Holden, Barry


Nina Yankowitz and Barry Holden have been collaborating on public art projects since 1987. Though both have independent careers, Yankowitz as a sculptor and Holden as an architect, they have always been deeply concerned with issues that bridge their respective disciplines: the public accommodation of private experience, the role of humor in public art, the social responsibilities - ethical, educational - of working in the public realm, and, as an important part of those responsibilities, the provision of heightened perception and sheer visual pleasure.Their collaboration brings together complementary creative, conceptual and technical abilities, as well as deep familiarity with historical and contemporary art, and with meeting the practical demands of a wide variety of project programs.

Each of their projects has represented a unique solution to a distinctive challenge. But certain themes emerge in their work. Yankowitz has long experience working with mosaic tile, and her 1,000 sq. ft. Tunnel Vision ceramic tile mural, which creates trompe l'oeil rips through subway walls, providing views of hidden seascapes, was one the first new mosaics to be installed as part of a recently expanded art program in the New York City subway system. Many of her solo works, and of the team's collaborative projects, have involved illusionistic cuts into or through walls, revealing fictive secrets, creating fictive ruins. Sometimes substantial forms protrude from the wall, among them a cylinder that could be the front end of a train, and a sleek, ambiguous wing that evokes airplanes, but also an out-thrust tongue.

Themes that recur in Yankowitz and Holden's collaborative work include such vernacular American architectural forms as white clapboard farmhouses and humble wooden rowboats. Often, such forms, and others, are set adrift, made to seemingly hover in midair, to be lit from within, or, conversely, to be immersed in solid material, from which they only partially emerge, dreamlike but altogether believable. One proposal called for 18'-high columns to be clad in lacy, perforatedstainless steel, lit internally so they seemed to generate their own light; a central element of this proposal was a public bench illuminated so that it, too seemed to glow, and, most dramatically, to float inches above the floor.

A realized project that has received particularly wide acclaim is Garden of Games/Garden of Scientific Ideas, commissioned by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs' Percent for Art program for the two 3,000 sq. ft. rooftops of a New York City public school. The Garden of Scientific Ideas incorporates a wide variety of interactive, cast-bronze sculptures based on scientific instruments, including a sound wave magnifier, a "Newton's Cradle," and a parabolic image generator; the Games garden, constructed of granite mosaics inlaid in limestone tables and benches, features chess and backgammon playing boards. They rest on colored pavers that echo the game board theme, as do further, geometric sculptural elements, some of which doubleas seating. Among the project's distinctive features is an oversized clock that sends out shifting patterns of light through a perforated stainless steel grill that revolves across its face.

Yankowitz and Holden are looking towards projects that will allow them to realize their interest in provocative uses of new technologies. Having long been interested in paradoxical physical experiences - in seemingly solid and forms that can be made permeable, and stable, massive ones that can be made to shimmer, shift, and even levitate -- they are eager to expand the means by which such effects can be achieved. Like Alice in Wonderland, they continue to follow their curiosity about alternative spatial worlds, and to explore new means of bringing them vividly to life.