September 25, 2018 - April 28, 2019

Arlene Shechet: Full Steam Ahead

Artist Arlene Shechet has been commissioned by Madison Square Park Conservancy to create a new site-specific installation for the Park, on view from September 25, 2018 through April 28, 2019. Marking the Conservancy’s thirty-seventh exhibition and the artist’s first major public art project, Full Steam Ahead will feature a series of new sculptures in porcelain, wood, and cast iron installed around and within the emptied circular reflecting pool in the north of Madison Square Park.

“Arlene Shechet may be best known for her work in ceramic, but she is also established as a risk taker, an artist who pushes and advances materials and content to the edge and into humor,” said Brooke Kamin Rapaport, exhibition curator and Deputy Director and Martin Friedman Senior Curator of Mad. Sq. Art. “In Full Steam Ahead, Arlene extends the possibilities of ceramic in terms of form and scale, uniting a traditionally interior vocabulary with new materials and within the Park’s changing landscape.”

Shechet’s installation riffs on the concept of the staid sculpture court—a mainstay of traditional museum display—as a cloistered experience. She challenges that standard by creating an outdoor sculpture court, including seating elements for conversation and interaction within the Park’s teeming urban site. Unlike the historic indoor sculpture court with its reliance on refinement and introspection, Shechet’s project will be a gathering place that beckons people and sanctions interaction and her human-scale sculpture will relate to the physical presence of people walking through the Park.

Arlene Shechet said: “My hope has been to reimagine the hardscape of the Park with delight and surprise. New Yorkers rely on the sidewalks, the pavement, and the street as the core of their urban lives. Full Steam Ahead becomes a lively and human amphitheater, softening the hardscape through sculptural intervention evocative of 18th-century garden landscapes.”

The exhibition’s title takes inspiration from the famous order of Admiral David Glasgow Farragut at the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War (commonly paraphrased as “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead”) and addresses the Park’s occasionally overlooked but grand presentation of the Union Admiral, a late 19th-century monument by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens with pedestal by Gilded Age architect Stanford White, one of the many permanent historic monuments in Madison Square Park. Shechet has long riffed on the sculptural pedestal in her work by literally incorporating it into an object or by supersizing it as an unexpected gesture. In Full Steam Ahead, Shechet draws attention to the Farragut Monument by including it within the scope of her installation, encouraging viewers to regard it as one of the many unusual sculptures they encounter as they circumambulate this area of the Park.

Sitting on the steps of the monument, a powerful carved-wood female figure dips her feet into a similarly carved pool of water. In conversation with Farragut, she is a non-military heroic presence. As visitors walk around the project, they will discern deliberate contradiction in Shechet’s work: figuration and abstraction, humor and narrative, mass and immateriality, innovation and extinction.

Following recent residencies at the Meissen Porcelain manufactory in Germany and at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Full Steam Ahead also reflects the artist’s fascination with 18th-century decorative arts, featuring dramatic sculptures that evoke both flower and fauna, including outsize remnants of a lion’s head and paw, the remains of a bird’s colossal tail feather displayed high on a pedestal as an ominous trophy, tree-like sculptures and branches in cast iron, and puddles of reflective tiles inset into the floor of the drained reflecting pool.

The Conservancy’s Executive Director Keats Myer said: “We are greatly anticipating Arlene Shechet’s Full Steam Ahead in the Park this fall and into the winter and springtime. She is creating a magical installation in the emptied basin of our reflecting pool, encouraging visitors to engage with the sculpture and with each other within the shifts across the seasons.”

Full Steam Ahead is organized by Brooke Kamin Rapaport, Deputy Director and Martin Friedman Senior Curator of Mad. Sq. Art, Julia Friedman, Senior Curatorial Manager, Tom Reidy, Senior Project Manager, and Tessa Ferreyros, Curatorial Manager.

About the Artist:

Arlene Shechet (American, b. 1951) is a sculptor living and working in New York City and the Hudson Valley. All at Once, a major, critically-acclaimed twenty-year survey of her work was on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston in 2015. All at Once was hailed by The New York Times as “some of the most imaginative American sculpture of the past 20 years, and some of the most radically personal.” In recent years, Shechet’s work has incorporated historic museum installations, including Porcelain, No Simple Matter: Arlene Shechet and the Arnhold Collection, on view at The Frick Collection from May 2016 to April 2017. The exhibition was described in The New Yorker as “a balancing act of respectful and radical” with “whimsical beauty and deep smarts.” From Here on Now, a solo exhibition, was on view at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. in 2017.

