The Flatiron Building is one of my favorite structures reminiscent of Old New York City. At the crossroads where Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 23rd Street intersect, and across from Madison Square Park, I remember when this area was crawling with junkies and drug dealers. Just as this area has been transformed, the exhibition space in the Prow Art Space of the Flatiron Building offers an exercise in transformation with the installation entitled Hypergraphia: The Cup Drawings.
Artist Gwyneth Leech uses coffee cups as an expressive vehicle, decorating each with colorful drawings and patterns, and hanging them with fishing line. As they twist slowly in the changing light, surrounded by swirling traffic and pedestrians, the installation offers an example of how art can transform the most mundane of objects into an experience of beauty.
Living in New York City I tend to block out much of the visual and auditory stimuli that bombards you in the crowded streets. I walk by the Flatiron nearly every day and passed by the installation several times before I took notice and stopped. Gwyneth was walking gingerly among the hanging cups that were gently swaying, and it looked like she was lost in surreal slow-motion snowstorm.
There were over 800 cups, and each had a unique design. Some were drawings of people with umbrellas and winter coats, some were cityscapes, and most were abstracts inspired by paintings and nature. Gwyneth says on her blog:
“Readily available and of no value to anyone else but me in their used state, paper cups allow me to risk everything. Nothing lost, everything gained. In short, they are a very useful form. I like to say, Bach had inventions, Shakespeare had sonnets – and I have coffee cups.”
The Flatiron Prow Art Space is curated by Cheryl McGinnis, who enthusiastically talked about the installation with me, and how it has engaged so many people from all walks of life. Cheryl notes that over 500,000 people per week see the exhibit. “With Hypergraphia,” she says, “you get to see art and the process by which it is made.”
Every day on my way to the office I trudge by the Flatiron Building. For me this structure is an anchor into the past that symbolizes the City’s continuous transformation. Gwyneth Leech’s installation took everyday ephemeral objects and created an island of magic that transformed part of my workday into a moment of artistic contemplation.
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The Exhibit, Hypergraphia: The Cup Drawings by Gwyneth Leech closed February 18, 2012. Watch her blog for future installations.