Four lawns in New York’s Madison Square Park are now sites of a sprawling and insightful public installation by artist Hugh Hayden. On view through April 24, “Brier Patch” is comprised of 100 small wraparound desks arranged in neat grids evocative of an elementary classroom. Each cedar sculpture is distinct with barren, bark-covered branches bursting from their seats or tabletops, creating a snarled explosion of limbs and twigs that’s impossible to permeate.
Similar to his thorny dining sets in material and aesthetic, the metaphorical works speak to the inequities of education and cite the inherent barriers to achievement. The installation’s name references the tangled mass of prickly vegetation, an environment that’s only hospitable to some. It also draws on the stories of the trickster Br’er Rabbit, a folklore tradition that originated in West and Southern Africa before being repackaged as Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus stories. In those tales, the rabbit outwits his foes and finds refuge in the largely inaccessible thicket.
In addition to “Brier Patch,” Hayden’s Boogey Men, a solo show responding to cultural issues and a harsh political environment, is on view through April 17 in Miami. Explore more of the Dallas-born artist’s works on his website and Instagram.