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Rockefeller Center is a popular business, television and visitor center. It is without question the most popular Christmas holiday sight in NYC. The tree that is installed there is the most viewed in all of Christendom.
The plaza in front of building 30 Rockefeller hosted for 7 weeks in 2015 the creation of artist Thomas Houseago. It’s called Masks (Pentagon) and was designed specifically for this plaza where the Christmas tree is installed every year.
Five masks standing vertically ranging in height from 14 1/2 to 16 1/2 feet and forming a pentagonal space. They are standing on a stepped base of redwood beams and were casted in clay in industrial-strenght plaster. It’s a work to be looked at and steeped in. This dual dynamic of appreciation provided for two very unique experiences that help in the process of balancing opposites within ourselves.
From outside and walking around it we are able to appreciate five distinct yet connected sides. Each of the masks reflects a different visual vocabulary for the human face. There is the abstracted, the linear, the flattened and layered, and the substantial with what appears to be packets of extra material.
On deeper examination we discern other symbols that embody interesting and profound ideas as is the case with this southern side. On this mask on the eyes section we are able to discern the symbol of infinity, the number 8 lying to the side. This symbol is complex and beautiful in it’s simplicity and fluidity. It embodies the notion of eternal balance and other qualities that are multidimensional in nature and supportive of humanity’s anchoring on a more ennobled platform.
The base of the work is made of redwood beams. Redwoods are the tallest living beings on Earth and can live for up to 2,000 years and reach heights of up to 360ft. Like Christmas trees, they keep their green needle leaves year round. Their dense bark provides protection against the periodic fires that sweep through Redwood forests. Their color represents blood, passion and life. In this Redwood essence we can feel qualities of verticality and reaching upward. This leads us to experience it’s tremendous physical vitality, massive and rapid growth and it’s defiance of gravity. In their ability to lift water to the their crowns they not only support existence, but also that of many other creatures that inhabit their diverse vertical ecosystems. Just like the skyscrapers of New York City. Redwood is the embodiment of life in the form of a tree.
Stepping up to the interior of the work the esthetic experience is deepened. You see a grid-like armature of rebar inlaid with hemp and plaster. Peering through the openings in the masks we see people passing by, people around the work and the surrounding architecture. Each side is different. This pentagonal room evokes feelings of being in a space for the purpose of rituals that are mysterious and distant. Feels like you are inside a head perceiving the reality around you through the available windows. To understand the integrative process in this work we must look at the dynamics of this pentagonal space.
As a five-sided figure, the pentagon is balanced and versatile. The number five is the number of the human being. It’s rich symbolism is cross-cultural and far-reaching. A popular building in Washington D.C. is The Pentagon. The building is functional for it’s operations its shape is associated with strong protective qualities.
Public works of art are unique and carry strong messages that in turn mold the cultural character of the population that activate them. The demographic that visits Rockefeller Center is global. The reach of the operations based in the complex are also global. As global citizens, we are finding, in works from artists like Thomas Houseago, the glue that will hold our global collective exchange in one piece.
The imagery that defines this and other centers of New York City is of a powerful international nature. The Messages transcend time and physical perception.
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