Along with flowering trees, tulips on Park Avenue, and driftwood sculptures along the Hudson River, spring in New York heralds the opening of the Cantor Rooftop Garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
By Mary Brennan Gerster
Along with flowering trees, tulips on Park Avenue, and driftwood sculptures along the Hudson River, spring in New York heralds the opening of the Cantor Rooftop Garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Offering the finest public view of the city and magnificent Central Park, it has also showcased artists famous and soon-to-be-famous.
The sculptures of iconic artists David Smith, Roy Lichtenstein, and Frank Stella have been spotlighted. We also discovered the brilliance of Andy Goldsworthy and his ephemeral beehive construction. Roxy Paine enthralled with sinewy silver branches seeming to grow along the courtyard’s surface. The Starn twins delighted all with a growing jungle gym reaching like the beanstalk into the sky.
This year, the WOW factor has been toned down, and it takes a bit of quiet contemplation to embrace the on-site installation by Imran Qureshi, a 41-year-old Pakistani artist who works in the miniature tradition of his native country. Trained in his native Lahore in the Mughal technique, he has expanded into abstraction with touches of the foliate patterns featured in miniatures.
As you step off the elevator, your eye is drawn to what appears to be red paint splashed all over the rooftop floor. The first thought for me was: blood. As you walk over it, hesitantly at first, your eye discerns floral shapes within the splotches and drips. Delicately articulated petals, possibly dahlias, seem to emerge from the flat space. You feel as though you are tiptoeing through a field of red flowers, yet the sensation of blood never leaves.
A two-dimensional rooftop garden has been created within the larger garden of Central Park. Qureshi “carefully considered both the spatial logic and historic legacy of its overlook” when working on the rooftop commission. The Gardens of Babur in Kabul, created in 1526 by the first Mughal Emperor, were also never far from his thoughts, he said.
Qureshi used Winsor & Newton perylene maroon paint. He waters it down as needed, pours the paint onto the surface, and creates the flowers with a tiny brush from the splotches. He says he does not sketch first, but just works directly with the paint. The acrylic hardens and stands up to rain, although it will fade naturally with sun and water and footsteps.
The color is a deliberate choice, which he used to reflect his horror at the violence in the world, especially in his own country. He portrays tragedy along with hope and regeneration, represented by the flowers. Near his home there was a bombing and a grocery store he shopped in became a “bloody landscape in a second.”
The title of his piece, “And How Many Rains Must Fall Before the Stains Are Washed Clean,” comes from a line in “The Unsaid,” a collection of poetry by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, the artist’s favorite poet.
Head to the top of the Metropolitan Museum, where you will find a thought-provoking work along with amazing views of Manhattan. The Met is closed on Mondays. The installation will be on display through November 3.