At Risk of Uncoupling
Our oldest putative ancestors look rather cast out, as if they were ready to quit the scene and hail a taxi home (wherever that is).
From a certain perspective—say, one that considers the luxury development on Manhattan’s West Side as a kind of protective Eden for billionaires—the arrival of Charles Ray’s Adam and Eve on the corner of Thirty-First Street and Ninth bears interesting fruit. The stainless-steel sculpture depicts the biblical couple in their dotage, dressed in modern attire. Adam stands tall, rumpled, and rather proud, as though he were about to begin monologuing. Eve sits on a stump and looks past him, as though she long ago stopped listening. Each leans away from the other in a manner that parallels the dancing tilt of the two SOM-designed towers overhead, while at the same time seeming to disavow any special kinship with these blue-tinted echelons of power. In fact, our oldest putative ancestors look rather cast out, as if they were ready to quit the scene and hail a taxi home (wherever that is). Ray came up with the idea for the commission—to date, his only realized permanent public work— while reading biblical apocrypha during the pandemic. Apparently, Adam and Eve lived to be 937 years old and at one point gathered their many generations of offspring to tell them the story of Genesis. In Ray’s modern context, that means all of us, including the flood of tourists who, passing by on their way to Moynihan Train Hall or the High Line, might now feel compelled to linger for a moment. Adam and Eve is one of those rare public sculptures that serves neither to challenge nor beautify the corporate expanse, but rather draws out the attention of even the lowliest pedestrian, sparking a personal encounter between them, the work, and the human condition.