Who: Sam Moyer, Daniel S. Palmer
What: Public Art Fund livestreamed discussion about Sam Moyer: Doors for Doris
Where: Cooper Union Zoom
When: Wednesday, October 14, free with RSVP, 5:00 (sculpture on view in Doris C. Freedman Plaza through August 28, 2021)
Why: “Contemporary public sculpture presents a new visual and emotional experience, a challenge to our senses and sensibilities,” philanthropist Doris Chanin Freedman said back in the late 1970s. “Sculpture that confronts us on our way to work, or on our daily errands, is no longer the remote object belonging to the world of galleries and museums but a special component of our daily lives.” Freedman, who passed away in November 1981 at the age of fifty-three, was a champion of outdoor art in New York City, having served as the first director of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, president of the Municipal Art Society, and president of City Walls as well as being host of WNYC's Artists in the City and founder of the Public Art Fund; since 1977, PAF has installed site-specific commissions on what was christened, after her death, Doris C. Freedman Plaza, which stands at the entrance to Central Park on Fifth Ave. at Sixtieth St. known as Scholar’s Gate. The dedication plaque reads in part, “As a pioneer in the field of public art, Doris Freedman labored tirelessly to enliven and humanize the urban environment. The people of the City of New York are the beneficiaries of her vision.”
Brooklyn-based artist Sam Moyer, who was born in Chicago shortly after Freedman died, has paid tribute to her with the three-part sculpture Doors for Doris, a trio of partially open entryways to the park on the plaza named for her. (You can see our online slideshow of the work here.) Constructed of indigenous New York granite and Bluestone, concrete slabs, and discarded marble from such countries as Brazil, China, India, and Italy that Moyer found around the city, Doors for Doris offers passersby a new way to walk into or out of the park, honoring the woman who fought for artists to be able to live in their SoHo studios and for civic construction projects to include public art in their budgets. The international nature of the material and the not-fully-open doors reference not only New York City as a melting pot but the need for immigration reform; it also outlines such issues as income inequality, combining standard concrete with marble scraps tossed away from kitchen redesigns and fancy building lobbies. Freedman’s father was architect and real estate developer Irwin S. Chanin, the namesake of the Chanin Building across from Grand Central, an Art Deco skyscraper that features a bronze relief of evolution scenes on its facade in addition to a bas-relief by Edward Trumbull and a terracotta frieze. So it’s more than apt that on October 14 at 5:00, PAF is hosting an artist talk in conjunction with the Cooper Union, home to the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture. Moyer, who also makes abstract hand-painted canvases composed of stone, marble, terrazzo concrete, and travertine on MDF panels in addition to oil on Bristol and works made of fused glass, will be speaking with PAF curator Daniel S. Palmer.