Leslie Fry's Dream Commission at the Freehand Hotel, NYC

Leslie Fry's Dream Commission at the Freehand Hotel, NYC

Leslie Fry, whose work is featured in CAST, was commissioned to create artwork for the newly opened and renovated Freehand Hotel in New York City. Once known as the George Washington Hotel, it was built in 1929 and is located at 23 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. The hotel was once the home of many artists, writers, and musicians, and served as a dormitory for students who attended the School of Visual Arts. 

  Empire State , installation view. Leslie Fry. 2018. Reinforced plaster, ink, steel. 48” x 18” x 10½” Freehand New York, NYC, Freehand/Bard Art Commission. Photograph courtesy of Freehand New York.

Empire State, installation view. Leslie Fry. 2018. Reinforced plaster, ink, steel. 48” x 18” x 10½” Freehand New York, NYC, Freehand/Bard Art Commission. Photograph courtesy of Freehand New York.

This would be a dream commission for many artists, but especially for someone like Leslie Fry. This historic hotel is a beautiful setting and the sculptures are located in eight wall niches framed in the original architectural plaster detailing. These ornamental niches are perfect for Fry's work - they relate visually to Fry's rich visual style and they make her pieces a clear focal point in the space. The sculptures are scaled to fit the niche dimensions of 53” x 18” x 10.5”.  

  Liberty Eyes , installation view. Leslie Fry. 2018. Reinforced plaster, ink, steel. 49” x 18” x 10½” Freehand New York, NYC, Freehand/Bard Art Commission. Photo by Jeanette May, courtesy of the artist.

Liberty Eyes, installation view. Leslie Fry. 2018. Reinforced plaster, ink, steel. 49” x 18” x 10½” Freehand New York, NYC, Freehand/Bard Art Commission. Photo by Jeanette May, courtesy of the artist.

Each sculpture references a New York City architectural icon, including the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the Flatiron Building, the Guggenheim Museum, and the hotel building itself. 

“Some of the buildings are more recognizable than others,” says Fry.  “The imagery is a mash-up of Classical drapery, architecture, body, and plant forms. The sculptures evoke transformation and growth to connect with the youthful and adventurous clientele that the hotel plans to attract. With repeated viewing at the resting places in the mezzanine, the sculptures’ intricate surfaces reveal new details. The references to New York City’s architecture are a playful reflection of the city that guests have traveled to see.”
 Detail of  Liberty Eyes . Leslie Fry. 2018. Reinforced plaster, ink, steel. 49” x 18” x 10½” Freehand New York, NYC, Freehand/Bard Art Commission. Photo by Jeanette May, courtesy of the artist.

Detail of Liberty Eyes. Leslie Fry. 2018. Reinforced plaster, ink, steel. 49” x 18” x 10½” Freehand New York, NYC, Freehand/Bard Art Commission. Photo by Jeanette May, courtesy of the artist.

While some of these pieces use direct sculpting in plaster, casting is one of Leslie Fry's primary processes. Her use of moldmaking and her ability to seamlessly join cast parts with sculpted parts is one of the most impressive aspects of her work from a technical standpoint.

 Leslie Fry made rubber molds of the ornamentation on the pilasters that framed the niches as a place to start with her pieces. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Leslie Fry made rubber molds of the ornamentation on the pilasters that framed the niches as a place to start with her pieces. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Fry outlines and illustrates her process on her blog - it's definitely worth checking out to see drawings, modeling, and the final pieces. Here's a small sampling.

 Proposal drawing for the piece based on the George Washington Hotel building. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Proposal drawing for the piece based on the George Washington Hotel building. Photo courtesy of the artist.

 Actual scale sketch for the piece based on the George Washington Hotel building. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Actual scale sketch for the piece based on the George Washington Hotel building. Photo courtesy of the artist.

 First layer of molding rubber on plaster torso. Photo courtesy of the artist.

First layer of molding rubber on plaster torso. Photo courtesy of the artist.

 Sculpture detail next to scale sketch. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Sculpture detail next to scale sketch. Photo courtesy of the artist.

 Detail of finished head.Photo by Jeanette May, courtesy of the artist

Detail of finished head.Photo by Jeanette May, courtesy of the artist

 “George Washington Hotel,” installation view. 2018. Reinforced plaster, ink, steel. 52” x 17” x 10 ½” Freehand New York, NYC, Freehand/Bard Art Commission. Photo by Jeanette May, courtesy of the artist

“George Washington Hotel,” installation view. 2018. Reinforced plaster, ink, steel. 52” x 17” x 10 ½” Freehand New York, NYC, Freehand/Bard Art Commission. Photo by Jeanette May, courtesy of the artist

See the rest of Leslie's work for the Freehand Hotel on her website and read more about her process and see more process photos on her blog.

 Cityscape,” installation view. 2018. Reinforced plaster, ink, steel. 51” x 14” x 10 ½” Freehand New York, NYC, Freehand/Bard Art Commission. Photo by Jeanette May, courtesy of the artist.

Cityscape,” installation view. 2018. Reinforced plaster, ink, steel. 51” x 14” x 10 ½” Freehand New York, NYC, Freehand/Bard Art Commission. Photo by Jeanette May, courtesy of the artist.

Leslie Fry’s sculptures and works on paper have been exhibited in museums and galleries across the globe including Artists Space in New York; Kunsthaus in Hamburg; Hangaram Art Museum in Seoul; Windspiel Galerie in Vienna; Couvent des Cordeliers in Paris; deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum near Boston; and Centre des Arts Visuels in Montreal.  Her public art projects have been commissioned by Wave Hill in New York City; International Sculpture Festa, Seoul; Tufts University, Boston; Kohler Arts Center, Wisconsin; Musée d’Art Contemporain, Montreal; Housing Vermont and Burlington City Arts, Vermont; and Pinellas County Cultural Affairs, Tampa Public Art Program, and Broward Public Art Program in Florida. She earned her M.F.A. in 1993 at Bard College’s Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, and lives in Winooski, Vermont.

Caption for title image: Freehand (detail), 2018. Reinforced plaster with ink, and steel, 52” x 17” x 10”, Freehand Hotel, New York, NY, Freehand/Bard Art Commission. Photo by Jeanette May, courtesy of the artist.

 Leslie Fry in her studio preparing clay for the hotel project. Courtesy of the artist.

Leslie Fry in her studio preparing clay for the hotel project. Courtesy of the artist.

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