New York City’s love affair with water tower art — from Rachel Whiteread’s MoMA water tower and the Jay Z and Jeff Koons’s “Water Tower Project” to Tom Fruin’s kaleidoscopic tower in DUMBO — will expand to Madison Square Park in early 2014, when Iván Navarro’s shining installation “This Land Is Your Land” is lit up on February 20, 2014. The exhibition, which will run through March 30, will feature neon lights inside water tower sculptures made of one-way mirror glass, creating Navarro’s favored illusion of infinite interior space.

Navarro’s glowing water towers will be raised eight feet off the ground, allowing visitors to walk beneath them and peer up into their interiors. Each one will contain a different neon light arrangement: One featuring the word “ME” (which, reflected in the mirrored interior, will also read “WE”); another will house the word “BED”; and the third will feature the image of a ladder. The installation’s title is an homage to the Woody Guthrie song of the same name.

“I like the idea of a reservoir of water,” the Chile-born, Brooklyn-based artist said in a statement. “This simple and timeless wooden structure contains water—the most primitive and elemental resource, the essence of human sustenance, and a reminder of the basic condition that all humanity shares. We must guarantee our water in order to survive. In that sense the water tanks are containers of primordial knowledge. Their form and material are equally archaic: they are simple circular huts with conical roofs, made of wood. Less obvious but nonetheless important is their reference to watchtowers due to their elevated position. Although they are benign objects, there is the sense that they are quietly surrounding us, surveying the city below. These water towers metaphorically function as tall ornamental crowns on the tops of the large buildings that dominate the urban landscape. They punctuate the glory of modern civilization while reclaiming its humanity.”

The new Mad. Sq. Art commission follows in a long line of light art projects in the haloed public art venue, from Leo Villareal’s “Buckyball” last fall to Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s interactive light installation in 2009, and Jim Campbell’s scintillating “Scattered Light” installation.

— Benjamin Sutton

(Image: Rendering of Iván Navarro’s “This Land Is Your Land,” 2014, in Madison Square Park. Image by Hernan Rivera and Iván Navarro. Courtesy Paul Kasmin Gallery.)


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