NOTE: this posted has been updated
The billboard on 18th Street has probably been empty before, but I’ve never seen it, and certainly not as it is now, starkly black. It’s really quite striking: it shows an absence of advertising, which makes you consider what life might be like if we weren’t bombarded at every turn with ads and marketing promotions. This is the billboard that has displayed so many wonderful photographs as part of the High Line’s public art program (launch the slideshow below to see photos). When there’s not a beautiful or provocative image — like Anne Collier’s “Developing Tray,” which was on display in February — there’s often some humorous message from Edison Parking, which owns the lot below. My favorite: “Stop praying, God’s too busy to find you a parking space.”
Today, however, the billboard is empty. Last evening men in large machines were removing the giant pile of dirt that was part of a car company’s recent marketing stunt. Whatever. What’s cool about the billboard today is how the inky black background invites a lovely shadow of the High Line’s railing. If you stand there for awhile and watch the people walk by you’ll eventually see their shadow heads pass in the billboard, as if in a cartoon. Art often reflects our world and returns it to us in a different, altered form, for our consideration. In a way that’s what this empty billboard is doing now. There’s something blissfully simple and peaceful about it. Check it out in the late afternoon when the sun casts its shadow and you’ll see what I mean. Enjoy it while it lasts. No doubt it won’t be long before the advertisers return.
UPDATE, April 6: shortly after I wrote this post the newest installation in the 18th Street Billboard art project was completed. It’s called “How Are You Feeling?” by David Shrigley. I took my photo in late morning sun, so no shadows, but I suspect you may still see them in the late afternoon against the black background. Read more about the piece and the artist here, on TheHighLine.org.