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Rafael Barrios Brings His Trippy Op Art Sculptures to Park Ave.

By Amy Zimmer | January 13, 2012 11:26am
A rendering of a Rafael Barrios sculpture (with the artist) on Park Avenue at East 57th Street.
A rendering of a Rafael Barrios sculpture (with the artist) on Park Avenue at East 57th Street.
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Art Nouveau Gallery

UPPER EAST SIDE — Park Avenue will soon be getting some trippy Op Art sculptures lining its mall from East 53rd to 67th streets.

Venezuelan artist Rafael Barrios plans to bring roughly 10 large sculptures to the iconic avenue. The sculptures appear to be three-dimensional at a distance, but are actually extremely thin, two-dimensional pieces of coated metal, according to a recent presentation by Parks Department officials to Community Board 8.

The works would be installed from March 3 through June 30, Parks officials said.

"The pieces range in form, shape, color and dimension and are all very representational of Barrios’ 40-plus years of creating art that alters our perception and state of mind," according to a summary of the project presented to CB8.

Many of the seemingly gravity-defying sculptures are experimental works that Barrios has never shown before in his career spanning more than 40 decades. He is known for his floating metal sculptures that seem voluminous but are revealed otherwise when viewed at different angles.

The work is about "dislocating our perception in such a way that our mind’s eye will insist that you are seeing something that you are not," Barrios wrote in an email to DNAinfo. "They are virtual, contemplative, geometrical and [participatory], designed so that they may visually develop in our mind’s eye and be appreciated from anywhere in innumerable visual possibilities."

Barrios was born in Baton Rouge in 1947 but grew up in Venezuela and has some ties to New York. He lived in New York from 1976 until 1987, studying art and philosophy at New York University, he wrote DNAinfo in an email. When he was living here, he dreamed of presenting his work on Park Avenue, he said.

"Now after 35 years, this dream comes through," he wrote.

The temporary installation, sponsored by the Art Nouveau Gallery and the Sculpture Committee of the Fund for Park Avenue, comes on the heels of works by American modernist sculptor Bryan Hunt, whose cast bronze and aluminum “Waterfall” series was on display for three months through November. Prior to that, Will Ryman’s giant, 25-foot-tall roses bloomed along Park Avenue.

The art program along the avenue’s malls has been running since 2000. Barrios is the first Venezuelan artist to participate in the program and the second Latin American artist after Fernando Botero.