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Two new sculptures coming to Memorial Art Gallery’s lawn

Sep 14, 2021

The second phase of the Memorial Art Gallery's Centennial Sculpture Park will include 'Lover's Rainbow' by Pia Camil
Credit IMAGE COURTESY BAYER LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE-PLLC.

If there were ever a public sculpture perfect for shareable selfies, “Lover’s Rainbow” could be it.

The piece, one of two monumental outdoor sculptures planned to be installed on the grounds of the Memorial Art Gallery next year, will be made of steel rebar painted the colors of the rainbow and bent to form a high archway that spans several dozen feet across the open lawn.

“You’re meant to stand under it, you’re meant to get the Instagram pic,” MAG Director Jonathan Binstock said following a groundbreaking ceremony Monday at the museum that drew staff, local elected officials, and dignitaries from the University of Rochester, which owns the gallery.

“Lover’s Rainbow,” by Mexican artist Pia Camil, and another untitled sculpture by New York City-based artist Rashid Johnson, are to anchor the gallery’s expansion of its Centennial Sculpture Park. The pieces will join 12 others already gracing the lawn of the campus when they are expected to be completed next fall.

The expansion is also to include new pedestrian pathways, some smaller sculptures, and refreshed landscaping, museum officials said. Construction is scheduled to begin in October.

“Museums always were this place where you go, you see the art, you absorb it, and then leave,” Binstock said. “I think all of this is really about shifting the relationship, so it's not only welcoming the camera, but it's also making the community the centerpiece.”

A rendering of Rashid Johnson's as yet unnamed sculpture is depicted on the MAG's southwest lawn near the School of the Arts.
Credit IMAGE COURTESY BAYER LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE, PLLC.

Once installed near Prince Street, Johnson’s sculpture, which has yet to be named, will form a curved wall covered in mosaic tiles that depict the images of “genderless and raceless” faces, Binstock said, adding that students at the nearby School of the Arts inspired the work.

The expansion marks the second phase of the construction of Centennial Sculpture Park, which opened in 2013 to celebrate the museum’s 100th anniversary. The latest additions were financed by two private donors and a $600,000 grant from Empire State Development, the umbrella organization for the state’s two economic development public-benefit corporations.

The project’s overall aim is to open the campus to invite passersby to walk the grounds, check out the art for free, or sit and chat with friends, museum officials said.

Works by Rochester artists Albert Paley, Jackie Ferrara, and the late Wendell Castle, as well as New York City-based sculptor Tom Otterness and others were installed during the initial phase, along with walkways and landscaping elements that crisscross the gallery’s south and east grounds.

The Castle and Otterness works added more places to sit (and climb, in the case of parts of Otterness’s work). Ferrara’s “Marking Crossways,” a series of geometric pathways, are used by pedestrians throughout the day.

State Sen. Samra Brouk, who was on hand for the groundbreaking, called the museum “a cornerstone of the Rochester community.”

“The MAG makes art accessible to our community, and this sculpture park is another way in which they give our community something to treasure,” Brouk said.

Sections of the wrought iron gate that used to sequester the MAG campus from the neighborhood were removed, providing around-the-clock access to the grounds. More of that gate will come down with the expansion, this time opening the grounds to foot traffic from University Avenue near the School of the Arts.

Two new sculptural works by Rashid Johnson (foreground) and Pia Camil (background) pictured will be installed on the southwest lawn of the Memorial Art Gallery in 2022.
Credit IMAGE COURTESY BAYER LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE, PLLC.

This expansion completes the initial vision for the sculpture park, Binstock said, but added that there is more that can be done to the 15-acre grounds to make the museum more of a cultural presence in the neighborhood.

“We do have thoughts, dreams, fantasies of how to continue to improve the exterior of the property in order to make more room for art, to be more inviting to people, more welcoming,” he said.

Rebecca Rafferty is CITY's life editor. She can be reached at becca@rochester-citynews.com.