Let It Bleed: The Met’s New Rooftop Painting
After the last two massive, vertiginous installations on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which demanded able bodies and rubber soles, this summer there’s a finally a piece everyone can walk on.
But this one is scarier.
It’s a landscape painted in situ by Imran Qureshi, an artist from Pakistan. Playing off the setting above Central Park, he has rendered bursts of ornamental foliage, exuberant and elegant. They look like enormous details of the gardens in Mughal miniatures, an intricate genre he spent years mastering.
In this garden, though, something terrible has happened.
Switching from the elaborate detail of the Islamic miniature to the ritual dance of modernist action painting, Qureshi has splattered the roof in paint, blood-red like the leaves. It takes a moment to perceive the scope of the tragedy that may have unfolded in such a setting. The piece, the artist says, is a response to violence that has occurred around the world in recent decades. He calls it And How Many Rains Must Fall before the Stains Are Washed Clean.
There is no shortage of war art at the Met, of course. But at a time when the museum has one Civil War show on view and another opening this month, there is a particular sense of trauma and despair in some of its galleries, especially because so many of the 19th-century images echo what we see in the daily news.
It was as a response to bombings in Lahore that Qureshi began using red acrylic paint in his art, creating tragic landscapes that negate the idea of paradise on earth.
While the Met piece was in the works, the Boston bombings occurred. In another symbolic gesture, Qureshi decided not to paint the entire surface.
Imran Qureshi, And How Many Rains Must Fall before the Stains Are Washed Clean, installation view, 2013, acrylic.
COMMISSIONED BY THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, NEW YORK FOR THE IRIS AND B. GERALD CANTOR ROOF GARDEN.