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Public Art Fund launches 40th anniversary season with all-borough group exhibition
Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley, Crete Meat, 2016. Edited from Swinburne’s Pasiphae, 2014. HD video, no sound. Courtesy the artists, Pilar Corrias Gallery, and Fredericks & Freiser.

NEW YORK, NY.- This February, Public Art Fund presents Commercial Break, a new citywide group exhibition celebrating and expanding upon the organization’s commitment to new media-based artwork. Launching Public Art Fund’s 40th anniversary season, and emblematic of the organization’s innovative history, Commercial Break draws inspiration from the organization’s seminal exhibition series Messages to the Public, which ran on the 800-square-foot animated Spectacolor light board in Times Square from 1982-1990. Similarly disrupting the daily flow of advertising, but reflecting today’s visual saturation of digital screens, Commercial Break invites a generation of artists working in new media to create site-specific interventions across advertising platforms in New York City. These include a large billboard in Times Square near the site of the original Spectacolor board; Barclays Center’s “Oculus,” a one-of-a-kind 3,000 square foot, 360-degree LED marquee, which hangs above the main entrance to the arena in Prospect Heights; 19 digital screens at Westfield World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan; hundreds of LinkNYC’s Link kiosks in all five boroughs; and, where the work has been embedded as a pop-up “ad”. Commercial Break is on view February 6 – March 5, 2017.

Commercial Break is Public Art Fund’s largest group show to date and marks its first time presenting work in all five boroughs simultaneously. “Commercial Break takes one of our most revolutionary and beloved projects as inspiration, giving us an opportunity to reflect on our history and commitment to media-based artwork, while also presenting new projects in exciting ways for 21st century New York City,” says Public Art Fund Associate Curator Daniel S. Palmer.

Since Messages to the Public launched more than 30 years ago, public space has become increasingly shaped by advances in technology and visual information. Advertising has been seamlessly integrated into the public and private spheres, while modes of communication, from social media to the smart phone, have changed the way we think about our digital and physical worlds. With this in mind, Commercial Break invites 23 artists from 12 countries to utilize new forms of media within our digitally saturated city to create 10 to 30-second digital interruptions on some of the city’s most highly visible and technically advanced advertising screens. “This exhibition is unique in that all of the artists are working within New York City’s advertising cycle and creating new, platform-specific projects made for the digital screen,” says Public Art Fund Associate Curator Emma Enderby. “These commissions reflect our current moment, responding to today’s political and cultural landscape, the role and ubiquity of advertising, and the circulation of images.”

Commercial Break artists include Cory Arcangel, Korakrit Arunanondchai, Brian Bress, Sue de Beer, Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley, Heather Phillipson, and Martine Syms on a billboard at Times Square; Meriem Bennani, Kate Cooper, Cécile B. Evans, GCC, Agnieszka Polska, Tabor Robak, and Jacolby Satterwhite at Barclays Center’s “Oculus;” Hayal Pozanti at Westfield World Trade Center; Lucas Blalock, Antoine Catala and Gabriel Kahan, Awol Erizku, Ed Fornieles, David Horvitz, Britta Thie, and Hannah Whitaker at LinkNYC kiosks in all five boroughs; and Casey Jane Ellison at

For a 5,000-square-foot digital billboard in Times Square, at the southeast corner of 47th Street and 7th Avenue, Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley have created a new silent video titled Crete Meat, which shown within the context of Times Square, becomes a satire of advertising, highlighting the peculiarities of desire. Blurring style vs. brand and artwork vs. product, Cory Arcangel shows an advertisement at the same site under the auspices of his merchandising outfit Arcangel Surfware. Martine Syms presents a new video titled Lesson LXXV continuing her powerful ongoing series exploring notions of blackness that began with the creation of commercials on the five lessons outlined in Kevin Young's book The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness.

On Barclays Center's unparalleled 360-degree “Oculus” screen, NY-based Jacolby Satterwhite features a new virtual reality video inspired by the soundscapes of a musical collaboration with musician Nick Weiss, while Tabor Robak utilizes a new, highly technical algorithm to transform the circular screen into a pipeline of flowing liquid color. Inspired by Atlantic Avenue’s Arab-American culture, emerging Moroccan-born artist Meriem Bennani's original work at Barclays Center addresses the issues surrounding the hijab’s cultural significance and re-evaluate stereotypical Western notions of Islamic attire.

Similarly, Turkish-born artist Hayal Pozanti takes over the 19 digital screens at Westfield World Trade Center, including a 280-foot-long LED screen, with a video that appears as a striking contrast between familiar and abstract or technological languages like those of artificial intelligence. Her self-conceived alphabet of shapes floats in the background, while its English translation spells out the words “RELENTLESS TENDERNESS” before us. This distinctively human expression echoes the artist’s plea for tolerance, understanding, and empathy in the world today.

On LinkNYC kiosks citywide, artists present digital still-images and dynamic content, including Brooklyn-based photographer Hannah Whitaker’s striking images of silhouetted figures that evoke street level activity and expand on her existing relationship with the language of advertising. Also on these screens, Ethiopian-born artist Awol Erizku’s new series of images further explore his interest in the African-American urban vernacular and historic representations of these subjects. And at, LA-based Casey Jane Ellison features pop-up videos that take the form of a talk show web series.

At Times Square, Barclays Center, and LinkNYC, a different artist will be shown each day of the week. At Times Square, 15-second videos are being shown every 5 minutes; at Barclays Center, 30-second videos are being presented once an hour; and at LinkNYC kiosks, 15-second still-image projects are being shown randomly across LinkNYC’s network in all five boroughs throughout the day and heavily during evening rush hour at five key intersections. At Westfield World Trade Center, Hayal Pozanti’s 10 second video is being screened every 100 seconds; while Casey Jane Ellison’s work is on view around the clock at

Messages to the Public remains one of the longest running and most popular exhibitions in the history of Public Art Fund. From 1982-90, trailblazing artists of the time presented 30-second animations on an 800-square foot screen in the middle of Times Square monthly. Broadcast on the Spectacolor screen, these works were among the first digital artworks to be shown in a public space and cut through the large-format print ads that proliferated throughout Times Square at the time. The eight-year span included 85 works by 70 artists, including key figures like the Guerrilla Girls, David Hammons, David Wojnarowicz, Lorna Simpson, Alfredo Jaar, Keith Haring, and Jenny Holzer (her first large-scale LED work), among many others.

Commercial Break is curated by Public Art Fund Associate Curators Emma Enderby and Daniel S. Palmer.

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