In New York City, every inch has a history. Sometimes that history is clearly visible in the present and sometimes it’s lost. There are also those moments when history lingers in a space through decay or neglect, nature creeps in, and a landscape that was once recognizable transforms into something foreign. How long does it take to merge a new landscape into something familiar? And what does it mean to construct that new space?
These are the questions that Tamara Johnson raises with her installation A Public Pool at Socrates Sculpture Park. The vast public pools built during the city’s Robert Moses era, and specifically the 1936 pool in Astoria Park – a short walk from Socrates, has inspired this sunken pool.
With this installation, Johnson is also recalling a memory of a pool in the front yard of her childhood home in Waco, TX. In attempting to connect two places, past and present, she elicits a range of emotions, from a humorous prank to the tragic reality of a forgotten space. While on the one hand the pool summons memories of summer, tan lines, and sunscreen, it also exudes a sense of non-function buried underneath the overgrown grass. Perhaps we also feel the sadness of the artist’s attempt to construct one space to conjure the comforting memory of another.