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Sometimes it takes another person’s perspective on a familiar place or object to see it in a new light–drawing an outline around a space highlights an additional dimension.  Be it a Parisian bridge that is crossed by thousands daily without a second’s thought, or pathways through Manhattan’s Central Park, both locations represent an aspect of the “heart of the city”. (For centuries, the Pont Neuf has literally been the heart of Paris, connecting the Île de la Cité with the left and right banks of the Seine, and the eponymous nature of Central Park requires little explanation.)

Environmental artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude have been working in both urban and rural settings for 50 years. The pair, along with artists such as  Walter de Maria and the Dia Foundation, have individually inspired numerous examples of Land Art and Urban Art Installations for decades.

The Bulgarian and French born team work meticulously on projects for years, taking them from conceptual rendering to actualization, always funding them on their own in order to maintain artistic autonomy.  The time scale of their work is as staggering as the size; for example the Pont Neuf Wrapped project took nearly a decade of petitioning with Paris officials for the piece that included 40,876 square meters of fabric and 13 kilometers of rope to be approved. The ephemeral nature of the works extend from material to longevity…the pieces are rarely in place for longer than several weeks, and the fragility of draped, wrapped or tied cloth contrasts with the solidity of the object or environment it is defining.

Over the River, their newest proposed piece received approval from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management just days ago on November 7th.  There are still some levels of permitting required, but the artist believes they will be able to begin work the  summer of 2012.  Depending on the vantage point, the 9.4 kilometers of fabric panels suspended over the Arkansas River in Colorado will highlight the serpentine flow of the river seen from above or the contours of the clouds and mountains seen from below.

OTR joins Running Fence in Northern California and Manhattan’s The Gates as an example of pieces that help visually define their locations, highlighting the undulating land or winding paths of their environment in ways that capture the eye and leave an indelible imprint of the landscape on our collective imaginations.

With wrapping and draping, floating fabric gates or luminous umbrellas, the artists’ work offers the experience of the environment, be it urban or rural, as a gift made more precious by being transitory.

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