Los Angeles artist Aaron Curry (b. 1972) has taken on his most monumental public art project to date: he’s installed fourteen vibrantly colored metal sculptures throughout the Josie Robertson Plaza at New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Curry was an undergraduate at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and received his Masters of Fine Arts from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He lives and works in Los Angeles. Curry’s influences – great modernist sculptors – are often noted when critics and curators describe the work. As often as Curry relies on the human form, he has assiduously credited Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, Isamu Noguchi and Pablo Picasso as inspirations to his projects. His is the revivification of modern masters whose work was out of favor for some years.
Curry’s installation, Melt to Earth, will be on view in New York through January 6, 2014. The objects dwarf human scale — some reach nineteen feet high — and stand in contrast to the austere geometry of the Plaza’s buildings and to the radiating patterning on the Plaza’s terrain. Unlike the strict lines of Lincoln Center’s theaters which face onto the Plaza, Curry has inserted an homage to the organic forms of modernism which embodied humanist values as opposed to the strict lines which favored an industrial bearing.
Curry’s pieces are colorful, whimsical and cheerful; even more so when sited across the pedestrian thoroughfare that typically animates the space. He has painted details on some of the sculptures adding humorous swatches of yellow, green and blue to a red surface, for example. The cut out aluminum character share a comic vitality and may remind art world viewers of Elizabeth Murray’s cut out forms from her 1980s paintings. Curry’s pieces are equally exuberant. And their siting at the foremost music center in Manhattan enables the abstracted figures to have a theatricality summoning the performances inside the buildings and the active street life of pedestrians crossing the site.
Since the 1960s, the parade of operagoers and classical music aficionados rushing to make an 8 P.M curtain – or catching a smoke between acts – have energized the flat plane of the Plaza. Today, Curry’s sculptures are on view as surrogates for the human drama that unfolds daily. They are semi-figurative aluminum pieces which are arrayed around the Revson Fountain. Like massive chess pieces on a playing board, each sculpture pushes into space, an attempt to bring ebullient forms across a flat field. The geometric purity of the Lincoln Center Plaza was surely a challenge for Curry. In addition to the buoyant flow of the Fountain which shoots upward, Curry’s site is a uniform surface bordered by modernist icons.
Lincoln Center and Metropolitan Opera House opened in 1966 and were designed by architect Wallace Harrison. Max Abramovitz was Avery Fisher Hall’s architect, opening in 1962. Philip Johnson was the architect for the New York State Theater, dating to 1964 (now called the David Koch Theater). Tucked into this trio of severe 1960s edifices are Curry’s sculptures which enable a visitor to see anew a familiar site.
All Photos: © James Ewing Photography, courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York and London