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Hell's Kitchen Artist's Steel Sculpture Heading to New 9th Ave. Plaza

By Maya Rajamani | August 2, 2016 3:07pm
 Artist Jordan Baker-Caldwell with his piece
Artist Jordan Baker-Caldwell with his piece "Golem."
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Hollis King

HELL’S KITCHEN — When an off-kilter shape appeared to Jordan Baker-Caldwell in a dream years ago, the artist quickly forgot about it.

But as he worked on a piece weeks later, it started to come back to him.

“After I’d finished it, I realized it came from this dream I had,” he recalled. “I didn’t know what it was exactly, but I knew that I had to make it.”

That piece was an early version of “Ascension" — a 9-foot, tubular sculpture that will be unveiled at a new canoe-shaped public plaza at West 36th Street and Ninth Avenue on Aug. 9.


A watercolor rendering of "Ascension."

For the Hell’s Kitchen resident of nearly a decade, the structure represents “upward motion, perseverance [and a] positive look toward the future.”

“That’s what I think of when I think of ‘Ascension,’” he said. “It also has a lot to do with the sense of time, the way that it’s balanced on edge.”

Baker-Caldwell crafted the sculpture at a studio in Queens, using weathering steel that develops a protective coating when it rusts.

“It gets this kind of rich, amber, brownish-reddish color that protects the piece and looks beautiful,” he explained. “It gives it a natural feel.”

Though the artist grew up in Harlem, he often visited Hell’s Kitchen with his mother —  a jewelry designer who brought her wares to trade shows at the Javits Center.

Years of work went into bringing the sculpture to the neighborhood, from a Kickstarter campaign raising money to produce it to partnering with the Hudson Yards/Hell’s Kitchen Alliance to plan its installation.

“For me it’s important because this neighborhood has meant so much to me for years of my life,” Baker-Caldwell said. “This piece will hopefully be the first of many in the neighborhood.”