Kathy Ruttenberg on Broadway: in dreams awake
On view through February 19, 2019
From the Broadway Mall Association (BMA):
In just days, a fairytale dream will come true on Broadway. The spectacular production is not the latest star-studded musical theater blockbuster. Instead, the performers in this show are six large-scale, figural sculptures by Kathy Ruttenberg, an internationally known artist who makes her Broadway debut as a new kind of story-telling impresario. The installation, titled “Kathy Ruttenberg on Broadway: in dreams awake,” will appear on the Broadway Malls, the tree-lined greenway between 64th and 157th Streets in Manhattan.
Ruttenberg’s fantastical narrative sculptures combine human, animal, and plant forms. Using a wide range of media, Ruttenberg hopes to create an urban escape for those passing by. Taken out of the gallery and onto the streets, her characters embrace even greater significance as they interact with the urban environment. Hosted by the BMA, “in dreams awake” is the artist’s first major outdoor sculpture installation.
Ruttenberg’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries since the early 1980s. Taken out of the gallery and onto the streets, her characters embrace even greater significance as they interact with the urban environment. Ruttenberg has painstakingly studied the sites along Broadway, and her carefully placed polychrome players blur the lines between dream and reality: a singing tree performs on a pedestal across from Lincoln Center; a smartly dressed Ms. Mighty Mouse surveys her domain at 79th Street, perhaps dreaming of the cheese at nearby Zabar’s. At 117th Street/Columbia University and Barnard College, Ruttenberg proposes an alternative to Atlas carrying the globe on his shoulders: an acrobatic goddess stands on her head and balances the earth on her feet, presenting a new view of the world to its future leaders.
The artist explains her merging of flora and fauna as “an urban escape into a rural wonderland; the pace of the city contrasts with the rhythms of nature, raising questions of what effect this disparity has on the human psyche; man’s relationship to nature is an underlying concern throughout my work. As the inhabitants of the natural world are increasingly displaced by urban and suburban sprawl, I find myself using anthropomorphic fables to return nature’s creatures to our human consciousness.”
It was Henry David Thoreau who said, “Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake,” and Ruttenberg’s sculptural prowess delightfully breaks the boundaries between art, the urban environment, nature, dream, and reality.