Leon Reid IV makes sculptures that are wholly responsive to a site. He observes the architecture, objects, plants, animals and people that make up the composition of a particular space. Reid began intervening in public space as a graffiti writer when he was a teenager. His development into the public sculptor he has become revolves around the notion of permission. The illegal placement of some of his early three-dimensional street art, like Fleur D’acier and The Kiss urged the pubic to consider street art as more than a random act of vandalism. Reid obsessively returns to the site of his installations to document the work and observe how it comes to life through public interaction. With Fleur D’acier #2 he witnessed signs that the community had begun taking care of the steel flower-shaped object, allowing for the work to remain at the site much longer than anticipated. Seeing this impact, it became increasingly important to him to receive permission to put his work in public space, even if only for a day. In his 2011 project Tourist-in-Chief, he was given permission for one day from the Parks Department and Community Board members to adorn the statue of George Washington in Union Square with typical clothing and accessories of a New York City tourist, complete with MTA transit map, shopping bags, camera, and I Love NY baseball cap. His quest for permission to legally embellish the statue opened a portal into the bureaucracy of creating public art, and the systemic processes that decide how an individual is to behave with the objects and statuary situated in public space. The artist’s navigation of the process of gaining permission is as much a part of the artwork as the adorned statue. His aspect of his practice is connected to his history as a graffiti writer, and marks his evolution into a public sculptor making the three-dimensional, site-specific, installations that he produces today. One of his upcoming projects, 100 Story House, is a free outdoor library in the shape of a brownstone house designed for Cobble Hill Park in Brooklyn. The project borrows from the existing book-sharing culture of the Brooklyn neighborhood, and hopes to encourage more of it by adding a centralized location where books can be left and taken away. 100 Story House relies on literal exchange, but all of Reid’s work is about figurative or metaphorical exchanges that happen in shared public space. This is why documentation of his work includes passersby, as a means of visualizing the effect a sculpture can have on people in a public environment. As a generous artist he is not just thinking about how he sees space, but how others see and use space as well, giving empathy a particularly large role in his work.
Click here to see the un-edited footage of Leon.
Fleur D’acier, 2003
Fleur D’acier #2, 2002
The Kiss, 2004
100 Story House Site Rendering (not actual placement location), 2012