Simone Leigh's 'Brick House' Is the Best Thing in the Hudson Yards Area
The monumental new sculpture gazes down 10th Avenue.
Simone Leigh presents Brick House, a sixteen-foot-tall bronze bust, for the inaugural High Line Plinth commission. Brick House‘s head is crowned with an afro framed by cornrows that develop into four braids, and the body forms a dome that is lined with a pattern of ridges. The torso, a combined form suggesting a skirt and a clay house, stands tall atop the Plinth, staring down 10th Avenue. In conversation with GARAGE, Cecilia Alemani, the Donald R. Mullen, Jr. Director and Chief Curator, High Line Art, discusses the new Plinth series.
ALEMANI: This is a brand-new series that we just launched called the High Line Plinth, as a part of the art program on the High Line. The commission is different both in scale and size and in terms of investment, from a financial perspective, than the other commissions that we do.
GARAGE: It is clearly the largest work currently on the High Line and engages with monumentality.
ALEMANI: Exactly. The reason we launched this series is because when you visit this new section of the High Line you will see how special and different it is from the rest of the park, as it reminds one more of a large square or piazza. It's sitting on top of Tenth Avenue and offers incredible viewpoints with vistas south and north, right by Hudson Yards.
There is something about the space that made us want to commission a work that could be in dialogue with the High Line, the buildings around it and the views of Tenth Avenue. We wanted to invite artists to create something that could really hold this space, and like every other traditional piazza in Europe has a monument in the middle, we appropriated that concept to create a plinth or a pedestal that is installed in the center of the space. The artists can use it to give height to their own work.
GARAGE: What was the process in selecting the Plinth commission artist?
ALEMANI: We started over three years ago and had about fifty artists submitting proposals. Simone is the first commission. We knew the first recipient of the High Line Plinth would get a certain attention and she's a wonderful artist. In her previous sculptural work, she has worked mainly with ceramics, usually on a much smaller scale. We like to push artists to try something new, specifically conceived for the High Line Plinth project. She proposed creating her first monumental piece. This new work is part of Anatomy of Architecture, a series of smaller works that often combine the human body with a half-dome as a skirt. For her what's important is to reflect on the relationship between the representation of the human body with architecture and look at how they influence each other.
GARAGE: I see why the curatorial team selected this work to inaugurate the plinth commissions. It makes exceptional sense now and in this location.
ALEMANI: The High Line sculpture is called Brick House and it's about 16 feet tall. It is the first monumental piece of the Anatomy of Architecture: It's the face of a black woman that’s built on a torso peppered with different architectural references, mainly from West Africa or the southern US. She's sitting on this very large plinth, so there's an incredible view of the High Line, the avenues, and the streets.
GARAGE: The sculpture looks like it fits with the architectural nuances of the surrounding city, how it resonates with the patterns of the buildings around it.
ALEMANI: Brick House has a very impressive presence. It's really exciting to bring the sculpture to The High Line because we love working with Leigh and giving her the opportunity to do something that probably she wouldn't have done otherwise. In addition, we want to see how people are going to use this space considering that presence is in the middle of the city. We really wanted to it to be a gathering space that can generate conversation and function as a platform for dialogue and exchange, in particular in a part of the city that is in constant transformation.
Brick House by Simone Leigh is on view through September 2020. It can be viewed on the High Line at the Spur, at 30th Street and 10th Avenue. Simone Leigh (b. 1967, Chicago, Illinois) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Recent exhibitions of her work have been presented at institutions including the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, California (2016); The Studio Museum in Harlem in Marcus Garvey Park, New York, New York (2016); Tate Exchange at Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom (2016); Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri (2016); New Museum, New York, New York (2016); and the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta, Georgia (2014). Upcoming exhibitions include the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum through October 27, 2019 and the Whitney Biennial through September 22, 2019. Leigh is represented by Luhring Augustine, New York and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.