Wednesday, June 25, 2008


This is a new sculpture by James Yamada entitled Our Starry Night, now on display at Doris C. Freedman Plaza at Fifth Avenue and 60th Street. 
Built from powder coated aluminum and punctuated with 1,900 colored LED lights, Our Starry Night is a 12-foot-tall sculpture that acts as an interactive passageway to Central Park. As visitors to the park walk through the sculpture at all hours of the day and night, it will illuminate in response to each person individually.
When visitors walk through the portal in the piece, they trigger a metal detector hidden inside the structure's casing. This activates the LED lights that perforate the exterior of the sculpture. Common everyday metal objects such as cell phones, keys, belts, jewelry, cameras, computers, and the like will trigger the lights; the luminosity and the light patterns seen in the piece will correspond to the quantity of metal detected. Our Starry Night is literally activated by the public, reinforcing the notion that art — and particularly public art — is dependent on the people around it.
The sculpture will only be illuminated while the participant is standing within the passageway, and therefore he or she will not be able to see the light patterns being created on the exterior surfaces. The lighting will instead be visible to passersby on the street corner and in the park, who will see the faade of the sculpture illuminate. Those passersby will be the receivers of the information and will be in a position to observe the correspondence between how much metal each participant is carrying and how that will be revealed on the surface of the sculpture.
In this work, Yamada calls our attention to the expanding, yet increasingly subtle presence of surveillance in the contemporary world. It also points towards such philosophical and political considerations as the loss of privacy in the name of greater safety and the use of personal information. By aesthetically and physically engaging viewers, Yamada questions these topics, and in so doing, involves us in the way information is revealed and used.
Yamada works in a variety of media and has previously created interactive works that have included aspects of nature, satellites, weather, and wildlife, among other themes. For example, his sculpture Under a Brilliant Sky (2004) which was exhibited at Art Basel, consists of a light-box sign displaying the title of the piece, which Yamada connected to a solar panel installed outdoors; the phrase then glowed and dimmed with the sun, in effect, creating a portrait of the sky.
About James Yamada
James Yamada was born in Bat Cave, North Carolina in 1967, and received his MFA in painting from Yale University in 1993. He has had recent exhibitions at Raucci/Santamaria Gallery, Naples; Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York; Momenta Art, Brooklyn, New York; and Sculpture Center and P.S.1, both in Long Island City, New York. Yamada lives and works in Brooklyn.
Location and Directions
Our Starry Night will be on view at Doris C. Freedman Plaza, at 60th Street and Fifth Avenue, at the entrance to Central Park. Subways: N, R to Fifth Avenue; 4, 5, 6 to 59th St/Lexington Ave. The work is free to the public and is on view daily.

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