Malin Abrahamsson Brings Whimsy and Color to a SoHo Corner

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In 2007 I was awarded a permanent public art commission by the MTA’s Arts for Transit. A large-scale project, it took almost two years to complete, and through the process I learned that I love the collaborative nature of successful public art. The opportunity to work on another public art project again, this time in Lower Manhattan with ARTEA Projects for the Downtown Alliance/Lower Manhattan Development Corporation Re:Construction public art program, was of course exciting. The location itself was a challenge as it is such a busy and already visually stimulating section of SoHo. Additionally, the sheer size of the project required a completely new approach from my side, both in terms of visual execution and material knowledge.

Because the lot at Grand and Lafayette Streets where Downtown Dogs is now installed is such a bustling corner, I knew the work had to be bold enough to visually stand out. In my proposal, a response to the “Playland” theme, I gave myself the freedom to change the animals in the game Pass the Pigs to dogs. Making use of the large scale of the project, I playfully arranged the colorful dog silhouettes, varying the sizes from a few inches to several feet. My goal: to create a work of art that would be a colorful and conceptual surprise for those who happen upon it, whether from a distance or by walking right next to it.

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A multi-disciplinary artist, I get particularly jazzed about the opportunity to take my artistic practice outside the studio where I’m faced with new challenges. Any site-specific commission comes with its own set of considerations. For this particular location I wanted to create a piece that visually would bring together aspects of commercial art, graphic design, and underground street art: disciplines that already exist in this environment. But I also recognize the responsibilities that come with public art and I ultimately want the work itself to hold up over time and continue to positively charge the area—even for those who will see it on a daily basis.