NEW YORK — When the warm months wear on and the art world slows down, some of New York City's best exhibitions take place out of doors. From a sprawling graffiti show in a gritty corner of Queens to an exhibition of works by blue-chip names on Michael Bloomberg's doorstep — to say nothing of vintage video game-inspired artist-designed mini golf on an island — there's something for everyone. Below, ARTINFO takes a look at this summer's geographically and aesthetically varied public art exhibitions stretching across four boroughs (sorry, Staten Island) and two East River islands. Happy hunting!
"Rafael Barrios on Park Avenue" (Through June 30): The Venezuelan sculptor's neon-toned optical illusions are surprisingly effective, creating a compelling sense of three-dimensionality from a distance before revealing themselves as flat facsimiles up close. We just worry that their installation on Park Avenue medians between 51st and 67th streets might cause mesmirized Midtown motorists to crash.
"Common Ground" at City Hall Park (Through November 30): Perhaps the marquee public art show of the summer (though by no means the largest), Public Art Fund (PAF) director and curator Nicholas Baume brought together works by an all-star set of artists —Elmgreen & Dragset, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Roger Hiorns, Jenny Holzer, Matthew Day Jackson, Christian Jankowski, Justin Matherly, Paul McCarthy, Amalia Pica, and Thomas Schütte — that all touch on some shared human experience. McCarthy's giant inflatable ketchup bottle may be the show's most photogenic work, but its most moving is the engraved marble plaque by Jankowski, which gives the exhibition its title and on which the artist requests that he be buried in the park when he dies.
Carole Feuerman's "Survival of Serena" in Petrosino Square (Through September 23): Installed last week at the northern tip of tiny Petrosino Square Park — so named after NYPD Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino (1860-1909), who died while on assignment in Sicily investigating organized crime — Feuerman's hypperrealistic sculpture of a resting swimmer may be the summer public art season's strangest sight, at least until Pivi's plane takes flight.
Thomas Houseago's "Lying Figure" on the High Line (Through March 14, 2013): A fitting counterpoint to the small sculptures in "Lilliput," Houseago's bronze giant lies just below the Standard Hotel, luxuriating in the grass. Would-be exhibitionists in the glass-façaded luxury hotel above need not worry about the sculpture's prying eyes — he has no head.
"Lilliput" on the High Line (Through April 14, 2013): The first group show on the elevated park is a decidedly diminutive affair, featuring tiny new sculptures by Oliver Laric, Alessandro Pessoli, Tomoaki Suzuki, Francis Upritchard, Erika Verzutti, and Allyson Vieira — organized by High Line Art curator Cecilia Alemani. Though Upritchard contributed the most truly Swiftian work — a tiny pair of embracing primates — the stand-out is certainly Laric's kaleidoscopic bust of "Art of War" author Sun Tzu.
Charles Long's "Pet Sounds" in Madison Square Park (Through September 9): It didn't take long for kids to discover the California-based artist's Brian Wilson-referencing installation in Madison Square Park's central Oval Law. On any given day, his colorful railings that transform into fantastical sculptures as they converge are crawling with children, making this the city's artsiest playground. Tom Otterness, eat your heart out.
Paola Pivi's "How I Roll" at Doris C. Freedman Plaza in Central Park (June 20-August 26): Jeff Koons's train over the High Line may be many years off, but this summer Pivi is suspending another vehicle over Central Park: an airplane. Her first public installation in the U.S. will consist of a twin engine Piper Seneca airplane suspended at the wing-tips by two steel poles while it rotates at the corner of 60th Street and Fifth Avenue.
Rob Pruitt's "The Andy Monument" at Union Square (Through September 4): Pruitt's chromed statue of fellow Pittsburgher and Pop art legend Andy Warhol — stationed just outside the former location of his infamous Factory studio at Broadway and 17th Street — has been granted a second stay of execution by the PAF, which recently extended this beloved monument's public life-span to September 4.
Kiki Smith's "Chorus" on The Last Lot (Through September 4): Following muscular installations by David Brooks and Josephine Meckseper — of suburban rooftops and pumping oil derricks, respectively — the Art Production Fund's third project on the vacant lot at Eighth Avenue and 46th Street is decidedly more delicate. Smith has installed a constellation of hand-blown glass sculptures in a rainbow palette inspired by African-American Paris cabaret legend Josephine Baker.
