BOSTON – The Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy announced a slate of artists and artworks focused on light-based installations and interactive experiences that showcase the rapidly evolving concept of light and art in many forms.
The Greenway will exhibit eight historic Massachusetts neon signs, an interactive LED light-based piece commissioned from Luftwerk, and a kinetic sculpture commissioned from local artist Anne Lilly. These projects represent an array of cultures, perspectives, and artistic styles, appealing to a wide range of audiences in this free, accessible, and outdoor exhibit that stretches across a four-block section of The Greenway (Oliver to State streets).
“These installations will appeal to a diverse range of audiences” offered Jesse Brackenbury, Greenway Conservancy Executive Director. ”We encourage visitors to come for one of our 400 free events and stay into the evening for the light-based artworks and our beer gardens.”
A focus of the exhibit will be the installation of eight historic neon signs owned by Malden-based collector Dave Waller, which will be installed during the first half of May on The Greenway near the Rings Fountain, between India and State streets. Waller’s vintage neon signs, from local businesses c.1925-1970, serve as an illuminated monument to the neighborhoods, businesses, and everyday lives of our recent past. Many of the signs in the exhibit were once iconic landmarks in communities that have changed dramatically due to urban renewal, shifting demographics and gentrification. By exhibiting these signs together and amidst The Greenway’s permanent Light Blades, the Conservancy is creating a new geography of light.
“In placing these signs together in a contemporary urban park in Boston, we’re inviting the public to reinterpret these signs and reconsider how neon, as well as other kinds of light, can define public space,” said Lucas Cowan, Greenway Public Art Curator.
Luftwerk’s artwork titled Transition (to be located between Oliver Street and High Street), takes its inspiration from the I-93 tunnel system lights and the history of the Big Dig. A series of meandering wire frames shine a tunnel of light along the path in the park. Unlike the elevated highway that once divided the city, Transition welcomes and invites connectivity, allowing for access as a procession through and on the path. Illuminating the Rose Kennedy Greenway and its importance to connectivity and growth in the city, it celebrates the green space that has reunited the neighborhoods that were once divided.
The Conservancy commissioned Anne Lilly’s Temple of Mnemon, which will be installed on The Greenway just south of India Street. Temple of Mnemon is part of Lilly’s series of mirror-works that probe self-perception and the construction of being and otherness. The artwork is a lens — a filter to be looked through more than an object to to be seen — a tool for transforming a visitor’s of-the-moment experience of self and other. The mechanical, mirror-based piece references the disappearance of community and how one positions and sees themselves as part of a whole. Both Luftwerk and Anne Lilly’s artworks will be installed in mid-June.
“The exhibition will make connections between the historic and the contemporary, between popular art and fine art,” said Lucas Cowan, Greenway Conservancy Public Art Curator.
In addition to the artworks, the Greenway Conservancy will hold a free panel discussion about light, and art, and livable cities. Architectural historian and GLOW consultant Victoria Solan will engage in dialogue with contemporary practitioners, such as historians, staff of the Neon Museum in Las Vegas and contemporary artists who works with other forms of light. The event, in partnership with the Boston Center for the Arts (539 Tremont Street), will take place on July 12. In addition, through the Conservancy’s third partnership with Lesley Art + Design, the college will present neon signs with Cambridge ties, also from the collection of Dave Waller. The satellite exhibition at the Lunder Arts Center runs concurrent to the Greenway’s curatorial concept GLOW.
These new works will join several already on display on The Greenway:
- Balancing Acts I&II by artist Aakash Nihalani, minimalist geometric forms on two-dimensional planes that simulate three-dimensional interactive experiences,
- Year of the Dog by Risa Puno, structures of spinnable blocks engraved with traditional Chinese characters and excerpts of the stories that Puno collected from the community to celebrate the Chinese Year of the Dog
- We The People II by Mia Cross, a mural based on the eyes of people who live, work, or pass through the Leather District.
- A new Greenway Wall mural at Dewey Square Park to be installed in mid-May.
These exhibitions are funded exclusively through competitive grants and private sources, including The Barr Foundation, The Boston Foundation, Mass Humanities, Eaton Vance, Goulston & Storrs, and Brickyard VFX. Permitting for the mural is handled by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the City of Boston’s Art Commission.
About the Artists
Dave Waller grew up in a family of collectors, so when he and his big ten-year-old brother Mikey brought some old signs home from the dump, their Mom wasn’t surprised. Neon was old-fashioned, and signs were coming down faster than Dave could gather them. As a tinkerer and lover of old things, Dave and his graphic designer wife Lynn opened up a Visual Effects company called Brickyard, named after the working class neighborhood in Lynn, MA where his great-grandparents settled in the days of immigration. As more signs piled up, they needed new places store them, so today you’ll find several restaurants in New England graciously providing wall space to show more of the collection. So why old neon signs? For Lynn, its the lettering and graphic design. For Dave, it’s first rescuing, then transforming them back into working condition. “For a long while they were regarded as an eyesore” Dave explains. “But now people really seem to enjoy their warm glow again”.
Luftwerk is an American artistic duo, composed of Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero, that explores light, color, and perception in immersive, experience-based installations. Focused on the context of a site for each project, Luftwerk applies their own interpretive layer, integrating the physical structure, historical context, and embedded information into each piece. The pair has been transforming diverse locations such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House and Fallingwater; Chicago’s Millennium Park; P3 Studio in Las Vegas; and an abandoned Woolworth’s store in New Orleans. Luftwerk’s installations open up a new aesthetic conversation with the public through innovative light works grounded in local history and context.
Anne Lilly, based in Somerville, uses carefully engineered motion to shift and manipulate our perceptions of time, space and energy. Her ordered and precisely constructed interactive sculptures move in strikingly organic, fluid and mesmeric ways. Employing opposing modalities — analytical and intuitive, rational and emotional — Lilly’s sculptures elicit new connections between the physical space outside ourselves and our own private, psychological domain. Lilly has exhibited her work at the MIT Museum, the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, the City of Boston’s ParkArts program, the Fort Point Public Arts Series, and the DeCordova Museum.
The Greenway is a contemporary public park in the heart of Boston that is entirely managed by the non-profit Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy. The Conservancy’s Public Art Program displays temporary exhibits of contemporary public art and is funded by competitive grants and private sources.