Installation by Hugh Hayden '18 Announced as Madison Square Park Conservancy Commission

Catherine Fisher
December 13, 2021

An installation by alumnus Hugh Hayden ‘18 has been announced as the next Madison Square Park Conservancy commission. Presented across three lawns in the park, Brier Patch will open to the public on January 18, 2022. It will be open through April 29, 2022. 

The Conservancy selected Hayden as the 42nd artist to receive the commission since the program began in 2004. Hayden’s installation features 100 wooden elementary school desks connected by a network of gnarled branches. This massive, intertwining sculpture points to the inseparability of societal problems—from the way humanity uses natural resources to school shootings. 

Hayden chose to work with the idea of the brier patch as a metaphor because of its rigid and stubborn structure. Passing through such a setting promises pain and hardship for all but a few. By tying this metaphor to the public school setting, the artist indicates the ways in which this institution fails to serve the majority of children in this country. It brings to mind the school to prison pipeline with all its racist implications and points to the privilege of those who can afford a private education. 

Much of Hayden’s work exists within the intersection between the natural and the manmade. A talented woodworker, the artist makes this beautiful and familiar material strange and disarming by creating or gathering threatening shapes such as thorns. Clearly a continuation of such projects, Brier Patches will be Hayden’s largest stage for these ideas to date. 

Hayden was born in Dallas, Texas in 1983 and lives and works in New York City. He holds an MFA from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University. He has had solo exhibitions at The Princeton University Art Museum in New Jersey in 2020 and at White Columns in New York in 2018. His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions including Sculpture Center, New York, NY, USA (2021); Hayward Gallery, London, UK (2020); The Shed, New York, NY, USA(2019); Pilot Projects, Philadelphia, PA, USA (2018); Sundance Film Festival, Park City, UT, USA (2015); MoMA PS1, Rockaway Beach, New York, NY, USA (2014); Socrates Sculpture Park, New York, NY, USA (2014); and Abrons Art Center, New York, NY, USA (2013), among others. 

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