Chorus (2012) is a stained-glass installation by Kiki Smith presented by the Art Production Fund from May 24th to September 4th on one of the few remaining undeveloped parcels in the area, located on 46th Street and 8th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. Comprised of a dozen-or-so colorful stars, the main point of interest is an image of Josephine Baker who is apotheosized in this medium associated with spirituality. Baker was not only one of the twentieth century’s most important stage entertainers, but fitting the feminist and body-political themes in much of Smith’s work, someone who overcame many prejudices against her being female and a person of color.
The gritty sandlot on which the work is sited might point to Baker’s childhood spent on the streets, and her show business start in Broadway revues; her talent and beauty reads in this siting as “diamonds in the rough.” The many-colored stars reference Baker’s adoption of children from all over the world and for her opening multi-racial orphanages. Intentional or not, Smith’s work points to a concurrent Off-Broadway production, The Sensational Josephine Baker, at the nearby Beckett Theater at 42nd Street ( the Chez Josephine restaurant, run by two of Baker’s sons, is also nearby). Unfortunately, despite its gorgeous colors and materials, Chorus becomes lost in the visual cacophony of the Times Square area, subsumed by theater advertising and obscured by a chain-link fence.