486 Greenwich Street
Location: 486 Greenwich Street
WATER SPILLED FROM SOURCE TO USE. A belt of words around a building. At first I thought it housed a water supplier of the Culligan variety, only smaller. Or once housed. WATER. Sure, you could think that. It must’ve been from the days when the neighborhood was common-sense commercial. It had the punch of an industrial slogan. Its type was clear to read and spoke with authority. Its sentiment was underlined (or overlined) with three star-shaped anchor plates above it. SOURCE. USE. If the latter was a noun, then it was consonant with the former. FROM. TO. Even in its brevity, it had a sense of movement. SOURCE. You want to stress the source of water. You want to know where it comes from. But still, the whole thing seemed off, like somebody’s all-too private conception of the hard sell. SPILLED. Spilled implies accident, a loss of control. Or perhaps it was just a demotic way to say the water was freed from its source. Also, the company’s name was gone. You’d think name and slogan alike would disappear.
I was wrong. It had nothing to do with any former industrial tenant, and there were no men in trucks with plastic jugs of water. It’s a sculpture by Lawrence Weiner, made for the owners and tenants of the building, John Hendricks and later his brother, Geoffrey Hendricks.
I had to do more sleuthing to confirm the work wasn’t some appropriation of an earlier industrial artifact. The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission’s designation report has two pictures: in one picture from 1981, it says JOHNSTON IRON WORKS 486, and in a picture from 1987, it says WATER SPILLED FROM SOURCE TO USE.