Outsider Art

Posted inID Mag

By: Ian Volner | November 11, 2009

For the last five years, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC)’s SwingSpace program has been commandeering unused commercial properties in and around the financial district to present short-term installations by emerging artists. This fall, the series heads out of doors as the LMCC debuts LentSpace, a temporary art park on a vacant lot in the heart of downtown.

After demolishing a block of two- and three-story structures in 2007, landlords Trinity Real Estate found themselves stuck with the razed Soho plot when the bottom fell out of the building market, thwarting their plans for a new mixed-use tower. Bordered by Canal, Sullivan, Varick, and Grand Streets, the parcel has been empty ever since. Behind the scenes, LMCC president Maggie Boepple teamed up with Trinity executives to find a creative interim use (at least two years) for the 3/4-acre lot.

LMCC curator Adam Kleinman envisioned a series of exhibitions for LentSpace with art that would attract visitors from the surrounding community while reflecting the park’s peculiarly impermanent condition. In the current show, Eli Hansen and Oscar Tuazon’s Use It for What It’s Used For suggests a small house in mid-construction, while Ryan Taber’s Pompey’s Folly is a wall, seemingly removed from some torn-down building and marked with mysterious figures.

For an overall design flexible enough to accommodate rotating installations, Kleinman approached the architects at Interboro Partners: Tobias Amborst, Daniel D’Oca, and Georgeen Theodore. The group met at Harvard; they now teach, respectively, at Vassar College, the Maryland Institute College of Art, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Together they created a low-key public space that manages to be everything to everyone. Sculpture garden, arboretum, events showcase, and conversation piece, LentSpace gestures toward its own situation as an unlikely bit of cobbled-together urban ephemera.

Ian Volner is a writer and critic. He lives in Manhattan.

Photograph by Henry Hargreaves