Lame Adventure 343: Let’s Put On An Art Exhibit!

Once again, there’s free art on Broadway for the unwashed masses.  The Broadway Mall Association has organized a public art exhibition called Saint Clair Cemin on Broadway in collaboration with Chelsea-based Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation and the New York City Department of Transportation.  For anyone not inclined to toss so much as a single solitary toenail clipping inside a museum or an art gallery, for five subway stops in Manhattan between West 57th and West 157th Streets, you can easily find yourself gobsmacked with one of seven sculptures created by the Brazilian-born artist Saint Clair Cemin who has a studio in Brooklyn.

The first Cemin piece that caught my eye I noticed one evening in late August when I exited my go-to 72nd and Broadway subway stop on the West 73rd Street side.  It was a mirrored stainless steel object that brought to mind a drafting table.  This prompted me to think “WTF?”  It was too dark for me to take a good photograph of it, but a few weeks later, while heading into that same subway station, I noticed that it had been relocated closer to 72nd Street.  I hit the brakes on my Jack Purcell sneakers, reversed course and took a second look at that sculpture before catching a train heading down to The Grind. A sign had been added announcing that the piece is called Portrait of the Word “Why”.

Portrait of the Word “Why”, 2008, stainless steel

Frontal side view Portrait of the Word “Why” reflecting some cityscape.

Rear sideview Portrait of the Word “Why”

Others might look at this sculpture and modify its name to Portrait of the Words “Why Bother”.  The piece had the opposite effect on me.  It intrigued me so much I decided that I would forego my usual Saturday morning power sleep and check out the six other installations in daylight hours so early many of the denizens in this city that never sleeps were likely pounding their snooze buttons.

In my 100 block of travels up and down Broadway my quest was to determine if I might uncover any clues about what New Yorkers, when led to culture, think using my own weaknesses of observation.

I first inspected the sculpture on the south side of 72nd Street Cemin calls The Four.

The Four, 1997, corten steel

I think that New Yorkers think that they can use two of its sides to house their trash.

You had to stuff your napkin in there, really?

You could not walk ten feet to the nearest trash can?

I rode a 1 local train downtown to 59th Street Columbus Circle, and exited the 58th Street side where I encountered Vortex, a hammered stainless steel coil climbing 123 feet into the sky.

Vortex, 2008, hammered stainless steel

I looked up at it, semi-strained my neck and thought:

Me:  Wow, that’s tall.

I highly doubt that it will be installed in any swell’s living room any time soon.

I walked four blocks north to the street divider at 62nd and Broadway where I saw a crouching figure called O Pensador that’s made from hammered copper.

O Pensador, 2008, hammered copper

O Pensador, sideview

O Pensador, rearview

It made me think of a wrinkled abstract Buddha and I felt immense relief that Cemin resisted producing a surreal sculpture of the prophet Muhammad.

At 66th Street I caught the uptown express to West 157th Street.

Pretty subway stop sign if you overlook the century of grime.

There, I observed a seven-foot tall dancing marble figure Cemin calls The Wind.

The Wind, 2002, marble

I think that others are referring to it as The Repository for Lost Keys.

Keys in The Wind.

Keys ready for their close-up.

Next, I caught a 1 local downtown and exited at 116th Street Columbia University.  In the subway station, I saw a welded steel functional sculpture by Michelle Greene called Railrider’s Throne.

Columbia University 116th Street subway stop.

Railrider’s Throne, 1991, welded steel

How predictable that a woman would create art that is both aesthetically pleasing and actually useful.

Back outside, I walked a block north to 117th Street and inspected Cemin’s hammered copper sculpture called Aphrodite standing nearly eight feet tall.

Aphrodite, 2006, hammered copper

I thought:

Me:  Small breasts, big hips.

Pretty face.

Afterward, I hopped onto another 1 local heading downtown and exited at West 79th Street where I observed In the Center, a fourteen and a half foot tall hydrocal (that’s a William F. Buckley way of saying plaster of Paris), wood and metal behemoth in a gaucho hat holding a divining rod.

In The Center, 2002, hydrocal, wood and metal

This sculpture reminded me of the strict Catholic clergy that were chasing the mischievous schoolboy, Guido, in Federico Fellini’s 8 ½.  As much as part of me wanted to access my inner Guido and bolt from this monster, irrationally fearing that if it leaned forward it could impale me, the rest of me decided to relax and shoot these final images of this free exhibit that can be seen on the streets of Gotham City through mid-November.

Saint Clair Cemin on Broadway

58 responses to “Lame Adventure 343: Let’s Put On An Art Exhibit!

  1. This is so cool. I think I like the Wind and Aphrodite the best. Shame about the trash and the keys. I don’t get it. Maybe there’s not enough trash cans in the city.


  2. Snoring Dog Studio

    How fun! What a great tour of your city’s art. The “Word Why” is my least favorite – I’m surprised no one yet has written anything on the big white sheet of paper-something. I have never wanted a sculpture in my home that has a pointy end. I fear a mishap in the night on my way to the toilet. I love a city that has lots of street art. It’s all so civilized, up until the point some jackass uses it as a trash receptacle.


