This July, the Harlem-based Colombian-American artist Lina Puerta transforms the lobby of Miller Theatre with a new installation from her Botánico Series, inspired by weeds and uncontrolled nature within urban spaces. Exploring the tension between humans and the botanical world, Puerta’s ongoing series, which she started in 2010, evokes nature’s resilient response amid efforts by humans to exert control. Puerta installs the new artwork in Miller’s lobby from July 10-14, 2017; it officially opens to the public on July 17.
“I am interested in nature’s capacity to reclaim space and break down artificial, human-made structures,” says Puerta. “In this series, I use solely artificial/human-made plants that are normally designed to adorn and create maintenance-free gardens, which are static and under our absolute control.” Utilizing a wide range of materials—including concrete, clay, wood, foam, fabric, paper pulp, handmade paper, and craft and recycled items—the result is a mimicking of weeds slowly spreading into abandoned spaces, exploring notions of control, consumerism and life’s fragility.
“This is a moment to celebrate Puerta’s innovative work. Her Miller Theatre installation will intervene the venerable walls of the hall with mysterious, sprouting new forms,” says Deborah Cullen, Director and Chief Curator of the The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, which has co-commissioned the new work with Miller Theatre.
This year’s site-specific exhibition is the fifth such collaboration between the Wallach Art Gallery and Miller Theatre. Puerta’s installation succeeds Tomo Mori’s Concerto Encircling that adorned the walls last season (and comes down June 30, 2017). Previous murals were created by Scherezade Garcia, Maya Hayuk and Vargas-Suarez Universal (see images below). Puerta’s immersive installation will be displayed throughout the 2017-18 season, from July 17, 2017 – June 29, 2018, greeting thousands of concertgoers as they arrive for performances over the course of the year.
Puerta’s work at Miller Theatre is presented in collaboration with UPTOWN, a new triennial curated by Cullen that surveys the work of artists who live or practice north of 99th Street in Manhattan (both Lina Puerta and Tomo Mori live in Harlem). UPTOWN is on view from June 2 – August 20, 2017 at the Wallach Art Gallery in its new location at the Lenfest Center for the Arts, 615 West 129th Street between Broadway and 12th Avenue, on Columbia University’s Manhattanville campus.
Miller Theatre will host a creative conversation with Lina Puerta on October 17, 2017, co-sponsored by the Columbia University Arts Initiative.
Located on Broadway at 116th Street, the Miller Theatre lobby is open to the public during the summer Monday through Thursday, from 10am to 6pm, and Friday from 10am to 3pm.
Gallery hours for the Wallach Art Gallery are Wednesday through Friday, 12pm to 8pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 12pm to 6pm.