Bentley Meeker Brings Harlem Bling to the Hudson with Giant “H”

Bentley Meeker, The "H" in Harlem (2014), rendering. Photo: Bentley Meeker.

Harlem-based artist Bentley Meeker is publicly declaring his neighborhood pride with his latest work, a giant, illuminated “H” that is being hung today from the Riverside Drive Viaduct at 125th Street and 12th Avenue, reports DNA Info. With an engineering assist from Theta Consulting, The “H” in Harlem and its weather-resistant lights should withstand hurricane force winds, and will light up each night via an automatic timer.

Measuring a massive 66 feet wide and 35 feet tall, The “H” in Harlem is Meeker’s attempt to draw attention to the diverse neighborhood’s vibrant culture and history.

“I know people love the idea of Harlem but they are scared of the actuality,” the artist told DNA Info. “I want to show people this is an awesome place.”

The project accompanies a separate series of light-related art events being hosted under the viaduct, near popular restaurant Dinosaur BBQ, by Savona Bailey-McClain’s West Harlem Art Fund.

The “H” in Harlem has been in the works since 2012, when the group, along with Community Board 9 and the 125th Street Business Improvement District, among other groups, asked Meeker to create a large-scale installation celebrating West Harlem.

“The west side, despite all its assets, doesn’t get the same attention as Central Harlem and recently, East Harlem,” Barbara Askins, president of the 125th Street Business Improvement District, told DNA Info. “That area has needed something to jumpstart things.”

Askins sees the oversize statue as “Harlem bling” and thinks it will “instill pride in the people of Harlem who really love Harlem.”

The giant letter will sit inside an oval-shaped aluminum frame lit in white LED-lights, while the “H” itself features full spectrum light-emitting plasma. Meeker’s work, which has appeared at Nevada’s Burning Man festival, often juxtaposes different types of light.

Unexpectedly, Meeker doesn’t feel that the “H” specifically stands for Harlem, saying “it’s not an ‘H’ for anything. It’s just an ‘H’ and it’s in Harlem. It could be an ‘H’ for ‘happening’ or just a big, beautiful ‘H.'”

The “H” in Harlem will be on view through September 25.

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