Madison Square Park, the city’s “museum without walls” opposite the landmark Flatiron Building in Manhattan, is the site of the latest monumental installation by Orly Genger, a Brooklyn artist known for her rope creations.
Using miles of the thick and rigid rope from old lobster traps, Genger uses a crochet stitch to give it a braided look, then paints, twists and stacks the rope before wrestling it into intriguing and continuous shapes. In one area of the 6.2-acre park, a red undulating wall spills out on the grass. In another, the rope creates a blue, hedge-like feature. Elsewhere, tall waves of yellow form a pleasing space that cascades at one end like spilled water — or paint.
The rope looks a bit like chainmail, some of it winding around the blossoming trees.
“I wanted the installation to interact not only with the public but with the elements that are already there” in the park, said Genger. “I wanted to create spaces where people could feel they could go and be held.”
Genger “takes the domestic art of crocheting to a masculine level,” said Madison Square Park Conservancy President Debbie Landau, noting that Genger uses only her hands to create the shapes.
“When you look at the rope you could think they’re nautical knots but it’s repurposed lobster rope,” Landau said. “It’s scratchy. It’s hard. You have to use muscle to tame it. She takes what we think of as traditional knitting to a very different realm of wrestling an unforgiving material.”
The labor-intensive installation required 1.4 million feet of rope weighing 100,000 pounds. It took 9,000 hours of labor and 3,000 gallons of paint to transform the dull rope into a vibrant material.
The rope is extremely coarse. The petite artist said she does not wear gloves because she likes “to work very directly with the material.”
It comes from a lobster foundation in Portland, Maine, that recycles nautical rope from all along the Eastern Seaboard, which is unusable after a year, so it doesn’t damage the environment, Landau said.
“Red, Yellow and Blue” is Genger’s largest installation to date.
“The energy you have in the city and coming across these kinds of surprises is wonderful … especially since it coincides with spring,” said Beatriz Cifuentes, 38, a graphics designer and photographer who lives in Queens.
The site-specific installation was commissioned by Mad. Sq. Art, a program of the park conservancy. It runs through Sept. 8. In October, the work will travel to the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum near Boston where it will be refigured for that space.
Genger “created a vertical painting in the park,” Landau said. “It’s for the people. It’s meant to be touched and used and sat on.”