Bayeté Ross Smith Got the Power: Boomboxes: Harlem, 2016. All photos by the author for Hyperallergic

Bayeté Ross Smith, “Got the Power: Boomboxes: Harlem” (2016). (All works are located in Marcus Garvey Park, except where noted, all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

The Flux Art Fair, which is only in its second year, has done something boldly innovative with the art fair format: created a scheme of public works placed throughout Harlem’s parks and boulevards. Throughout the month of May, Flux is presenting more than 40 site-specific installations, what they term “interventions” (which, as far as I can tell, are app-based digital works), music, artist performances, panel discussions, and tours. The fair for the most part is concentrated in Marcus Garvey Park, with some satellite works at the Harlem Art Park, Malcolm X Boulevard and 124th Street, Fifth Avenue from Marcus Garvey Park to 129th Street, and the Harlem Grown Farm.

To launch what the Flux Fair calls the Flux Public Art Projects, the founder of the Flux Fair, Leanne Stella, partnered with several key institutions: the Harlem Community Development Corporation, the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance, NYC Parks, and the New York City Department of Transportation Art Program. The key motivation for this coalition seems to be their concern with nurturing a robust civic engagement through public art in the Harlem community. This has been a longtime hope for Harlem. However, the works presented are very much of the current moment politically and aesthetically. Over half the artists are women, there is a range of ethnicities represented, and perhaps most potentially challenging to the members of the community who don’t typically take in public art: all the work is contemporary and little of it representational.

The overarching conceit of the program is the idea of “changing landscapes,” a theme wide and deep enough to essentially give the artists a blank slate with the prompt “surprise me” written below. The artists responded with a range not just of materials and aesthetics, but of vision. Some changed the landscape, some created symbols defying a certain kind of change, and some imagined the community already transformed. Here is a sample.

Bob Clyatt, (E)scape – New Faces, 2014

Bob Clyatt, “(E)scape – New Faces” (2014)

Montserrat Daubón "Big Head (Harlem Rose)" (2016)

Montserrat Daubón, “Big Head (Harlem Rose)” (2016)

Jordan Baker-Caldwell "Golem" (2013)

Jordan Baker-Caldwell, “Golem” (2013)

Mira Gandy "Up, Up, Up You Mighty Race" (2016)

Mira Gandy, “Up, Up, Up You Mighty Race” (2016)

Stan Squirewell "The Odyssey" (2016)

Stan Squirewell, “The Odyssey” (2016)

Capucine Bourcart "Trompe l’oeil" (2016)

Capucine Bourcart, “Trompe l’oeil” (2016)

Susan Stair "Tree Reflections" (2016)

Susan Stair, “Tree Reflections” (2016)

Sara Jimenez "Permeable Threads" (2016)

Sara Jimenez “Permeable Threads” (2016)

Tiffany Smith "Outdoor/Indoor" (2016)

Tiffany Smith, “Outdoor/Indoor” (2016)

Leah Poller "Bed of Flowers" (2016)

Leah Poller, “Bed of Flowers” (2016)

Lucy Hodgson "Surge" (2003-2013)

Lucy Hodgson, “Surge” (2003-2013)

Kurt Steger "Urban Structure" (2016)

Kurt Steger, “Urban Structure” (2016)

On opening day, Sui Park bends down to make slight adjustments to "Sprout" 2016

On opening day, Sui Park bends down to make slight adjustments to “Sprout” (2016)

Jack Howard-Potter "Belvedere Torso" (2010)

Jack Howard-Potter “Belvedere Torso” (2010)

SUPRINA "DNA Totem" (2016)

SUPRINA, “DNA Totem” (2016)

Jason Wallace "Crosshairs" (2016)

Jason Wallace “Crosshairs” (2016)

Jose Soto "Focus" (2016), located in Harlem Art Park

Jose Soto “Focus” (2016), located in Harlem Art Park

The Flux Art Fair continues until May 31 at various locations around Harlem, Manhattan.

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Seph Rodney

Seph Rodney, PhD, is a senior critic for Hyperallergic and has written for the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, and other publications. He is featured on the podcast The...