A ‘Giant’ of a Sculpture for Tribeca Park

A photo montage that shows Nicolas Holiber’s Head of Goliath in Tribeca Park. Photo: Silence Is Accurate

Mar. 02, 2015

Tribeca Park, at Beach Street and West Broadway, is just a few blocks from the New York Academy of Art, where Nicolas Holiber had been a student a couple of years ago. So Holiber knew the park well, and when he got a chance from the city Parks De­partment’s Art in the Parks Program to choose a site for an installation, Tri­beca Park came right to mind.

“I thought it would be the perfect area for a giant’s head,” the artist said matter-of-factly.

And not just any giant’s head but, as its title, The Head of Goliath, indicates. In May, Holiber will install a six-foot-long representation of Da­vid’s mythical victory, to be constructed mostly of wood, with elements of plaster, fiberglass and found objects.

Holiber, 29, welcomes viewers to see that large head as a literal representation of the giant. But for him it is a metaphor for a very real modern-day struggle, one that artists especially can understand.

“People go to New York to be the underdog and beat whatever obstacle is in front of them,” Holiber noted. “The head of Goliath was David’s trophy and for me the trophy of overcoming obstacles is something a lot of people in New York can relate to.”

“In a way,” he added, ”New York is the Goliath.”

Holiber entered the prestigious Academy “thinking I was going to be a big figurative painter. Then you get to school and your whole world is turned upside down. You’re exposed to so many artists and teachers.”

By the time he started a third-year fellowship, Holiber was ready to “push away” from the representational and figurative art that is the focus of the academy. He turned to sculpture for the first time, creating a whole new body of work and satisfying an urge to build, mostly out of found materials like discarded wooden pallets. In the beginning, he said, that work was “monstrous, weird, comical but also serious figures.”

“It was exciting for me because it was so new and, at the time, the sculptures were really just raw and it was much more about the object than representing something.”

Now, the artist said, he is returning to more representational work, though judging from his idea of Goliath, elements of the monstrous remain.

And once it’s installed, Holiber said, he is looking forward to watching the piece weather and degrade during its three months in the park.

“My intention is that it becomes a kind of relic,” he said, “a modern ruin in the park.”