If you are a chess fanatic, you may remember the great upset that came in 1997 when, for the first time, a computer system beat a world champion under regular time controls. The game between Russian chess champion Gary Kasparov and Deep Blue, the IBM computer, inspired this beautiful 14-piece ice sculpture installation. Hosted by Arts Brookfield and sculpted by Okamoto Studios, the 24-hour installation took place this Monday and Tuesday at Grace Plaza in midtown amidst above-freezing temperatures.
A series of 14 hand sculpted five-foot-tall pawns, knights, and queens invaded Grace Plaza this past Monday night. From 5-7pm, Long Island City-based Okamoto Studio demonstrated their ice sculpting skills on the unusually warm, 49-degree night. Ten of the sculpted pieces arrived with their basic form already carved and last minute details were added on site. However, the real feat came in completing four queens and kings from scratch in the two hour period. With a client list that includes Nike, the Plaza Hotel, and the New York Yankees among others, the team once again lived up to their renowned reputation.
To re-create the classic black and white pieces in a unique way, the team worked with water’s natural properties to create two distinct looks. Half the pieces are cloudy white, a phenomenon that happens naturally as water freezes. To create the clear set, a special mixture was concocted.
The founding core of the group, father-son team Takeo and Shintaro Okamoto had long thought of using their ice sculpting skills to bring chess pieces to the city and the checkered pattern of Grace Plaza provided the perfect backdrop to realize their vision. Arts Brookfield, an organization dedicated to bringing quality performing and visual arts to public spaces across North America, helped secure the space and made the idea possible.
The higher than average temperatures added an additional element- that of a poetic, fleeting moment that constantly changes the state of the sculptures. The exhibit officially ended last night at 8pm but the sculptures will be left in place until they melt away into memories.
All images © Amanda Silvana Coen for Inhabitat