Brick House is a sculptural bust of a Black woman. It is the inaugural commission for the High Line Plinth, a platform on a new High Line spur that will feature a series of large-scale public artworks in the midst of skyscrapers and industrial buildings.

For artist Simone Leigh, the High Line Plinth’s location, at 30th Street and 10th Avenue in Manhattan, is meaningful. As she told the New York Times, she thought the commission “would be a great opportunity to have something about Black beauty right in the middle of that environment.”

Leigh drew on many references to create the work—from African traditions to 1970s pop culture. The torso’s shape reflects both a skirt and the dwellings of the Mousgoum people of Cameroon and Chad. The hair—inspired by the character Thelma in Good Times, a 1970s TV show—has an afro on top and cornrow braids down the side. The sculpture itself is named after the Commodores song “Brick House,” which Leigh called a celebration of Black womanhood.

Leigh has been exploring the experiences and social histories of Black women for more than 25 years. At 16 feet tall, Brick House is her largest work to date. She created it as a life-size clay version before it was poured in bronze. Brick House is on display until September 2020.

Written by staff of Public Art Review.

Public Art Review issue 59Featured in the Projects We Love section of Public Art Review #59.