Spanish artist Cristina Iglesias invites the public to consider the forgotten terrains and geographic history of New York City in a new public art installation opening this June, her first major temporary public art project in the United States. Landscape and Memory places five bronze sculptural pools, flowing with water, into Madison Square Park’s Oval Lawn, harkening back to when the Cedar Creek coursed across the land where the park stands today. Building on Iglesias’ practice of unearthing the forgotten and excavating natural history, Landscape and Memory resurfaces in the imaginations of contemporary viewers the now-invisible force of this ancient waterway.
On view from June 1 through December 4, 2022, Landscape and Memory will be complemented by a slate of interdisciplinary public programs, free and open to the public. Presented within and responding to the work, these include a summer music series curated with Carnegie Hall as well as performance programming organized in conjunction with The Kitchen. Cristina Iglesias will also serve as the keynote speaker for the Conservancy’s annual public art symposium, held this year on Friday, June 3, which will investigate the role of public art in shedding new light on buried histories, both metaphorically and physically.
“Cristina Iglesias is renowned for sculpture and installation that engage closely with the spatial, cultural, and historical qualities of the spaces where they’re sited. With Landscape and Memory, Iglesias brings a new level of exploration to our commissioning program, creating sculptural cracks in the lawns that reveal an unseen element of the park’s natural history,” said Brooke Kamin Rapaport, Deputy Director and Martin Friedman Chief Curator of Madison Square Park Conservancy. “Visitors who encounter the work will do so almost as citizen archaeologists witnessing a living artifact from a centuries-old New York City, untouched by the present-day urban landscape.”
For Landscape and Memory, Iglesias digs deep into the park’s lawns to install five subterranean bronze sculptures carved with intricately patterned bas-reliefs. A subtle stream of water continuously trails across the sculptures’ hollowed surfaces, evoking the constancy of water slowly eroding rocky surfaces across millennia. The installation conjures the existence of unseen ancient streams that continue to run beneath modern cities, connecting the urban present with its primordial past, and connecting us to abstract ideas of what lies beneath us.
Nodding to historian Simon Schama’s major 1995 volume of the same name, which surveyed the history of landscape across time and terrain, Landscape and Memory is informed by Iglesias’ research into the history of the site. For the project, Iglesias located and studied historic maps that document the water flow through Madison Square Park, where the Cedar Creek once coursed. With nineteenth-century industrialization, streams like the Cedar were buried underground to create additional land for building sites, underground drains, or sewers. Through Landscape and Memory, Iglesias renders this history visible again, inviting viewers to contemplate centuries of transformation of urban sites that were once natural.
“Madison Square Park has a rich history, witnessing and participating in several hundred years of New York City’s growth and evolution,” said Madison Square Park Conservancy Executive Director Keats Myer. “Iglesias’ commission digs deep into this history, evoking an era that predates even our centuries-old park, to reconnect today’s visitors with the natural wonder of the original site.”
Landscape and Memory is organized by Brooke Kamin Rapaport, Deputy Director and Martin Friedman Chief Curator; Tom Reidy, Deputy Director of Finance and Special Projects; and Truth Murray-Cole, Curatorial Manager. Keats Myer is the Conservancy’s Executive Director.
Cristina Iglesias shapes large-scale, site-specific sculpture and installations that probe the tension between past and present, ancient and contemporary. Resisting the asceticism of the Minimalist movement, Iglesias initially created grid-like structures in natural materials that were suspended to assemble pavilions and architectural spaces. Beginning in the 2000s, Iglesias began to incorporate water into her permanent outdoor projects and sculptures.
Iglesias’s work has been the subject of solo presentations at museums internationally, including Centro Botín, Santander, Spain (2018); Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid (2013); Ludwig Museum, Cologne (2006); Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (2003); and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1997). She additionally has been commissioned to create major projects and installations at Bloomberg headquarters, London (2017); Fondaciòn Botin, Santander (2017); Tres Aguas at Toledo, Spain (2014); Mexican Foundation of Environmental Education, Baja, California (2010); Museo del Prado, Madrid (2007); and Royal Museum of Fine Art, Antwerp (2006). The Museum of Fine Arts Houston opened Iglesias’ major permanent outdoor commission, Inner Landscape (the lithosphere, the roots, the water) (2020) in front of the new Kinder Building and last summer she realized Hondalea (2021), transforming a lighthouse into a sculpture on Santa Clara Island in the Bay of Donostia, San Sebastián, Spain.
Iglesias represented Spain at the Venice Biennale (1986, 1993) and at the Biennale of Sydney (1990, 2012); at the Carnegie International, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (1995); at the Taipei Biennial (2003); at the SITE Santa Fe Biennial (2006); and at the Folkstone Triennal (2011).
Iglesias was born in San Sebastián, Northern Spain in November 1956. She studied Chemical Sciences in the University of the Basque Country (1976 – 1978), and ceramics and sculpture at the Chelsea College of Art in London (1980 – 1982). She was granted a Fulbright scholarship to study at Pratt Institute (1988). She was appointed Professor of Sculpture at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Munich (1995). Her studio is in Madrid, Spain.
Landscape and Memory is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Leadership support for this exhibition is generously provided by Marian Goodman Gallery, New York/Paris and The Ruth Stanton Foundation. Major support for the exhibition is generously provided by Agnes Gund and Bloomberg Philanthropies. Substantial support is provided by Morris A. Hazan Family Foundation and The Malka Fund.
Major support for the art program is provided by Sasha C. Bass, Bunny and Charles Burson, Toby Devan Lewis, Ronald A. Pizzuti, Thornton Tomasetti, Tiffany & Co., Anonymous, and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Substantial support is provided by Charina Endowment Fund, Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Sol LeWitt Fund for Artist Work, Madison Square Park Conservancy Art Council, Audrey and Danny Meyer, The Rudin Family, and Von Rydingsvard-Greengard Foundation. Additional support is provided by 400 Park Avenue South, Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, Jane Richards, Fern and Lenard Tessler, Ms. Barbara van Beuren and Mr. Stephen L. Glascock, and Anonymous.
Madison Square Park Conservancy is a public/private partnership with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.
Cristina Iglesias: Landscape and Memory will be on view from June 1 through December 4, 2022 in Madison Square Park, at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway at 23rd Street in the Flatiron District, NYC. Follow Madison Square Park one Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Related programming includes Unearthing Public Art on June 3rd from 9:30a to Noon at SVA Theatre. Iglesias keynotes Madison Square Park’s annual public art symposium, which investigates the central role of public art in exploring buried and manufactured histories in civic space.The symposium will also feature a panel discussion with artists Alice Aycock, Maren Hassinger, and Kennedy Yanko, and Ian Alteveer, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Aaron I. Fleischman Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, moderated by arts and culture journalist and New York Times contributor Ted Loos.
Can you find the Madison Square Park’s five beehives?
Did you know that New York State Appellate Division of the Supreme Court sits in the shadow of Madison Square Park?
While you’re there, walk over to Poster House Museum, just one block west at 119 West 23rd Street.