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Lauren Halsey

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Hugh Hayden, preparatory drawing of "Brier Patch" in Madison Square Park, New York, 2021/ 2022; ©️ Hugh Hayden, courtesy Lisson Gallery.
Hugh Hayden, "Brier Patch," at Madison Square Park, 2022; photo by Yasunori Matsui, courtesy of the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy.
Hugh Hayden, "Brier Patch," at Madison Square Park, 2022; photo by Yasunori Matsui, courtesy of the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy.
Hugh Hayden in Madison Square Park, 2021; photo by Andy Romer, courtesy of the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy.
Hugh Hayden creating "Brier Patch" at Showman Fabricators, 2021; photo by Yasunori Matsui, courtesy of the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy.
Hugh Hayden, "Brier Patch," at Madison Square Park, 2022; photo by Yasunori Matsui, courtesy of the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy.
Hugh Hayden, "Brier Patch," at Madison Square Park, 2022; photo by Yasunori Matsui, courtesy of the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy.
Art

Hugh Hayden Addresses Education and the American Dream in Brier Patch

By Pearl Fontaine

January 20, 2022

This week in New York, the artist Hugh Hayden unveiled his commission for the Madison Square Park Conservancy, Brier Patch. The thought-provoking installation in New York City is comprised of school desks erupting with rough, tangled groupings of tree branches. With it, Hayden invites the public to contemplate the unfortunate dualities in America’s education system, where few thrive and many are left to fail.

Filling four spaces of the park through April 24, Brier Patch has been arranged in a grid that evokes memories of an elementary school setting. Alluding to folklore and the idea that a brier patch can be either dangerous or protective, depending on the circumstance, Hayden utilizes the familiar form of the desk—entwined in the sharp, uninviting branches—to draw parallels to the nature of the country’s school system and ideas of the American Dream.

Open Gallery

Hugh Hayden, "Brier Patch," at Madison Square Park, 2022; photo by Yasunori Matsui, courtesy of the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy.

“Hayden imbues each of his works with intense meaning that, when peeled back, reveals lived experiences about rooted systems in our country and the world. He transforms everyday objects into new forms that expose the properties and purpose of the original source,” said Brooke Kamin Rapaport, Deputy Director and Martin Friedman Chief Curator of Madison Square Park Conservancy. “Brier Patch is both visually powerful and loaded with inherent tensions—growth and stagnation, seduction and peril, individual and community—that ask us to consider how these dichotomies coexist in engrained systems and the work on view.”

On the Manhattan park’s Oval lawn sits the largest grouping of the branch-infested desks—48 of them, to be exact—while the Sparrow and Elm lawns both hold smaller classroom groupings. Meanwhile, on the Veteran lawn, viewers are invited to take a moment of rest while contemplating the concept at hand in a setting of desks, sans branches. Infused with symbolism and loaded meanings relatable to many—as is Hayden’s practice at large—viewers will find themselves being posed with ponderings of the educational failures of the American Dream, including ideas of development and stasis, and the financial entanglement often created by the necessity of student loans.

Open Gallery

Hugh Hayden, "Brier Patch," at Madison Square Park, 2022; photo by Yasunori Matsui, courtesy of the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy.

“The Conservancy’s public art program not only provides encounters with inspiring and challenging works of art to the 60,000 visitors who pass through Madison Square Park daily, but also gives artists the opportunity to experiment with their practices,” said Keats Myer, the Executive Director of the conservancy. “We are proud to collaborate with Hugh Hayden on this project and to present him with the canvas of our park, where he will be able to express his vision on a new scale.”

Open Gallery

Hugh Hayden creating "Brier Patch" at Showman Fabricators, 2021; photo by Yasunori Matsui, courtesy of the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy.

Open Gallery

Hugh Hayden, "Brier Patch," at Madison Square Park, 2022; photo by Yasunori Matsui, courtesy of the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy.

Open Gallery

Hugh Hayden in Madison Square Park, 2021; photo by Andy Romer, courtesy of the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy.
Hugh HaydenMadison Square Park Conservancy

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