SOFT SCULPTURE SURVEY: LUCY SPARROW / by Britt Howard

Felt booze on the shelves in Lucy Sparrow's installation 8 'Till Late. Photo: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Felt booze on the shelves in Lucy Sparrow's installation 8 'Till Late. Photo: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Bodegas, cornerstores, mom and pop shops—whatever you choose to call them—often play a vital role in city life. Thirsty? Hungry? In need of some emergency feminine products? You can't walk many city blocks before being saved by a trusty bodega. Recently, British artist Lucy Sparrow set up shop with her installation 8 'Till Late, right off of The Standard, High Line hotel in NYC. Similar to her past projects in London, Corner Shop and Sex Shop, the artist created a bodega filled completely with your typical cornerstore products all made from felt. Sparrow made all 9,000 objects herself and painstakingly hand-painted labels on each piece. Sparrow describes her attraction to using felt to make packaged products: "I’ve always been fascinated by things that are made out of other things, like soft things that are hard, or things that are too big or too small, anything like that fascinates me because it takes a certain scale of material to blow up something normal into something else."

Every item in 8 'Till Late was available to purchase until the installation had to shut down early because the shelves were thinning out after a very successful run (items are still available for purchase on her website). Typically buying art in NYC is an endeavor that only a wealthy few can experience, but Sparrow's work is democratic in the sense that one can buy an original piece of art for under $100. 8 'Till Late has its roots in Claes Oldenburg's The Store of 1961, Oldenburg's temporary storefront on the Lower East Side stocked with food and objects made from plaster. The pop up shops organized by the NYC artists' collaborative, Collaborative Projects, or Colab, of the late 1970s and into the 80s also comes to mind. These Colab stores sold inexpensive artist-made multiples like t-shirts, buttons, books, and sculptures. Similar to these past projects, 8 'Till Late is a prime example of the sense of wonder and joy that art can elicit, especially when we are given permission to touch and interact with the work on view.  

8 'Till Late at The Standard, High Line hotel in New York.

8 'Till Late at The Standard, High Line hotel in New York.

Sparrow hand makes and hand paints every product herself. Photo: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Sparrow hand makes and hand paints every product herself. Photo: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Shelves stocked with all your corner bodega staples. Photo: Jaime Rojo/Huffington Post

Shelves stocked with all your corner bodega staples. Photo: Jaime Rojo/Huffington Post

The meat case with bodega cat guarding the sausage.

The meat case with bodega cat guarding the sausage.

Pick up some felt reading material.

Pick up some felt reading material.

Breakfast items and snacks galore! 

Breakfast items and snacks galore!