“I dreamed a world and called it love,” Jim Hodges swirling mirrored glass mural newly installed in Grand Central Terminal, is not easily ignored. Hyperbeat reports that the “sprawling” public work, made of more than 5,000 separately cut pieces of glass layered over 70 different colors, roils over more than 710 square feet.

Familiar ring

The mammoth size of the installation magnifies the multiple pieces of mirrored glass to paint a picture that Hodges may not have intended – a picture of hysteria. The frenzied finish calls to mind Oskar Kokoschka’s painting Bride of the Wind, a portrayal of his turbulent and doomed relationship with composer Gustave Mahler’s widow Alma as they lay together in twisted bedsheets.

That’s what Hodges mural looks like – twisted sheets. Both artworks have the same churning, convulsive air.

Bad dream

How is it possible for a dream of love, presumably idyllic, to come out so agitated? The Austrian poet Georg Trakl’s telling line about Bride of the Wind - “Your cloak of sadness encircles the long descent” – also describes the Grand Central mural – far from a testament to a world called love.

New identity

Hodges said in a statement, “My desire was to rise to the occasion of the historic context of Grand Central Terminal and celebrate the people who give New York its identity for many years to come.” As for the disquieting look, Hodges said that goes to the “bustling corridor in the heart of New York City.” He sees bustling.

I see bedlam.

Moment of reflection

In a different take, Hyperallergic says Hodges mural “offers the station’s hurried commuters a passing moment of reflection.” Reflection? With such an overwrought image? One doesn’t reflect on such a thing; one runs from it. And given all the inconveniences and constraints on travel these days, not to mention the mayhem in the world right now, wouldn’t something more quiet and constant make a better “moment of reflection”?

Inverting reality

Gladstone Gallery, representing Hodges, sees the Grand Central installation in yet another way, saying it “inverts the commuter’s visual experience of descending underground” – as if inverting what commuters get to see is a good thing. The gallery goes on to tout the deep blues “bursting into a kaleidoscope of color” that “dazzles” the commuters on their way to the subway in a way that “mimics the pulsating energy of the station itself.” In all that inverting and pulsating, one may wonder where that “moment of reflection that Hyperallergic talked about comes in.

Traffic light art

I’m reminded of the public work in London by Pierre Vivant called “Traffic Light Tree,” which consists of 75 sets of computer-controlled lights. In a statement, Vivant said the light’s changing pattern represents the flurry of activity of the surroundings. Reportedly, “Traffic Light Tree” has confused some motorists, who thought the thing was a traffic light signal; although a survey of British drivers suggests that it isn’t the danger it looked to be.

Neither is there any danger seeing Hodges mural “I dreamed a world and called it love.” Except for maybe some dizziness.

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