Mark di Suvero's "Yoga" at Brooklyn Bridge Park (Through December): Not far from Tuazon's hulking hunks of concrete stands an especially agile piece by di Suvero, on loan from upstate New York's Storm King Art Center (which is behind the big di Suvero exhibition across the Buttermilk Channel on Governors Island discussed below).
"A Promise is a Cloud" at MetroTech (Through October 7): PAF curator Andria Hickey describes this exhibition in Downtown Brooklyn's office park as an exploration of "the idea of potentiality," which it does with site-specific installations and sculptures by Ohad Meromi, Adam Pendleton, Erin Shirreff, and YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES. Chang's contribution, "The Struggle Continues" (2007/2011), a Web-based animation displayed on a screen that flashes the text-based narrative at a frantic pace, may be the show's most obvious example of a work that has the potential to exist in inumerable other forms.
Oscar Tuazon's "People" in Brooklyn Bridge Park (July 19-April 26): The Seattle-born, Paris-based post-minimalist sculptor's first work in New York since being featured in this year's Whitney Biennial will be a series of three huge new cement, metal, and wood sculptures incorporating tree trunks, a large steel hoop, and a concealed bubbling spring — a welcome watery addition to any summer art installation.
"Civic Action: A Vision for Long Island City" at Socrates Stulpture Park (Through August 5): Ubiquitous curator Amy Smith-Stewart is behind the latest show at Queens's beloved waterfront art park, which this year has eschewed its usual roster of monumental sculptures for participatory and conceptual installations by Natalie Jeremijenko and xClinic, Mary Miss, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and George Trakas. Tiravanija, for instance, has created a bamboo and steel installation that, in keeping with his food-centric practice, is designed as a common and social space for local vendors to serve food.
The Welling Court Mural Project at 11-98 Welling Court (June 16 Onwards): Just north of Socrates Sculpture Park, on a series of quiet blocks between a community garden and a housing project, sits one of the richest street art galleries in the city. The Welling Court Mural project, now in its third year, will be getting a new set of murals on June 16 from noon-9pm — and likely for some time afterward, as artists put the finishing touches on their large graffiti walls. Artists who've participated in the Ad Hoc Art-organized exhibit include celebrated street artists like Chris Stain, Celso, Dan Witz, Ellis Gallagher, John Ahearn, and Lady Pink.
"This Side of Paradise" at the Andrew Freedman Home (Through June 5): Though largely an indoor exhibition, the pop-up non-profit No Longer Empty's latest project is so phenomenally ambitious that it has spilled beyong the walls of the historic former retirement home on the Bronx's stately Grand Concourse to incorporate parts of its verdant front yard and adjacent sidewalk.
"Mark di Suvero at Governors Island" (May 26-September 30): Following the success of last summer's exhibition, Storm King has returned its collection of di Suvero sculptures to Governors Island for a second summer show with a couple of crucial additions. Di Suvero has painted his 2002 sculpture "Chonk On" bright red especially for the occasion, and he will also premiere a piece that has never been seen before, "Dreamcatcher." All the more incentive for New Yorkers to take the short ferry trip over to see his monumental sculptures in this superb setting.
"Interactive Sculpture Garden" and "Arcades" Mini Golf Course on Governors Island (June 9-September 23): The participatory art organization FIGMENT returns to Governors Island's parade grounds for its fourth season, presenting 10 large-scale sculptures — by Kevin Cooley, Kathy Creutzberg, Asha Ganpat, Chris Jordan, Suprina, Zaq Landsberg, Steven Millar, Robert Otani, Romy Scheroder, Anastasia Sokolik, and Benjamin Jones — plus an eight-hole mini-golf course inspired by vintage video games like Asteroids and Super Mario. The show-stealer looks likely to be Landsberg's full-scale replica of the Statue of Liberty's face peering skyward from the ground as if buried, "Planet of the Apes"-like, following some untold disaster.
"Flow.12 Art and Music" in Randall's Island Park (June 2-September): Now that we all know that Randall's Island exists, where it is, and how to get there (thanks to Frieze New York!), how about going back? The Randall’s Island Park Alliance, Bronx Museum of the Arts, and Made Event are mounting the second part of "FLOW," a two-summer show of environmental art. This year's iteration features five site-specific installations by Gabriela Bertiller, Nathan Gwynne, Michael Clyde Johnson, Laura Kaufman, and Sean Wrenn. Bertiller's "Glamorous Picnic," a set of modernist outdoor tables printed with the archetypal checkered white-and-red picnic blanket pattern, seems poised to be the show's most popular — or at least its best-used.
To see works from this summer's public art exhibitions in New York, click the slide show.