Weekends May 7 through June 12, Creative Time and the Brooklyn Navy Yard will present Fly By Night, artist Duke Riley’s public artwork of unprecedented scale and beauty. Fly By Night will be Riley’s largest project to date.
Friday through Sunday evenings at dusk, a massive flock of pigeons will elegantly twirl, swoop, and glide above the East River, as Riley orchestrates a series of performances occurring regularly throughout late spring. At the call of a whistle, thousands of birds will emerge from their home in a grand, converted historic boat docked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The pigeons will circle above the river as the sun sets over Manhattan, and small leg bands, historically used to carry messages, will be replaced with tiny LED lights, illuminating the sky in a transcendent union of public art and nature.
Fly By Night pays homage to pigeon keeping, both in New York and farther afield. Pigeons have been domesticated for thousands of years and kept by people around the world for their companionship, sport, and service. Locally, each neighborhood in New York once had a community of pigeon keepers (or fanciers, as they are commonly known); a dense network of rooftop pigeon lofts stretched across the five boroughs. While property development and population shifts have caused the practice to wane, Fly By Night reflects back on and makes visible this largely forgotten culture. The iconic Brooklyn Navy Yard, once home to the country’s largest naval fleet of pigeon carriers, is the ideal setting for Riley’s Fly By Night–a tribute to the beautiful, diverse and fascinating histories of pigeon flying and New York City.
Duke Riley (b. 1972, Boston) explores the struggles of marginal communities who exist, perhaps forgotten, within larger encompassing societies, looking at such issues as the tension between individual and collective behavior, and conflict with institutional power. Riley is known for work that combines the seafarer’s craft with nautical history through drawing, printmaking, mosaic, sculpture, performative interventions, and video structured as complex multimedia installations.
Riley has had solo exhibitions at Magnan Metz Gallery, New York City; the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland; the Queens Museum of Art, Queens, NY; and the Havana Biennial, among other venues. He has received numerous awards and commissions, including a Percent for Art commission, a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant, and the MTA Arts For Transit commission for the Beach 98th Street Station renovation. Born in Boston, he received his BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, in Providence, before moving to New York, settling in Brooklyn, and earning his M.F.A. from Pratt Institute.
Over the past four decades, Creative Time has commissioned and presented ambitious public art projects with thousands of artists throughout New York City, across the country, around the world—and now even in outer space. Our work is guided by three core values: art matters, artists’ voices are important in shaping society, and public spaces are places for creative and free expression. We are acclaimed for the innovative and meaningful projects we have commissioned, from Tribute in Light, the twin beacons of light that illuminated lower Manhattan six months after 9/11, to bus ads promoting HIV awareness, to Paul Chan’s production of Waiting for Godot in New Orleans, and much more. In partnership with a variety of well-known cultural institutions and community groups, we have commissioned art in unique landmark sites from the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Governors Island, and the High Line, to neglected urban treasures like the Lower East Side’s historic Essex Street Market, Coney Island, and New Orleans’s Lower 9th Ward. We are committed to presenting important art for our times and engaging broad audiences that transcend geographic, racial, and socioeconomic barriers.
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Source: Creative Time