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Matthew Geller, Awash

Collect Pond Park
Leonard Street, between Centre and Lafayette, 917-804-0118
Tribeca / Downtown
September 14 - November 25, 2006
Reception: Wednesday, September 13, 6 - 8 PM

Awash, a sculptural installation by Matthew Geller, invites the public to sit and swing beneath a cooling, offbeat “portable fountain” in historic Collect Pond Park, on Leonard Street between Centre and Lafayette in lower Manhattan.

Combining the archaic and the modern with an absurdist twist, Geller’s steel-and- Plexiglas structure provides shelter from its own inclement weather. A water tank sprays water onto a skylight incongruously mounted on a “sidewalk bridge,” much like the ones that protect pedestrians at construction sites. Inside the bridge hang several seats recalling both old-fashioned porch swings and traditional park benches, allowing up to eight people to sit and talk while rain splashes romantically on the skylight overhead.

Geller’s previous work includes Foggy Day, an artificial fog bank that turned Chinatown’s noir-picturesque Cortlandt Alley into a movie set for people who aren’t in pictures, while emphasizing less noticed aspects of the locale such as puddles, plants growing in crevices, and the steam jets from adjacent garment factories. His pieces have been described as “urban earthworks.”

Like Foggy Day, Awash is a hybrid, or “recombinant” art work that fuses the history of a region with its overlooked present. While sidewalk bridges still dot the Manhattan cityscape, the swings and spraying water hark back to an earlier time, when Collect Pond Park was known as The Collect, a fishing and recreation lake. After suffering the effects of too-dense urbanization, the Collect was drained by the City and became the home of the notorious “Five Points” district, immortalized in the book and film Gangs of New York.

No longer the scene of battles between gangs such as the Bowery Boys and the Dead Rabbits, Collect Pond Park now sits sedately surrounded by government buildings: the Criminal Court, Civil Court, and Family Court are all visible from the park. Lunchgoers and passersby are invited to sit beneath the fountain while contemplating the past and present of this resonant area.

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