A Portal of Worship – the Mid-Manhattan Library, Light and Public Artworks
Joan Grubin explains "Portal" to Leni
I love the Mid-Manhattan Library on West 40th and Fifth Avenue, the poor cousin to the 1911, iconic lion flanked and landmarked white-marble Beaux-Arts revival, Research Library building, across the street… which at times is referred to as the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, and more recently as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building designed by Carrère and Hastings.
The Mid-Manhattan Library, the destination of many a 4th floor picture research foray, is a limestone and granite building built in 1915. In 1961 New York Public Library set its sights on 455 Fifth Avenue, and in 1970, the Mid-Manhattan officially opened — on the fourth through sixth floors above the The Arnold Constables Department Store. In 1982 Mid-Manhattan took possession of the entire building, renovated by Artist/Architect Giorgio Cavaglieri. Today Mid-Manhattan houses the largest circulating and reference collections in NYPL’s branches.
On Thursday early evening, the Light Projects staff and I walked over to the library, through Bryant Park, to visit Joan Grubin’s “Portal“, a perception-popping window installation.
Joan’s work is an adventure of paper, paint and light. Her studies in reflection and texture have, in these public pieces, literally and optically deepened – the color and cut-outs lead the viewer to assume spatial relationships that change depending on vantage point and ambient light.
As we approached the library, the Portals glowed strongly, activated by the new 1 Bryant Park building as it reflected its urban beam of light onto the paper works.
Why worship? Several years ago, arms filled with books and videos, I asked the clerk, “How many books may I check out”. She answered sweetly, “As many as you need”. It was then I fell in love with this generous mecca on Fifth Avenue.
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