Riverside Park

The Daily Plant : Wednesday, July 30, 2003


Among the many virtues of placing temporary art in a park is the fact that it encourages people to look more carefully at the environment around them. At times, such a piece of art can stand out in stark contrast to the natural landscape. In other cases, the work's materials and fabrication work harmoniously into its surroundings. The latter is certainly true of Gondwana, for Richard Bellamy, a large granite and wood sculpture by Darrell Petit which will stand at Riverside Park at the 91st Street entrance through June 4, 2004. The Project is funded by the Akira Ikeda Gallery and the Athena Foundation.

"The site was specifically found for the piece," said the artist Petit, who had envisioned this project for several years. "[It is] a perfectly contextual site. Topographically, there are multiple viewing points."

Early Tuesday morning the sculpture was installed by crane onto a natural cleavage of preexisting rocks in the park. From there, the sculpture can be viewed from within the park above and below, as well as outside the park along Riverside Drive.

The piece is made primarily of rare specimen of Stony Creek Granite-a fusion of molten pink granite and ancient black biotite. Working with this material, Petit shaped it into sculpture using fire, wooden dowels and other subtle artistic interventions. Guided by an interest in alchemy and transformation, Petit has embraced the natural geological processes that created the granite and pushed those processes one step further. Interestingly, many buildings and monuments in the city make use of Stony Creek Granite, including the Samuel Tilden sculpture and terrace in Riverside Park and 13 other monuments in Parks & Recreation's permanent collection.

Petit has been working at the historic Stony Creek Granite Quarry in Bradford, Connecticut, as a sculptor-in-residence for the past twelve years. Known for his monumental sculptures, he has just completed a 100-ton sculpture for the Yale University Peabody Museum of Natural History. For that project, he created the sculptural stone base upon which a sculptural dinosaur-created by a different artist-will climb.

Although he currently works and lives in Connecticut, Petit is no stranger to New York City. After graduating from Brown University in the early 1980's where he wrote his thesis on Frederick Law Olmsted, he worked in New York for the Frederick Law Olmsted Association, a group committed to preserving and promoting the ideals of the 19th century visionary park creator. In the mid-1980's he studied at the Berlin art school Hochschule der Kunste. A student in the sculpture department, he first began to sculpt, specifically using stone and other earth-based materials. Returning to New York, Petit lived on 109th Street and Lexington and worked at a local granite works facility.

The name of his piece hints at many of the concepts Petit values. Gondwana is the name given to the continents over 600 million years ago, when parts of what is now North America were attached to Northern Africa. Essentially, the rock quarried in Connecticut for this piece has made a monumental journey long before recorded time. "That's especially important for my work," said Petit. "I work in the way that the piece evolves. I work in the process of the piece." The piece is dedicated to Richard Belamy, a friend of the Petit's and an art dealer who helped promote him during his early career and who-according to Petit-"has a certain timeless quality&in the art world."

Over the next year, the work will continue to evolve in a way that, according to Petit, speaks to the timelessness of the piece and its materials. Indeed, Gondwana will remain in the park for the next year-through the changing of the leaves, the first fall of snow, and the return of flowers next springtime.

Written by Eric Adolfsen


"Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die."

Joe Hill

Directions to Riverside Park

Know Before You Go

West 79th Street Boat Basin

The 79th Street Boat Basin marina is currently closed. No vessel dockage, moorage, anchorage or launch services are available. The marina will be dredged and reconstructed to modern codes and standards. The marina is anticipated to reopen in 2025. Related inquiries may be sent to boatbasin@parks.nyc.gov

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