Union Square Park


Thursday, September 6, 2018
No. 91

NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, today joined the Union Square Partnership Executive Director Jennifer Falk and artist Kenseth Armstead to welcome Armstead’s new public artwork “Washington 20/20/20” to Union Square Park. Presented as part of Parks’ Art in the Parks program, the piece is a sculptural form composed as a companion to the first statue ever on New York City parkland, the George Washington Statue in Union Square. The design of the work is taken from the elaborate frescoes of Tiebele, Burkina Faso. The isolated village is home to the royal court of the Kassena people, where every home is hand-painted. “Washington 20/20/20” transforms the two-dimensional marks into translucent perforated steel forms on a two-ton angle iron steel frame. The piece will be on view through October.

“By bringing Mr. Armstead’s thought-provoking ‘Washington 20/20/20’ into one of Manhattan’s most bustling hubs, we are inviting the thousands of New Yorkers and tourists who pass through every single day to slow down and engage with their park in a whole new way,” said Commissioner Silver. “This piece will spark fascinating discussions about representation, as well as racial and social justice in our country, and we are proud to count it among the thousands of public artworks exhibited in the 50-year history of Park’s public art program Art in the Parks.”

“We are proud to welcome Kenseth Armstead’s moving sculpture to Union Square Park,” said Jennifer Falk. “The Union Square Partnership’s Art in the Park program showcases a wide range of incredibly talented artists, fostering a creative and vibrant environment in our neighborhood, and we are proud to partner with NYC Parks on this monumental installation.”

“Washington 20/20/20” is an African architectural adornment to the solid granite base of the existing park monument. The work references the 20% of the colonial population that were enslaved Africans; the 20,000 slaves in New York State in 1776 when Washington retreated from New York City; and the 20% of Washington’s continental army that was African at Yorktown, Virginia, where he was finally able to defeat the British in 1781.

This piece is a part of Armstead’s ongoing series “Farther Land.” The works in the series explore the African-American experience inside the American Revolution. “Farther Land” symbolically reflects on 10 years of the artist’s research on the true story of slave turned double-agent spy James Armistead Lafayette. The series responds to the age of revolution and the founders’ declaration that “all men are created equal” with irony and suggestive formal content.

Armstead’s works have been exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art; Brooklyn Museum; Studio Museum in Harlem; Socrates Sculpture Park; and MIT List Visual Arts Center. His works are included in the collections of the Centre Pompidou, Brooklyn Museum, African American Museum in Dallas, Texas, Newark Museum and numerous public and private collections.

For more than 50 years, NYC Parks’ Art in the Parks program has brought contemporary public artworks to the city’s parks, making New York City one of the world’s largest open-air galleries. The agency has consistently fostered the creation and installation of temporary public art in parks throughout the five boroughs. Since 1967, NYC Parks has collaborated with arts organizations and artists to produce over 2,000 public artworks by 1,300 notable and emerging artists in over 200 parks. For more information about the program visit www.nyc.gov/parks/art.

The Union Square Partnership (USP) is a private, not-for-profit community-based organization responsible for the revitalization of the 14th Street-Union Square neighborhood. USP’s mission is to improve the quality-of-life for the district’s residents, businesses and visitors, by providing public safety, sanitation, economic development and marketing services, as well as investing in the beautification and maintenance of Union Square Park. USP also conducts a host of free events for the public, including volunteer days, networking opportunities and “Summer in the Square,” a weekly event series in the park. For more information, visit unionsquarenyc.org.

Directions to Union Square Park

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