By Masha Froliak
In the midst of nineteen commercial buildings of Rockefeller Center, scattered between 49th to 50th street, stand nine unique human figures of Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone. Human Nature, the latest site specific creation of the artist, is built of massive bluestone slabs piled on top of each other into forms which resemble human figures. The contrast between the archaic primitive figures that are 16 to 20 foot tall and the industrially developed surroundings of the Plaza is dramatic and intriguing.
Rockefeller Center, known for its tradition of presenting public art, temporarily seized its art program for several years. Rondinone’s Human Nature, organized by Public Art Fund and Tishman Speyer, is the first exhibition to continue the established tradition again. While the stone figures that weight up to 15 tons each were being installed at the Plaza I had a chance to have a brief chat with the artist.
“I wanted to bring to this space something that would slow people down” says the artist, “something in contrast to high technology, something more primitive”. While Ugo Rondinone has done several other public art installations including a rainbow neon-lit sign sculpture Hell, Yes! that adorned the New Museum, his work is always delightful in its simplicity and contemplative nature. “Public art has to be simple” says Ugo, “this simplicity can be achieved by merely bringing two forces together – humanity and nature. I wanted to show how they are dependent on each other”.
Investigating the human-nature relationship once again in his new exhibition, the artist doesn’t compete with the surrounding tall buildings, but rather orders the space positioning the figures in what seems to be a haphazard arrangement. The composition of where the figures are placed creates a tangible sense of movement. His public art doesn’t alienate, doesn’t cause provocations, but rather aims at uniting people by embracing them with something universal.
Relating primitive and contemporary experiences, or natural and artificial environments, Ugo Rondinone superimposes different realities. “My motifs are coming from a Romantic historical era” says the artist, “the period when imagination and dreams would be addressed and realized in an aesthetic way”.
Human Nature, now on view through June 7, invites the public to wander around the mythic, timeless figures and to reconnect ourselves with our ancient roots. The installation adds beautifully to the historic architecture and the overall dynamics of Rockefeller Center.