For about a month now the great Venezuelan sculptor Rafael Barrios has been messing with people's minds in the heart of Manhattan with his series of ingenious, geometric pieces that are, basically, 20-foot-high optical illusions. Right in center of Park Avenue! The city has had a terrific run of interesting, unexpected public art projects (most everything in Madison Square Park; the Mark di Suvero exhibition on Governors Island last summer; Michael Sailstorfer's Tornado, the tire-tower across from the Plaza at the entrance to Central Park), but this just may be the coolest of them all.
There are ten Rafael Barrios's Park Avenue sculptures in all, each massive mind-blower standing on the mall (or, as we used to call it, the "median"), in between the north- and south-bound traffic. Made of stainless steel, weighing in at some 2,200 pounds, and often, though not always, brightly colored, these are some of the best, most convincing real-life eye-trickery we've seen in a while. Of course, all sculptures change as you move around them–in some respect that's the whole point of the medium, the differing perspectives–but these works by Rafael Barrios take the concept to the extreme.
When viewed head on, as you're riding by on a bicycle or in cab, or standing there waiting for the light to change, Rafael Barrios's sculptures seem like impossibly precarious stacks of various geometric shapes, almost as if they're floating above Park Avenue. And the boxes, or diamonds, or whatever, appear to change in size and depth as you stroll or zoom past. But then, most amazing, when you see from the side, these huge works are really only about a quarter of inch thick (see below). In fact, they virtually disappear! Pretty awesome.
Rafael Barrios Optical Illusion Sculptures on Park Avenue Details
The ten Rafael Barrios optical illusion sculptures are located on the Park Avenue mall, standing at various intersections between East 51st Street (and the Waldorf Astoria) and East 67th Street (and the Park Avenue Armory). The Rafael Barrios sculptures will be on view until June 30.