Wednesday, June 21, 2017


It is just a quality of beauty that
It comes and it goes.  We are contented with the ocean's
Being that way, and summer, winter, fall, and
Spring also leave and return.  
                           Kenneth Koch - "On Beauty"

In the city archaeology might mean years not centuries.  Or even minutes!  An older sign store sign hides under a newer, vinyl awning. Queen in Bazaar is still skulking under Dreamy's!  A mural appears, lights up a block for a year or two, then gets a coat of paint, or a replacement vista. If you get distracted, turn your head for an instant, you'll miss an arrival or departure.  You'll need a third eye to track it all.

Over a decade ago, if you looked in the right places, you might have seen visions in gold in the most unlikely corners.  You'd have to have been on them fast - most lasted only for a matter of months. And it might depend on where you walked.  Do you like entrance ramps, overpasses, the underbelly of expressways?  The more monolithic the setting, the more a shot of beauty radiates.  Is that a golden rule?

Our stealthy artist struck far and wide, with thirty pieces in the city.  It's the ones close by that tantalize the most.  I thought I was observant, but I missed almost all of them - except for those footprint impressions at Fourth and Prospect. For years I'd wondered how they got there.  

Suddenly all was revealed. In cryptic emails (some in verse) and archived photographs, back they came.  In miniature, and on the screen instead of on the streets.  But still gleaming.

"Yes I did those footprints. They were in gold metallic aluminum about 2 feet long. I thought of it as turning the highway into a foot path. You could sort of see them from about 15 blocks away. I loved that. The city took them down maybe after 4-5 months (considered graffiti) but they left the adhesive so you had a ghostlike petroglyph. I liked that."

There were four pieces on Third Avenue, but it's hard to find traces of them now. If you travel along the Gowanus Expressway, around 28th Street, you'll see the old sail factory building next to the VFW Post.  It's owned by CBS.  Today it's painted over in brown.

A few years ago though, if, like me, you were prone to enjoying expressway views, you could've caught a creature with gold and silver scales. Piscis or hominum?  If you were stuck in traffic, you could have made it out more clearly, but by 2013 or so it was fading, with barely a shimmer left.  I try to pin down a glimpse on Google Earth, but even there you flicker in and out of the decade, retrieving a year and then, zooming in and out of picture and date, doomed to search and search again to bring it back.

Down on the ground though, in 2007, it's easier to reel in. Here's the fish-man, bright & shining.  What perfect chance he landed in a maritime home.

The fish-man lasted longer than his peers on the expressway, who were removed more quickly.  

"I had so much fun with my project. 2 or 3 minutes of adrenaline as I set up and climbed my ladder worrying about being busted.....and then I stopped worrying. I figured anyone seeing an older man do this would think "it must be something official." I love getting away with stuff.

...I did the third avenue pieces anonymously. Anything on highway property turns out to be considered graffiti which is why the city took them down. I put pieces at elevation because it'd be harder to steal them. And I made the pieces in parts so that someone who stole them would have to do a lot of work.."

Close by Rossman's, the discount fruit & veg. store at 26th.  I find nothing left.

"About 3 foot high heads attached on the water side of the BQE about two blocks up and two blocks down from the discount grocers there (maybe 36 pieces in all) lasted about 3 months then the city took them down."

At Third and Hamilton, close to the home of Sandy victim Pithecus, the beloved blue ape of the auto-auction yard, you can still find traces of gastropods.  

"Good Hunting. Yes. Snails up the entrance ramp in two groups....about 20. I only have a pic of the lower group. And right around the corner on third ave facing 4th avenue were the sperm and eggs....ahh ...memory lane. and up the street with the tire store along the highway to 4th ave were the "sweating bricks."

It's jammed at the expressway ramp, and hardly a place to linger.  This makes me all the more impressed by how these little guys got here. They set the perfect pace. Here's what's left of the upper group of snails.

Here's the lower group, newly installed, in all its glory.

As for any traces of the sperm and eggs today, they're hidden under a 2016 Boa Mistura mural.

And the sweating bricks?  I couldn't find even a droplet of perspiration. The only light was the sun on the avenue as the Google van drove by ten years ago.  

"I started the series thinking I would make a name for myself but something happened. I started thinking by piece #2 or 3 that it would be better for me to walk away and leave them anonymous...... sort of nice to just be anonymous and see what happens."

(Photographs of original installation pieces copyright of The Artist.  Other photographs by One More ...etc. & Google.)


Anonymous said...

How wonderfully anonymous.No weight left on my shoulders. Thank you.

onemorefoldedsunset said...

It's been an absolute pleasure!