Friday, January 6, 2012

Zuccotti Park, New York City

Mark di Suvero's, Joie de Vivre
On both my trips to New York City in 2008 and 2010, I have at various times found myself wandering through Zuccotti Park. Strictly speaking, it is more of a plaza than a traditional park, and in fact it used to be known as Liberty Plaza Park. Created in 1968, the park was one of the few open spaces with tables and seats in the Financial District. It is located just one block from the World Trade Center. Following the events of September 11, 2001 it was left covered with debris, and subsequently used as a staging area during the ensuing recovery efforts.

As part of the Lower Manhattan rebuilding efforts, the park (renamed Zuccotti Park in honor of John E. Zuccotti, a former City Planning Commission chairman),  reopened on June 1, 2006, after an $8 million renovation which involved regrading the area, the planting of numerous trees, and the reintroduction of tables and public seating.

The park is home to two sculptures: Joie de Vivre by Mark di Suvero, and Double Check, a bronze businessman sitting on a bench, by John Seward Johnson II.

Double Check, John Seward Johnson

When I first saw Johnson’s life sized statue of a businessman sitting on a bench, I was some distance away. Initially, I thought the figure was one of those ‘human statues’ that can be seen in many major cities around the world. You know the sort I mean: they cover their clothing in paint, strike a fancy pose, and only move if you put a coin or two in their tip jar.

On closer inspection, I realised that this incredibly life-like figure was forged in bronze. Apparently, the artist John Seward Johnson II, uses casts of real people as the basis of his work, which accounts for the realism of his sculptures.

Double Check, John Seward Johnson

Joie de Vivre, seen below and in the top image, is a 70-foot-tall sculpture by Mark di Suvero. The work, consisting of bright-red beams, was installed in Zuccotti Park in 2006, having been moved from its original location in the Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, NY.

Mark di Suvero's, Joie de Vivre
Of course, since I was last in New York City, and by extension Zuccotti Park, the area has become known around the world as the location of the "Occupy Wall Street" protest which began on September 17, 2011. It will be interesting to see if the OWS protests are still taking place when I visit New York again over the summer of 2012.

Here is a short video I shot during my April, 2008 visit to the park.

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