Leonardo Drew’s “City in the Grass”

By Paul Joseph Walsh

This week Jeff Bezos agreed to purchase three apartments at 212 5th Avenue in Manhattan for approximately $80 million. There isn’t much to do with information like that other than say, ‘wow, that’s a lot of money’ or perhaps shake your head at the ever-widening gulf between the haves and have-nots.

One of the attractions of this neighborhood is Madison Square Park, seven acres of green space darkened intermittently by some very famous buildings: the Flatiron, Empire State, and 212 5th Avenue, which the wags at the Post and Daily News will probably rename the Bezos Bachelor Pad sometime soon.

As of June 3rd, the park will be the location of Leonardo Drew’s installation City in the Grass.

Mr. Drew (pictured in the black hat) is a gregarious artist who utilizes many mediums.  He was invited by the Madison Square Park Conservancy to create something for their space.

According to Artnet News he originally considered constructing a giant tree, but was worried about potential problems – such as the structure falling on someone.

The same source reports that the piece in its current form was inspired by the children who visit his Brookly studio – a kind of Magic Carpet. He wants people to be more than viewers, more than passive observers of his work. He wants interaction. “Abuse this piece,” were his direct instructions.

The crowd, young and old, took his words to heart.Viewing the artwork from a distance is like viewing a brightly colored model city.

A closer look to examine the materials and techniques of Mr. Drew are equally rewarding: instead of marveling at the genius of a mind which could construct such a thoughtful and moving creation, you appreciate the craftsmanship and sheer effort that went into its construction.

See what I mean?

So check it out. Admire it from afar then get up close. Climb a tower and hop off. And while you’re at it, you can view another of Mr. Drew’s work, Number 215, at Galerie Lelong. Unlike Mr. Bezo’s apartment, we’re all invited.

P.J. Walsh writes from NYC. 

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