This spring, artist Rose B. Simpson (b. 1983, Santa Clara Pueblo) convenes gatherings of large-scale bronze and steel figures on the grounds of Madison Square Park and Inwood Hill Park for a major new site-responsive commission that evokes our connections to the land and to one another across time. Commissioned by Madison Square Park Conservancy as part of the milestone 20th anniversary of its public art program, Simpson’s outdoor exhibition Seed features nine towering sculptural sentinels sited between the two parks, marking the Conservancy’s first collaboration with another New York City public park. Drawing from Simpson’s own background, the history of Manhattan Island and the Lenape people, and the human experiences that tie us all together, Seed is both personal and collective. Seed is on view at Madison Square Park and Inwood Hill Park from April 11 through September 22, 2024, and will be accompanied by a series of public programs and activations.
“One of the most resolute figurative sculptors working today, Rose probes at the conditions of contemporary life, offering strength, vision, and hope for the future. In her commissioned project for Madison Square Park Conservancy, she activates two parks in Manhattan with sculpture that provokes contemplation about the complicated and dehumanizing histories of the communities and land where these public sites now stand. Through figuration, the works also acknowledge the significance of connection that can be experienced in protected parkland like Madison Square Park and Inwood Hill Park,” said Brooke Kamin Rapaport, the Conservancy’s Artistic Director and Martin Friedman Chief Curator.
Born and raised in Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico, Simpson has established a prolific mixed-media practice that is informed by the enduring tradition of Pueblo potters. Drawing upon her multigenerational, matrilineal lineage of Santa Clara Pueblo artists working with clay, Simpson combines traditional processes of producing clay pottery with innovative techniques and materials, including steel and bronze, bridging past and present practices. Her works often take the form of androgynous figures that straddle earthly and spiritual realms.
Grounded in Manhattan’s history as the center of Lenapehoking, the ancestral lands of the Lenape people, Seed illuminates various notions of interconnectedness: our relationship with the land, with one another, and with the generations of people who come before and after us. In Madison Square Park, seven eighteen-foot-high sentinels convene around a central sculpture of a young female figure emerging from the earth. Fabricated in steel with bronze adornments, these ancestral protectors look boldly ahead to the present and into the future, while a second face on the back of each figure meets the viewer at eye level, peering into layers of history, including those that form America’s colonial past.
As part of the exhibition, Simpson is also installing two larger-than-life bronze sentinels in Inwood Hill Park. Located in Upper Manhattan, Inwood Hill Park is a contested space in Native American history as the site where Dutch colonial governor Peter Minuit “purchased” Manhattan Island from the Lenape in 1626.
“We are excited to partner with Inwood Hill Park for Rose’s exhibition, bringing her important project to multiple communities in Manhattan,” said Madison Square Park Conservancy Executive Director Holly Leicht. “This is the Conservancy’s first-ever collaboration with another public park in the city and makes our public art program’s milestone anniversary year all the more significant, signaling a new level of reach and engagement.”
Seed will be complemented by public programs that address the themes of the exhibition and engage with local communities of both parks, including an artist talk with Simpson at Inwood Hill Park, a concert series at Madison Square Park curated by Carnegie Hall, panel discussions about figuration in contemporary art and local Native histories, and more. More information on public programming will be announced in the coming months
Simpson’s Seed is the second artist commission in the twentieth anniversary year of the Conservancy’s art program, following a vibrant tulle-based installation by Ana María Hernando that opened at the park in January, and preceding a processional performance by María Magdalena Campos-Pons and a major sculptural project by Nicole Eisenman in the fall. In conjunction with the anniversary, the Conservancy is also producing its first retrospective publication, documenting two decades of public art in the park; releasing a short documentary chronicling the history of the program; and showcasing alumni artists through audio interviews and a public art symposium.
Rose B. Simpson (b. 1983, Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico; lives and works in Santa Clara Pueblo) has had solo exhibitions at The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia; Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston; Nevada Art Museum, Reno; Wheelwright Museum, Santa Fe; and Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art. Her work is in the collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art; Denver Art Museum; Hood Museum of Art, Hanover; Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Nevada Art Museum, Reno; Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College, Claremont; Portland Art Museum; Princeton University Art Museum; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. She is among the artists featured in the 2024 Whitney Biennial, opening March 2024.