Client: Brookfield Properties
Location: Brooklyn, NY, United States
Completion date: 2020
Artwork budget: $28,000
Common Ground Arts LLC
Director Arts & Events
Julia Whitney Barnes
Multi-disciplinary artist Julia Whitney Barnes creates site-specific installations inspired by richly patterned architectural elements of buildings observed firsthand. The inspiration for “Illumination” – a multi-panel digital artwork printed on adhesive vinyl – was sparked from experiencing the exquisite stained-glass windows by artist Charles Booth, located at the Brooklyn Historical Society, just down the street from where the artwork was installed at One Pierrepont Plaza. Booth was a largely unknown stained-glass artist of the Victorian era, and Whitney Barnes had also studied his work at The Jefferson Market branch of the New York Public Library in Lower Manhattan. The artist’s deep interest in history brings attention to Booth’s surviving works, while also imagining what some of his now lost windows may have once looked like.
The client, Brookfield Properties, wanted to directly connect a public space within one of their commercial buildings in downtown Brooklyn to the history of the neighborhood. While researching the neighborhood, Whitney Barnes discovered that original windows by the stained glass artist Charles Booth existed in the Brooklyn Historical Society, designed by George Post in 1878-79, a nearby building just around the corner from the installation. Experiencing Whitney Barnes' artwork, viewers were encouraged to visit the Brooklyn Historical Society and Jefferson Market New York Public Library in Manhattan, the only surviving buildings with original Booth works in the region.
For "Illumination", Whitney Barnes took hundreds of photographs of Booth’s windows from multiple angles and used them as a point of departure for creating her own digital versions, using Booth’s varied themes in new and different ways and adjusting his traditional palette. These newly adapted computer generated interpretations were printed on vinyl and adhered to the marble lobby walls of One Pierrepont Plaza, creating an illusion of illuminated stained-glass windows, and providing a unique opportunity for viewers to see this kind of artwork at eye level.
Common Ground Arts collaborated with Brookfield Properties to secure a complete takeover of the lobby space by a single artist whose process and output would reference the neighborhood. The artist was free to play with the large marble walls dominating the lobby. Due to the pattern of the marble tiles, we used the existing "frames" to create the illusion of illuminated stained-glass windows on the opaque walls. Common Ground Arts provided curation and project management services to guide the site-specific commission, and worked with a local signage company, Coloredge, to print and install the artwork.