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“Human Nature” at Rockefeller Center

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"Human Nature"/ Photo by James Ewing, Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY

From the opening of the New Museum in 2007 to November 2010, the art installation “Hell, Yes!” (2001) affirmed the burgeoning Bowery scene with a lit-up rainbow arc bolted to the museum’s facade. Some were sad to see it go, some called it blasphemous and some called it the curatorial equivalent of “wearing a baseball cap over a wedding veil.” But the artist behind the piece—Swiss-born, New York–based Ugo Rondinone—made a name for himself.

Under the auspices of the Public Art Fund, the sign-maker and sculptor’s most recent body of work was unveiled last week on the plaza at Rockefeller Center. “Human Nature,” a convocation of nine stone figures (each between 16 and 20 feet tall), will stand on their poured-concrete platform through June 7, silently and deliberately provoking 30 Rock’s gilded angels. They simultaneously recall Stonehenge and a comic-book invasion of armless bluestone giants.

Whether they will be embraced or derided remains to be seen, but their rough-cut, primal scale is sure to elicit something. (“It’s Ugohenge. Isn’t that what everyone’s calling them?” said painter Elizabeth Peyton, quoted in The New York Times.) But there is a peace to them, perhaps born of their elemental nature; they are too basic for us to move them, so they move us.

Rondinone’s New York moment will continue through the summer with a similar exhibit called “soul,” opening May 10 at Gladstone Gallery (530 W. 21st St.; gladstonegallery.com), and a video piece at MoMA’s PS 1 (22–25 Jackson Ave., Long Island City; momaps1.org). His work will also appear in Chicago (five large rocks at the Art Institute), Dallas (public installations courtesy of Nasher Sculpture Center) and Zurich (stone giants in miniature at Gallerie Eva Presenhuber). Hell, yes. “Human Nature” will be on view at Rockefeller Center through June 7.

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