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Hosted by the Madison Square Park Conservancy, the art installation by California sculptor Charles Long in Madison Square Park is now open to the public. The interactive structure is called Pet Sounds and will be up through September 9th 2012. It’s a whimsical addition to the oval lawn that fits nicely into the Conservancy’s quest to find artists who push the envelope with bold works in public spaces. It would be easy for the Conservancy to find 5-7 standard sculptures to set up around the park every season, but they don’t. They take chances with a 44ft sculpture of a girl’s head, or 31 life-sized statues placed along rooftops and around the Madison Square Park, or 2000 suspended lights showing video.

In the case of the Charles Long installation, the artist takes something as routine as a pipe hand rail, paints them in vivid colors, and balloons them out into blob-like shapes that makes sounds when touched. Maybe it’s a reminder that even the mundane can be whimsical, that what we have accepted as boring can become imaginative, or maybe it will just entertain the 3 year-olds who even on day one already seem inseparable with the structures. Regardless of your perspective, it’s commendable that the artist, and the Conservancy, are making grand attempts to grab our attention and to make us think. Nobody walks by an art installation in Madison Square Park and does not notice it.

Charles Long was part of the Whitney’s 2008 and 1997 biennials and about this project he told the Conservancy, “My re-occurring interest in the uncanny over many years is in full effect here in the Pet Sounds project where something as familiar and literally grounding as a handrail morphs into an unnamable blob that has a very physical presence with some power to dialog with the viewer’s own somatic sense. As one pets the blobs, a wide range of sounds are triggered and are coming from within the bodies of the forms. The sounds and the sculptural forms connect to the physicality of the viewer and by extension to those of others that are touching the work. I wanted the work to be as visually affecting to park visitors as it is a physical and aural experience for them.

The sculpture is part of the Madison Square Conservancy’s groundbreaking Madison Square Art public art program. Each season you will find thought-provoking sculptures, structures, video and audio art throughout the park by the most prominent artists in the world including Antony Gormley, Jim Campbell, Richard Deacon, Tadashi Kawamata, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, William Wegman, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Jaume Plensa, and Sol LeWitt.

Here is a video from the installation:

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