Shechet was featured in PBS’s Art 21 in 2014 and The Metropolitan Museum of Art Artists Project in 2016. She is the recipient of numerous prizes including the 2016 CAA Artist Award for Distinguished Body of Work, a John S. Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship Award in 2004, the Anonymous Was a Woman Artist Award, and the Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant in 2010, as well as several New York Foundation for the Arts awards.

Her work is in distinguished public and private collections including Brooklyn Museum, Hessel Museum of Art in Annandale-on-Hudson, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Walker Art Center, and Whitney Museum of American Art. She received her B.A. from New York University and her M.F.A. from Rhode Island School of Design.

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram via the hashtags #MadSqArt, #ArleneShechet, and #MadSqFullSteamAhead.

About Mad. Sq. Art and Madison Square Park Conservancy:

A celebrated series of sculpture exhibitions by living artists, Mad. Sq. Art was launched by Madison Square Park Conservancy in 2004 to bring free public art programs to New York. The program has received extensive critical and public attention since its inception and has developed into a world-class cultural institution. Its ambition and scale expand each year alongside an increasingly diverse range of innovative, world-class artists.

Mad. Sq. Art has exhibited works by artists including Diana Al-Hadid, Bill Beirne, Jim Campbell, Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon, Mark di Suvero, Kota Ezawa, Rachel Feinstein, Teresita Fernández, Bill Fontana, Ernie Gehr, Orly Genger, Sandra Gibson & Luis Recoder, Antony Gormley, Paula Hayes, Jene Highstein, Tadashi Kawamata, Mel Kendrick, Sol LeWitt, Olia Lialina & Dragan Espenschied, Charles Long, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Iván Navarro, Josiah McElheny, Jacco Olivier, Roxy Paine, Giuseppe Penone, Jaume Plensa, Shannon Plumb, Martin Puryear, Erwin Redl, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Alison Saar, Jessica Stockholder, Leo Villareal, and William Wegman.

Madison Square Park Conservancy is the not-for-profit organization whose mission is to protect, nurture, and enhance Madison Square Park, a dynamic seven-acre public green space, creating an environment that fosters moments of inspiration. The Conservancy is committed to engaging the community through its beautiful gardens, inviting amenities, and world-class programming. Madison Square Park Conservancy is licensed by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to manage Madison Square Park and is responsible for raising 100% of the funds necessary to operate the Park, including the brilliant horticulture, park maintenance, sanitation, security, and free cultural programs for Park visitors of all ages.

Madison Square Park’s 6.2-acre site welcomes more than 60,000 daily visitors—a richly diverse audience including local residents, families, public school groups and day camps, office workers, students, artists, and international visitors.


Major exhibition support for Full Steam Ahead is provided by Kohler Co. and Porcelanosa.

Major support for Mad. Sq. Art is provided by Charina Endowment Fund, Toby Devan Lewis, Pentagram Design, Ronald A. Pizzuti, Sorgente Group of America, Thornton Tomasetti, Tiffany & Co., and Anonymous. Substantial support is provided by George W. Ahl III, Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Irving Harris Foundation, The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, The New York EDITION, Mad. Sq. Art Council, Danny and Audrey Meyer, The Rudin Family, and The Sol LeWitt Fund for Artist Work. Ace Hotel New York is the Official Hotel Partner of Madison Square Park Conservancy.

Mad. Sq. Art is made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Mad. Sq. Art is supported in part with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council. Madison Square Park Conservancy is a public/private partnership with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.

Arlene Shechet: Full Steam Ahead

2018-09-25 8:00:00 2019-04-28 16:00:00 America/New_York Arlene Shechet: Full Steam Ahead

Artist Arlene Shechet has been commissioned by Madison Square Park Conservancy to create a new site-specific installation for the Park, on view from September 25, [Read More]

Madison Square Park, Madison Avenue, New York, NY Madison Square Park