The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2021

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APRIL 2021 Issue
The Miraculous The Miraculous: New York

46. (West 22nd Street)

In 1982, an artist initiates the ambitious project of planting 7,000 oak trees next to an equal number of roughly-hewn basalt stone columns throughout a German city that had been heavily bombed during the Second World War. In 1987, a year after the artist’s death, his son inaugurates the 7,000th tree-and-stone pairing. Nine years later an art institution in New York extends the project by installing five basalt stone columns along a block in Chelsea. A different type of tree (Bradford callery pear, gingko, linden, oak, sycamore) is planted next to each column. Eight years after that an additional 25 trees are planted, again each next to a basalt column. The new trees include common hackberry, Japanese pagoda, Japanese zelkova, little leaf linden, pin oak and thornless honey locust. At this time an additional seven stones are added next to existing trees, bringing the total of stone-and-tree pairings to 37. Although rarely noticed by pedestrians on their way to view art in the sumptuous galleries thronging the neighborhood, these inconspicuous sculptures fulfill their patient, unheralded destinies. Crucially, their most significant property is the one that is hardest to see, how as the trees grow taller, the stones will become proportionally smaller. Models of constant flux, these radical monuments embody the artist’s three primary concerns: “transformation, change, revolution.”

(Joseph Beuys)

Contributor

Raphael Rubinstein

Raphael Rubinstein is the author of The Miraculous (Paper Monument, 2014) and A Geniza (Granary Books, 2015). He is currently writing a book about the Jewish-Egyptian writer Edmond Jabès. A Professor of Critical Studies at the University of Houston School of Art, he divides his time between Houston and New York.

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The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2021

All Issues