Primary colors- an interview

If you are in the mood for frolicking in the park this summer, then you will like what you'd find in Madison Square Park. Red, Yellow and Blue, a large-scale installation by artist Orly Genger is currently on view until September 8th.  For this commission, she created three sculptures with heavy-duty ropes and latex paint  to occupy the main gardens of the park.  Their vibrant colors and organic shapes are sure to inspire light and humor in people's hearts.  Orly's sculptures do not only have a strong physical presence but also psychologically impacting the spectators.  With each of the different colors, I experienced a different emotional response upon entering and interacting with the sculptures.  Her ceaseless effort in trying to overcome fears and confront physical challenges is evident in her work.  Yet the result is one that adds a sense of joy and security to those who has ever experienced her work.  Recently I had the pleasure of asking her a few questions about this work, I hope you will enjoy learning a little more about her work as much as I enjoyed interviewing her. 

Orly Genger, Red, Yellow and Blue, 2013
Installation view in Madison Square Park
Photo: James Ewing
Orly Genger, Red, Yellow and Blue, 2013
Installation view in Madison Square Park
Photo: James Ewing
     
CH: First, can you tell me a little about why you chose to name this installation as Red, Yellow and Blue?  The title reminds me of works by Piet Mondrian produced around 1920s and onward when he made paintings consisted of intersecting geometry confined within a grid but filled with brilliant primary colors such as yellow, blue and red.  Were you seeking to make some kind of commentary on the modernist aesthetic or were you just thinking of the colors for this installation?  

    OG: The choice of colors was inspired by Barnett Newman’s series of paintings called Who’s Afraid of Red Yellow and Blue? In some of my past work I reference other male artists of the same period (60’s and 70’s) though they were all sculptors. This was the first time I reference a painter directly. The work in the park is very much about color and paint that I thought it would be appropriate to reference a painter this time. It is also rooted in my interest in the notions of overcoming fears and challenges both physical and emotional. I hope that in a lighter and maybe amusing way this work offered an answer to Newman’s question, Who’s afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue?

   I also find the primary colors to be the most democratic and accessible, at least conceptually, for many people. And my intention with this work was for it to be totally non-restrictive.

Orly Genger, Red, Yellow and Blue, 2013
Installation view in Madison Square Park
Photo: James Ewing 
Orly Genger, Red, Yellow and Blue, 2013
Installation view in Madison Square Park
Photo: James Ewing 
Orly Genger, Red, Yellow and Blue, 2013
Installation view in Madison Square Park
Photo: CH

CH: Judging by the size and scale of Red, Yellow and Blue, the process of realizing it must have been an intensely laborious one.  What is it about working on a scale that would potentially intimidate one’s physical presence that interests you?  In other words, do you find it exhilarating to tackle the physical challenges encountered in your work?  

OG: I do find it exciting to tackle physical challenges in my work. I have always been attracted to the sensation I get when I feel I have used my body to make work, when I feel tired from wrestling with material. But there are of course challenges beyond the physical that need to be overcome. The conceptual element of actually figuring out what I want to make and why in many ways requires even more of me than the physical element. 

CH: What I love about your work is that even though the process might have involved a certain degree of aggression and physical hardship, yet the result gives one (as in the view of a spectator) a feeling of peacefulness, security and joy.  When you were working on Red, Yellow and Blue, did you predict the results you want to achieve and stick to it persistently throughout?  

OG: I’m most inclined to work intuitively. That becomes challenging on a large scale, for obvious reasons. While working on Red, Yellow and Blue I needed to find the balance that would allow me to plan just enough so that I had a clear vision as to what I wanted the work to be but at the same time leave myself enough room to play with the material in a fluid and intuitive manner on site.

CH: For some parts of the sculpture, the stacks are over six feet tall.  This physical aspect evokes a sense of confinement and restricted access while at the same a sense of safety.    Do you welcome each visitor to take away from the experience his or her own interpretation or is there something more specific that you wanted to bring to awareness?

OG: While I always welcome one’s own personal experience and interpretation of my work, I did have a specific feeling that I hoped the work could evoke.  I was less interested in creating sculptures that are intimidating and restrictive but rather was more excited by the idea of creating areas that people could enter and feel embraced by the space. I wanted people to feel held.


Orly Genger, Red, Yellow and Blue, 2013
Installation view in Madison Square Park
Photo: CH
Orly Genger, Red, Yellow and Blue, 2013
Installation view in Madison Square Park
Photo: James Ewing 

CH: Since your installation exists out in the open, do you expect your work to change with the passage of time?  For example, when it rains or when the strong sunlight hits, do you expect the colors to fade a little?  Is this kind of natural transformation also a part of your intention for this work?  

OG: Everything changes with the passage of time and it is something we all come to terms with. The rope I used for this piece is reclaimed lobster rope. It’s rope that is designed to be in water. The paint I used is outdoor latex paint- the same paint you would use to paint a house. The materials are made to be outdoors and can last indefinitely with repainting done every so often depending on climate and location and proper maintenance.

CH: While accommodating the space within a park is obviously different from accommodating an indoor space such as inside galleries or museums.  Were there different kinds of physical challenges installing in the park as oppose to inside of a museum or gallery?  Do you find that having your work more accessible to the general public is in some ways different than it being accessible to a somewhat more art-focused audience?  

OG: There is no ceiling outdoors and there are no walls to contain the work. It needs to survive not only the elements but the proximity to trees and towering buildings. I find that people also feel more invested in the work when it is outdoors. There is more of a sense of public ownership which, from my experience, invites people to express, sometimes directly to me, the way they feel about the work, good or bad.

CH: Red, Yellow and Blue will be traveling to deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in October and will stay for one year.  Are there other exhibitions and installations coming up that we should see in order to get a better sense of your overall practice?  

OG: I am working on another outdoor installation for the Contemporary Austin* next Spring.

Orly Genger, Red, Yellow and Blue, 2013
Installation view in Madison Square Park
Photo: James Ewing 
*Orly Genger has been commissioned to install her new work at The Contemporary Austin to be included in the 2014-15 season after its official opening of a new expansion which is to take place in Fall of this year.  

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