New Public Art Exhibit in Brooklyn Bridge Park Explores ‘Hybrid Identities’ Created by the Diaspora

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Kiyan Williams, ‘Ruins of Empire’, 2022. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY Kiyan Williams, ‘Ruins of Empire’ was commissioned by Public Art Fund and presented as part of Black Atlantic at Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York, from May 17 to November 27, 2022

Spread over three piers at Brooklyn Bridge Park, black atlantic is a new open-air art exhibition inspired by the overseas diaspora and which offers “an open, multifaceted and heterogeneous idea” of black identity in the United States today. Co-curated by artist Hugh Hayden and Public Art Fund Assistant Curator Daniel S. Palmer, black atlantic features works by Hayden and artists Leilah Babirye, Dozie Kanu, Tau Lewis and Kiyan Williams. The exhibition is visible until November 27.

Hugh Hayden, ‘The Gulf Stream’, 2022. Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery. Photo: Nicholas Knight, courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY. “The Gulf Stream” was commissioned by Public Art Fund and presented as part of Black Atlantic at Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York, from May 17 to November 27, 2022.

The historic waterfront location is important for black atlantic, named after Paul Gilroy’s book, because it represents the area that served as a network between the United States and the rest of the world, including Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean. The waterfront location adds an aspect to the exhibit that “highlights the complex hybrid identities that have developed through the interchange of culture and ideas over the centuries along the transatlantic routes,” according to A press release.

“There is magic and agency in creating a handmade piece of art. In designing this exhibition, I was drawn to the idea of ​​bringing together a group of sculptors whose practice involves material exploration and an element of the handmade,” said Hayden. It evokes the idea of ​​materializing a vision of the future and shaping your own identity.

black atlantic will exemplify a counterpoint to a monolithic perception of blackness and reflect the multitude of ways individuals can create a new vision within the context of American culture that is expansive, malleable, and open to all.

Hayden’s play, The Gulf Stream, is a rowboat that lies along a path near the south entrance to Pier 2, apparently washed up on shore and left sitting on some rocks. The interior of the ship’s hull contains a “sculptural carcass”, composed of cedar wood that comes together to form a human ribcage.


Leilah Babirye, “Agali Awamu (Togetherness)”, 2022. Courtesy of the artist, Gordon Robichaux, NY, and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY “Agali Awamu (Togetherness)” was commissioned by Public Art Fund and presented as part of Black Atlantic at Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York, May 17 – November 27, 2022

Babirye’s work, Agali Awamu (Unity), consists of two groups of totem sculptures located at opposite ends of Pier 1 near the water. The sculptures are made of hollowed-out tree trunks that have been decorated with welded metal and jewelry-like objects. Babirye, who in 2015 was forced to flee her home in Uganda due to homophobic persecution, says the piece as a whole is meant to depict a “chosen queer family, whose visibility in a public space is a beacon of empowerment”. .

In on the elbows, Kanu aims to portray private thoughts brought into a public space. The piece consists of a concrete lounge chair sitting on Texas Wire Wheels, meant to resemble a slab car, alluding to the slab car culture that originated in Kanu’s hometown of Houston, Texas. Nearby is a vessel containing a dark liquid that “pulsates in rhythm with a heartbeat, suggesting the processes of the unconscious”.


“We pressed our bellies together and kicked, we became something so alien we had no natural predators left”, 2022. The Earth had a heavy heart », 2022 “We wondered if the angels had abandoned us, or if they had simply changed shape without letting us know. Every night creatures disappeared, every morning strangers arrived”, 2022. Artwork: Courtesy of the artist and the Night Gallery. Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY Commissioned by the Public Art Fund and presented as part of Black Atlantic at Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York, May 17–November 27, 2022.

Lewis’ piece is made up of three six-foot-wide iron discs that have been meticulously detailed using sand casting. The designs are inspired by crinoids, ancient sea animals that Lewis began studying in 2019. The three discs also include Adinkra symbols from West Africa, and grouping the discs signifies ruminating on “the wandering of the ancient marine animal, the scattering of their fossils”. , and their coexistence with black bodies throughout the diaspora.


Kiyan Williams, ‘Ruins of Empire’, 2022. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY Kiyan Williams, ‘Ruins of Empire’ was commissioned by Public Art Fund and presented as part of Black Atlantic at Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York, from May 17 to November 27, 2022

Finally, Williams, a Newark native, reimagines the Statue of Liberty atop the United States Capitol building in DC, which was built by slaves. Called Empire Ruins, the piece consists of a bronze and platinum statue that appears to be decomposed, covered in mud and sinking into the ground. The decrepit appearance of the sculpture is meant to show “how American ideals of freedom are intertwined with subjugation, drawing on science fiction tropes of a destroyed monument like the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of a world ruined by environmental devastation,” according to the artist.

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All photos courtesy of Nicholas Knight for the Public Art Fund, NY

Keywords :
brooklyn bridge park, public art, public art fund

Neighborhoods:
Brooklyn Heights

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