissioned works to examine.
Start your walking tour with the Studio Museum
’s recently unveiled “inHarlem” public art series, which has placed four works by four different artists—all with personal connections to the neighborhood—in four historic parks across Harlem. In the speckled shade of Jackie Robinson Park (enter on 148th St. and Bradhurst Ave.), 1 | Rudy Shepherd’s Black Rock Negative Energy Absorber (2016)
—an amorphous, cave-like structure of wood, metal, and colored concrete—welcomes its visitors to enter a human-sized niche intended to dispel feelings of racial prejudice and everyday negativity, and to instead encourage feelings of compassion.
Next, head south on Bradhurst, turn right on 145th St., and then left on St. Nicholas Ave. Continue until you reach 137th St., where 2 |
has attached industrial strips used to shield walk-in refrigerators to metal poles to create a canopy hanging above the terraced entrance to St. Nicholas Park. Named Sentra (2016)
(after his first Nissan), these translucent curtains shift between blue and purple, rippling in the wind and—at the top of the stairs—framing an iridescent view of the street below.
Back on street level, head south on St. Nicholas and continue onto Manhattan Ave. until you reach the entrance to Morningside Park on 113th St; follow the path cutting through to the other side. An ideal spot for a picnic lunch, the park is now home to 3 | ’s Who’s Afraid to Listen to Red, Black and Green? (2016)
, three disc-shaped “acoustic mirrors” covered in articles of clothing that have been dipped in resin. Their lustrous surfaces look entirely different from a distance, so get close to the works and see the garments (which all come from local thrift shops) begin to take shape. If you speak into the sculpture, you’ll also hear your voice amplified.
For the final installment of “inHarlem,” head in the direction of the Studio Museum itself—to Marcus Garvey Park, where you’ll find three Zimbabwean imba yokubikira
-inspired sculptures by 4 |
in A particularly elaborate imba yokubikira, or kitchen house, stands locked up while its owners live in diaspora (2016)
. The work’s absence of entrances reflects the artist’s interest in the history of displacement that has accompanied the African diaspora. The park also boasts Jordan Baker-Caldwell’s
metal patchwork sculpture Golem (2013)
spiraling DNA Totem (2016)
. Don’t miss these last two works—they’ll be down by September 15th and 30th, respectively.
Leaving the park on Madison Ave., head east towards Park Avenue, where you’ll stumble on 5 | Naomi Lawrence’s
colorful crocheted Lotus (2016)
woven into a fence around Eugene McCabe Field. Then turn left on 120th St. and head east towards Harlem Art Park, a small, intimate space featuring two sculptures by Puerto Rico-born artists. 6 | José Soto’s Focus (2016)
, two gold mirror-surfaced blocks punctured by square-shaped “apertures,” plays with your visual perception, offering a photographic glimpse of your surroundings. Jorge Luis Rodriguez’s
crimson steel sculpture Growth (1985)
, a metamorphosis of plants, birds, and insects, expresses a theme of renewal—invoking the history of the site, which was created by joining a former park in disrepair to Sylvan Place.
Leaving the park, head east on 120th St., turn right on 1st Ave., and six blocks down, turn left onto 114th St., where you’ll find an entrance to Thomas Jefferson Park. Walk down the path and past the pool, and you’ll find 7 | Tomorrow’s Wind
by the important African-American sculptor
. Here since 1995, the sculpture consists of a steel disk and crescent welded together, their angles tilted to reflect changing sunlight throughout the day. Back on 114th St., head down Pleasant Ave., turn right onto 116th St., and head towards the Harlem River waterfront. At the East River Esplanade, 8 |
has covered an existing brick column with his token cartoon faces in TotemOh (2016)
—unfortunately, a 60-foot banner accompanying the work was stolen for the second time earlier this month.