Bringing the Sound to A Cypher in Queens
Toward the end of the summer, an Instagram DM came in from an account named A Cypher in Queens. It read:
“Hello Leon Speakers! I was having an IG convo with Jon from @thesoundvision about my hip hop sculpture and audio equipment integration (mixing Art & Audio) and he mentioned that the amazing artist Noah and his Leon speakers (products known for mixing Art x Audio x Design x Technology) may be interested in what I have to offer. May I email you an idea I have?”
We get some interesting requests that come in through DMs (don't we all), most of which don’t end up going very far...but this one sounded different. It piqued our interest because of how clearly it spoke to our vision of mixing art with audio and design with technology—plus, it helped that Jon from The Sound Vision, a Leon dealer and good friend of ours, sent him our way.
We responded and told them to reach out to our sales department, and what happened next was the beginning of a really amazing custom project that we’re proud to have been a part of.
The man behind the A Cypher in Queens account, Sherwin Banfield, is an artist from New York City. This year he was awarded an Emerging Artist Fellowship from the Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens, NY and invited to participate in The Socrates Annual, an exhibition of commissions made by the park’s fellows.
According to Sherwin, his piece, entitled A Cypher in Queens, is “... a three-part audio sculpture combining the busts of Queens hip-hop legends Jam Master Jay, Phife Dawg, and Prodigy with their music. The sculptural forms are inspired by stacked speaker boxes seen on the streets during Carnival celebrations and slit gongs, tall painted wood musical instruments made by the Tin Mweleun peoples of Ambrym Island in the Pacific Ocean.”
After the initial designs were in place, Sherwin needed some help finding the right audio source to bring his sculptures to life. This is where Leon got involved, and we were happy to donate 4 of our Terra AC FIVE speakers as well as an AC SUBe. The audio was installed by Sherwin and his friend Kyle Keays-Hagerman, and for the days leading up to the show’s opening ceremony, the two worked late into the night to assemble and wire the sculptures.
The result is an immersive outdoor exhibit that celebrates the artistry of hip-hop culture and honors the artists represented—with music of course, which streams from the sculptures 24/7.
A Cypher in Queens will be up through March 10, 2019. The Socrates Sculpture Park is open 365 days a year from 9am to sunset and admission is free. Learn more.
“The sculptures have resonated with many viewers and having the music permeating throughout the park—let me tell you, the acoustics are absolutely incredible, crystal clear and bass heavy. A perfect combination for the sculptures.” –Sherwin Banfied, A Cypher in Queens
“I grew up listening to A Tribe Called Quest and all the classic hip hop of that era, so the opportunity to contribute to A Cypher in Queens was an honor. At Leon, we’re all about bringing art and music together, and doing so while honoring some of hip-hop’s greatest legends is something we love being a part of.” –Noah Kaplan, President & Founder of Leon Speakers
Sherwin Banfield (b. Trinidad and Tobago in 1976; lives and works in Astoria, NY) received his BFA from Parson, The New School for Design in 1999. He works primarily in illustration, sculpture, and painting. A dedicated portraitist, Banfield believes people’s stories can be told through the gesture, texture, and composition. His work has been exhibited in group exhibitions with the Art Students League, for example, the Model to Monument: Creating Public Art for Public Spaces at Van Cortlandt Park, NY (2013) and Riverside Park South, NY (2013). Banfield will be an artist in residence at LaGuardia Airport with the Queens Council on the Arts ArtPort Residency from October to December 2018.