Department of Cultural Affairs NYCulture City of New York Department of Cultural Affairs NYCulture City of New York

Percent for Art

   Iñigo Manglano Ovalle

Portrait of a Young Reader, Encaustic on birch panels, 2006


Portrait of a Young Reader

Completion Date:



Encaustic on birch panels


17' x 54'


Bronx Library Center


310 East Kingsbridge Road, Bronx, NY


Richard Dattner and Partners Architects

Sponsor Agency:

New York Public Library

Design Agency:

New York Public Library

Recipient: Art Commission Award for Excellence in Design, 2005.

Described by the artist as, "an exploration of DNA as a code, a catalogue, and a library with volumes of information to be unlocked and stories to be written," Portrait of a Young Reader is a DNA portrait rendered on a vast scale. Covering the walls of the entrance to the new Bronx Library Center, the piece was created using the latest scientific technology to image the genetic expression of a single individual. The glass and steel wall relief sculpture is composed of approximately 3,000 three-inch diameter colored glass cylinders, which are cut in various lengths and mounted on perforated metal backing. The pattern and palette of the installation was determined by Microarray (DNA sampling method). The Microarray samples include seven colors: black, red, orange, yellow, dark green, green, and light green. The variation in the depth of the glass cylinders coupled with the random patterning of the Microarray presents the information as a topographical landscape, presenting the scientific information in an accurate, yet abstract manner. The scale and shape of the portrait were tailored to fit within the architect's design and is in fact an elemental part of the architecture, having been physically imbedded into the library's very foundation. In addition to the large scale piece that covers the library's main staircase and adjacent areas, Manglano-Ovalle also chose to display the original DNA sample of the anonymous young reader along with information about the project at the top of the stairs near the entrance. The artist hopes that, "as library patrons move down and through this space they will, in a sense, be moving through the portrait, momentarily merging with both the portrait and the architecture."

About the Artist...
Born in Spain in 1961, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle received BA degrees in art and art history and Latin American and Spanish literature from Williams College in 1983. He then went on to complete an MFA in sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1989. Exhibitions featuring his work include the 1998 Bienal de Sao Paulo, the 2000 Whitney Biennial, and Sala de Exposiciones de Fundació'n "la Caixa" in Madrid in 2003. He has received several awards including, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in 1995, the Media Arts Award from the Wexner Center for the Arts in 1997, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellowship in 2001. The artist lives and works in Chicago.

Artist Quote...
"In effect, the resulting DNA will be of an unknown young reader, but also a representative portrait of all young participants and a reminder that all of us were once young readers." (2004) --Iñigo Manglano Ovalle