Art in the City

Nowhere is the intersection of art and culture more prevalent than in New York City. Art is not an accessory to life in the city, but rather it is an integral component. Actively influencing how one perceives his or her surroundings, art influences the human consciousness. Whether housed behind museum walls or exposed to the open air, art shapes the environment of New York. To fully appreciate the wealth of art in New York, one must expand the commonplace definition of what art “is.” Art not necessarily constrained to a canvas or packaged with an aesthetically appealing façade. The geometric precision of construction grids, the ingenuity of street artists, and the spontaneity of tagged wall murals all incorporate the same formal qualities of cohesive line, color, and composition; however, this type of urban art employs different modes to convey both functional and inspirational artistic messages.

Often, one casually stumbles upon art in the city. Taking a roundabout way to my temporary abode, I meandered off Wall Street and headed north. Reveling at the sheer height of the concrete and glass monoliths that surrounded me, I noticed another man-made creation. Nestled between Nassau and William Streets, Group of Four Trees (1969-72) by Jean Dubuffet vertically ascended towards the skyline. Rooted to the ground in front of Chase Manhattan Bank, the sculpture is a monumental amalgamation of amorphous white shapes and strong black lines. The rhythmic intersection of these planes creates a cohesive—yet abstract—representation of trees. While the black and white color palate renders their forms inorganic, the trees nonetheless appear dynamic. As noted by the artist, the trees “manifest the ardent source of the of the enormous intellectual machinery of which the plaza is the core.” The futuristic linkages of the sculpture are concrete representations of the human capability to adapt, connect, and advance. Ironically, when gazing at a Group of Four Trees, the viewer revels upon the universal genius of human intelligence as well as the unique genius of his or herself.


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