FLATIRON — The giant, glowing head sculpture has left Madison Square Park, but public art lovers need not worry. The departure of Jaume Plensa's 44-foot-high "Echo" has cleared the way for a new exhibition from sculptor Alison Saar.
Saar’s installation, which was unveiled Thursday night, includes six pieces. Two sculptures, called “Treesoul,” date to 1994 and have been placed near East 25th Street and Madison Avenue.
The other four pieces are dotted around the park, nestled in trees and standing in open swaths of grass. They are part of a new series commissioned specifically for Madison Square Park titled “Feallan and Fallow.”
Each piece in the series represents one of the four seasons.
The “fall” sculpture features a woman with a head of branches reaching up to the sky. Pomegranates hang from those branches, and the woman’s skirt is outstretched to catch falling fruit.
“Winter,” situated in the eastern part of the park, shows the figure of a woman lying on her side and curled into a tight ball.
“Spring” was installed in a tree near Shake Shack and depicts a young girl perched in a crook of branches letting her hair tumble toward the ground.
And “summer,” in the northwest corner of the park, is a pregnant woman whose womb is filled with fireflies.
“When I lived a few blocks from Madison Square Park, I’d often stroll through and was always amazed by the transformation of the park throughout the year,” Saar said in a statement. “'Feallan and Fallow’ depicts the seasons, but also speaks of our physical maturation and the ebb and flow of creativity.”
At the event, New York City Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate Levin pointed out that one of Saar’s other pieces — “Swing Low,” a monument to famed abolitionist Harriet Tubman — is permanently installed on West 122nd Street in Harlem. With this new series in Madison Square Park, Levin added, the city has become a bona fide collector of Saar’s work.
“We are delighted that Alison Saar’s dynamic work will attract visitors, inspire residents and help us see this vibrant neighborhood with fresh eyes,” Levin said.
Debbie Landau, president of the Madison Square Park Conservancy, said that the series’ life-cycle narrative is particularly appropriate for a revitalized historic public space like the park.
“Alison Saar is a phenomenal talent, an artist who works in the figurative tradition while creating art that is rich with metaphorical and mythological significance,” Landau said. “This show is a gift to the city and a testament to [Saar’s] gift as an artist.”
On its debut evening, Saar’s sculpture series immediately attracted attention.
“I love it,” Ariel Lask, 24, exclaimed as she ran over to the 14-foot-high “Treesoul” installation, which depicts a man and woman whose legs branch into roots as they approach the ground.
“It’s beautiful, very natural,” she said when asked what drew her to the sculpture.
Lask, a musician who majored in art history, said she recently started working in the area and was intrigued by the array of sculptures that made the park a sort of open-air art gallery.
“I feel like a lot more people are affected by art if it’s out there in the open,” Lask said.
“It’s like the perfect New York experience,” she added. “You don’t have to try to find art. It’s just there.”
Saar's sculptures will be on view in Madison Square Park until Dec. 31, 2011.