Creative Time is proud to present “The Plain of Heaven”, an international exhibition inspired by the impending redevelopment of the High Line, the disused elevated rail structure that runs up the west side of Manhattan.“The Plain of Heaven” takes off from this elegiac and exciting moment of transformation to consider how we imagine, and long for, inaccessible spaces; the relationships between transfiguration, destruction and rebirth; the opposition between nature and the urban environment; and more generally, the way in which we re-mystify the world we already know.

Artists Adam Cvijanovic, Song Dong, Trisha Donnelly, Shannon Ebner, Leandro Erlich, William Forsythe, Sol LeWitt, O. Winston Link, Gordon Matta-Clark, Corey McCorkle, Helen Mirra, Adam Putnam, Paul Ramírez Jonas, and Saskia Olde Wolbers contribute works that relate to the complex nature of transformation through sound, drawing, film, video, photography, performance and installation. The majority of the fourteen artists are creating new work specifically for the exhibition.

The twin legacies of Gordon Matta-Clark and Robert Smithson — artists who refigured the industrial and urban landscape of the 1970s — animate much of the show, expanding upon similar concerns about the natural environment that we find in 19th-century sublime landscape painting and 18th-century notions of the “picturesque.” The exhibition’s title, “The Plain of Heaven”, adapted from a painting by British artist John Martin (1789 – 1854), refers to the idea of an elevated, sublime environment that lies just beyond our reach, yet is firmly planted in our aspirations and imagination.

“The Plain of Heaven” is organized by Creative Time curator Peter Eleey, and is housed in a vacant meatpacking warehouse located at the southern end of the Line at Gansevoort Street, which has been its effective terminus since developers demolished the lower portion in 1991. The warehouse was constructed around the High Line in 1939, and includes a loading platform at rail level from which visitors to the exhibition can view the Line. Currently controlled by the City, the building was made available for the exhibition through special arrangement by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the Office of the Mayor, and the New York City Department of Buildings. This year, the City expects to break ground on a design by Field Operations and Diller, Scofidio + Renfro that will remake the wild, post-industrial pastoral of the High Line into a public open space.

Creative Time and the High Line

For more than thirty years, Creative Time has helped artists animate unusual public places, from unlikely landmarks to neglected, abandoned, and reclaimed sites like the High Line. Legendary programs marked transitional moments in the city, such as “Art on the Beach” (1978–85) showcasing collaborative projects between artists, architects, and performers at the Battery Park Landfill (now Battery Park City); “The 42nd Street Art Project,” (1993–94) punctuating Times Square at a pivotal moment of transition from its seedy history to its emergence as the media capital of the world; and, Creative Time’s almost two decades of projects in the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage (1983–2001), presenting artists, musicians, and fashion designers ambitious installations in John Roebling’s cavernous chambers. Consistent with our history of producing artists’ innovative interventions that engage our urban environment, Creative Time has actively supported Friends of the High Line’s preservation and reuse efforts, consulted on the site’s cultural plan, and continues to serve as member of the High Line design team led by Field Operations and Diller, Scofidio + Renfro. With an impending groundbreaking on the new design, the timing is right for an exhibition that considers the broader implications of the High Line’s transformation.

The High Line, Author Unknown, 1934