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The Sisyphus Stones, New York City

Last Saturday, on the last morning of a New York City trip, Glasstire was walked (in fresh snow) by a host in the Washington Heights neighborhood to the Hudson River Greenway, just south of the George Washington Bridge, to scope out a quiet but growing outdoor sculptural installation along the shoreline. Carefully and artfully stacked stones (some impressively large and heavy) echo many things: stalagmites, the city skylines of New York and New Jersey, and myriad North American land art found much further west. The artist uses only gravity to make his rocks hold together. In warmer weather, mischievous passersby have been known to topple the stacks. The artists responds by building more. Currently there are around 200 of them.

The stacked rocks were considered a mystery through the summer by most (though Glasstire’s host, who lives nearby, had already gotten to know the artist as he worked) until the New York Times ran a story on it in September. The self-taught artist is named Uliks Gryka, nicknamed Ulysses — a transplant from Albania, via Milan. He’s happy to have the installation be known, informally, as ‘the Sisyphus stones.’ While we were there, the athletic 33-year-old Gryka pulled up on his bicycle to say hello; he was on his way from the Bronx down to Battery Park on a 24-degree morning. When asked what his plans were for the installation now that winter has set in, he sounded loose and philosophical. He’s always interested in what the tides, wind, and nature overall has in store for his work. And then off he went.

 

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