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Raffia Horses and Steely Birds: Art and Performance from Grand Central to Flatiron Plaza

The holiday weekend this year is coinciding with the first hints of blossoms and spring in the city, well overdue. The blooming, in general, looks to be running well behind last year's season. Yet, from appearances of daffodils and eager buds on many a Callery pear tree, and a weather forecast that calls for temperatures in the mid-to-upper 50s, we may be in for a welcome weekend of natural and soulful serendipity. This could be the time, finally, when winter-weary New Yorkers emerge en masse from hibernation in their monochromatic city, rub their hands over their eyes, and awake to the sounds of migrating birds, the smell of lilies, and the spectacles of public art. If not this weekend, then the next one.

• Nick Cave. Heard•NY. Creative Time, MTA Arts for Transit. Vanderbilt Hall, Grand Central Terminal. Through March 31, 2013.
Nick Cave. Heard•NY
Vanderbilt Hall, Grand Central Terminal.

I see horses. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of New York's historic thoroughfare, presenters Creative Time, MTA Arts for Transit, and artist Nick Cave have shepherded 30 life-size horses into Vanderbilt Hall of Grand Central Terminal. In "Daily Crossings" at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. through March 31, a troupe of humans, working in pairs, animate colorful raffia horse costumes. They prance and dance and gently nuzzle the people who want to pet them. Accompanied by an engaging pair of musicians, one on harp and another on drums, the horses gradually ascend in tempo from a lyrical trot and canter into a fast and carnivalesque syncopated frenzy. The sound of rhythmic drums envelops the hall.

Nick Cave. Heard•NY
Vanderbilt Hall, Grand Central  Terminal.

Nick Cave. Heard•NY
Vanderbilt Hall, Grand Central Terminal.


Nick Cave. Heard•NY
Vanderbilt Hall, Grand Central  Terminal.

Then, in reverse symmetry of their gaits, the horses slow down to their original positions. As the humans shed their fanciful horse costumes and return them to their sawhorses (of course!), the audience breaks out into applause. The whole thing takes about 20 minutes, but the spirit of horses lingers much longer. Nick Cave's Heard•NY is charming and joyous. (And popular. Due to the limited number of performances and because Heard•NY has become one of those things to see, arrive well in advance of the scheduled crossing. More information at creativetime.org.)

Nick Cave. Heard•NY
Vanderbilt Hall, Grand Central Terminal.

From Grand Central, walk to Madison Square Park. (map at end of post)

Madison Square Park, green lawn.

• Will Ryman. Bird. Madison Square, near the Flatiron Building. NYC Department of Transportation’s Urban Art Program and The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership. Through April 21, 2013.
Will Ryman. Bird. Flatiron Plaza.

Will Ryman. Bird. Flatiron Plaza.
The Flatiron Building is on the right. 

I see a bird. What vision of Poe is this? A formidable 12-foot steel-gray bird made of five tons of real and prefab nails, standing above its nest of nails, caught with a limp rose stem in its beak, currently presides over Flatiron Plaza. Up close and at certain angles, the bird blurs into an abstract sculpture. There's nothing feathery about this bird, but as with manmade structures pounded together with thousands of nails, a bird is made up of an untold number of feathers. The rose stem will likely remind viewers of Will Ryman's installation of roses along Park Avenue from two years ago. Who knows? This bird may have plucked a rose from there and brought it south to Madison Square. On Thursday, Mother Nature and the steely Empire State Building collaborated with Bird to create a Gothic moment.

The Flatiron District with overcast skies, Bird, and the Empire State Building.

Walking from Grand Central to Madison Square makes for a relatively easy one-mile stroll. Taking Madison Avenue is the most efficient.


View Grand Central to Madison Square/Flatiron in a larger map

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from Thursday, March 28, 2013. See more events in the 2013 Spring Calendar.

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