Lighting Up the “Last Real Slice of New York” in West Harlem

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Artist Bentley Meeker’s new public art installation will be unveiled today. The piece features a giant aluminum “H” in an oval frame that fits snuggly below the supporting arch of an elevated roadway at 12th Avenue and 125th Street. At night, LED lights and full spectrum plasma light will illuminate The “H” in Harlem, which is expected to be seen from New Jersey, glimmering across the Hudson River.

Meeker’s installations often feature light as their central motif, though The “H” in Harlem is the artist’s largest outdoor installation to date. He created the “H” as an homage to the neighborhood he considers “[the] last remaining slice of ‘real’ New York.”  Having lived in West Harlem for 13 years, Meeker was acutely aware of the importance of producing a piece that would not disfigure the environment. Before the The “H” in Harlem officially launches this evening, Meeker discussed his latest undertaking with us.

What was the process like deciding where you would exhibit the public work?

I was approached by the community and the West Harlem Art Fund to do a public work on that site. So it was a site-specific creation.

How does your piece interact with the existing infrastructure of the site?

I think the piece interacts beautifully with the existing infrastructure of the site. The contours of the sculpture and the contours of the bridge really work well together. The colors match in daylight as well, which, while not unexpected, is an awesome thing.

What’s special about creating a piece of public art that is primarily activated at night?
The materiality of the sculpture is activated 100% of the time. The light element, admittedly the piece’s essence, is activated at night. That was always the intention.

The “H” in Harlem lighting ceremony begins at 6:30 p.m. today, June 25th, and will remain on view at 12th Avenue and 125th Street in Harlem until September 25th.

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