Rose B. Simpson's new larger-than-life sculptures in NYC parks

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Rose B. Simpson's new larger-than-life sculptures in NYC parks
Rose B.Simpson, Seed (2024) in Madison Square Park. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein. Courtesy of the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy.

NEW YORK, NY.- On the grounds of Madison Square Park and Inwood Hill Park, artist Rose B. Simpson (b. 1983, Santa Clara Pueblo) convenes gatherings of large-scale bronze and steel figures for a major new commission that evokes our connections to the land and to one another across time. Commissioned by Madison Square Park Conservancy as part of the milestone 20th anniversary of its public art program, Simpson’s outdoor exhibition Seed features nine towering sculptural sentinels sited between the two parks, marking the Conservancy’s first collaboration with another New York City public park. Drawing from Simpson’s own background, the history of Manhattan Island and the Lenape people, and the human experiences that tie us all together, Seed is both personal and collective. Seed is on view at Madison Square Park and Inwood Hill Park through September 22, 2024, and is accompanied by a series of public programs and activations throughout its run.

“One of the most resolute figurative sculptors working today, Rose probes at the conditions of contemporary life, offering strength, vision, and hope for the future. In her commissioned project for Madison Square Park Conservancy, she activates two parks in Manhattan with sculpture that provokes contemplation about the complicated and dehumanizing histories of the communities and land where these public sites now stand. Through figuration, the works also acknowledge the significance of connection that can be experienced in protected parkland like Madison Square Park and Inwood Hill Park,” said Brooke Kamin Rapaport, the Conservancy’s Artistic Director and Martin Friedman Chief Curator.

Born and raised in Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico, Simpson has established a prolific mixed-media practice that is informed by the enduring tradition of Pueblo potters. Drawing upon her multigenerational, matrilineal lineage of Santa Clara Pueblo artists working with clay, Simpson combines traditional processes of producing clay pottery with innovative techniques and materials, including steel and bronze, bridging past and present practices. Her works often take the form of androgynous figures that straddle earthly and spiritual realms.

Grounded in Manhattan’s history as the center of Lenapehoking, the ancestral lands of the Lenape people, Seed illuminates various notions of interconnectedness: our relationship with the land, with one another, and with the generations of people who come before and after us. In Madison Square Park, seven eighteen-foot-high sentinels convene around a central sculpture of a female figure emerging from the earth, supporting and nurturing her. Fabricated in weathered steel with bronze embellishments, these ancestral protectors look outward, gazing boldly ahead to the present with recognition of layers of history including those that form America’s colonial past. A smaller second face on the back of each figure meets the viewer closer to the ground; these faces are youths who represent the future.

As part of the exhibition, Simpson has also installed two eight-foot-tall bronze sentinels in Inwood Hill Park. Located in Upper Manhattan, Inwood Hill Park is a contested space in Native American history as the site where Dutch colonial governor Peter Minuit “purchased” Manhattan Island from the Lenape in 1626. In acknowledgment of this history, one of the sentinels faces the ancient wood, honoring Native connections to the land, while the other looks outward to the Hudson River, part of a trade route that brought settlers who worked to obliterate Native people and practices beginning in the 1600s.

“We are excited to partner with Inwood Hill Park for Rose’s exhibition, bringing her important project to multiple communities in Manhattan,” said Madison Square Park Conservancy Executive Director Holly Leicht. “This is the Conservancy’s first-ever collaboration with another public park in the city and makes our public art program’s milestone anniversary year all the more significant, signaling a new level of reach and engagement.”

Simpson’s Seed is the second artist commission in the twentieth anniversary year of the Conservancy’s art program, following a vibrant tulle-based installation by Ana María Hernando that opened at the park in January, and preceding a processional performance by María Magdalena Campos-Pons and a major sculptural project by Nicole Eisenman in the fall.

Rose B. Simpson (b. 1983, Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico; lives and works in Santa Clara Pueblo) has had solo exhibitions at The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia; Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston; Nevada Art Museum, Reno; Wheelwright Museum, Santa Fe; and Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art. Her work is in the collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art; Denver Art Museum; Hood Museum of Art, Hanover; Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Nevada Art Museum, Reno; Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College, Claremont; Portland Art Museum; Princeton University Art Museum; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. In 2023, Simpson was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Institute of American Indian Arts by President Biden. She is among the artists featured in the 2024 Whitney Biennial.

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