    • Interesting point about “Word Why” — I’ll add an image or two so you can see that what looks white was just how the light was hitting its face. The entire sculpture is a mirrored surface. Listen to me, I sound like an intern for an art magazine. Avoiding pointy ended things in the home is wise at any time of the day considering how many times I’ve banged myself on my own health hazard, the corner of my bed’s platform.


  3. railrider’s throne has seen lots of ass.

    yep, that’s all i got at the moment.


  4. Great tour, V! Pensador means “thinker” in Spanish and probably Portuguese. (I speak the first one, not the second but while they don’t really sound alike, they read alot alike) So maybe this is Cemin’s tribute to Rodin?


    • You might be onto something with that idea Cathy. Very good observation. I was wondering what “Pensador” meant but I used my last Google search of the day looking into what hydrocal could possibly be.


  5. As you might guess, I love this post! My favorite is “Aphrodite.” However, wind is pretty cool, too. Love the “repository of lost keys” retitling! Kind of blows me away! (Yeah, I know. Pretty bad!)


    • I thought about you when I was looking at these sculptures and figured at least one of them would have been produced in a vibrant shade of pink. I liked all of them in one way or another, and they all look very intriguing from various angles.


  6. Thank you so much for taking us with you on your cultural ride through NYC to see the sculptures!


  7. In what may be a first for me, a no-snark response: thank you. I actually feel enriched having taken your city art tour.


  8. Fantastic review! I am glad to know what the word “why” looks like.
    Thanks so much for sending Writer Wendy Reid and Samantha Mozart over to my blog! Did I miss something on a post of yours?


  9. Queen of Pentacles

    Wow! You are a true Patron of the Arts! I saw ‘Vortex’ yesterday evening and it really impressed me- enough that I spent several minutes admiring it. It was shimmering in the fading light. Reminded me of a drill bit, but much prettier. Thank you so much for your Up Close & Personal art tour!


    • “Drill bit!” Thank you Queen of P — I was so racking the little that remains of my addled middle-aged brain last night trying to remember that term! You win the virtual years supply of Makita drill bits courtesy of Lame Adventures. I feel such immense relief.

      I’m glad you enjoyed my tour — it’s the least I can do for you mentioning drill bit for me.


  10. Call me one of the unwashed masses but I think the best art here was the tile art on the subways!!!!!! Just think, the city itself in the way they built things a century ago created art that actually didn’t cause you to trip over it or it wasn’t placed in crosswalks or near busy subway stations – the art was made part of the transportation system – just like during the New Deal era when out of work artists created murals that still exist in many public spaces throughout the country. My rant for the day!


  11. Lame,
    Thank you for taking me with you around New York. Next time, could we stop by the Parson’s Institute, and stop for a bite at Gray’s Papaya?
    Le Clown


  12. That was a wonderful tour of a very cool art exhibit V. Very cool indeed. I loved the hammered metals. 🙂


  13. I love street art like this, street trails especially: but each of your exhibits has something quite amazing in its own right. I love ‘vortex’. It looks just like one.


  14. Thank you. I liked “O Pensador”, “The Wind” and Michelle Greene’s “Railrider’s Throne”. Um, do waiting riders actually sit in it? I’m with Martini Max — I like the subway tile art the best.

    As a piece of esoterica, thankfully here you thought to include photos, unlike some other blogger we know…. 😉

    Susie’s writing is great, descriptive and imaginative.

    Yes, “albeit” is a fun word.


    • You’ve covered a lot of ground with this comment! This evening I was hanging out with Milton near Vortex. I took him to see it. He was not impressed, but did agree that it is huge. Two tourists seemed to think it was a lot of fun. One even wedged himself into it as he other took his picture. Now I understand why it’s covered with fingerprints requiring a barrel of Windex whenever it is cleaned up — probably mid-November.


  15. I think I like your neighborhood better than mine… this was awesome. If I wasn’t such a hermit I would take a train in and take a gander, Maybe one day.. I will dream big for a country girl


    • Audra, you spend a few hours in the city, you’ll be able to crank out a week’s worth of posts on the train ride home. Fall’s a great time to visit — nicer weather, fewer tourists, and always plenty to see. Listen to me, I sound like I’m a cog in the NYC Visitors Bureau.


  16. Although I don’t think I like all of them, LA, they are quite interesting structures. Why and The Four I’m not too sure about, but I really like the Vortex and O Pensador (O Pensador kind of reminds me of one of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine characters when he was changing his shape, Odo, if my memory serves me right…), and I love the chair and Aphrodite however.
    One thing I did notice… none of them had any carrier bags on them in your photos, but with the serviette and the keys, there’s time!
    Great post, by the way!


    • Glad you enjoyed another virtual visit to the Big Apple, Tom. I’m not a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine follower, but I researched Odo and this is the first line in the 1992 Writer Bible describing him: “Odo, an alien male, middle-aged curmudgeon, and a shape-shifter. In his natural state he is a gelatinous liquid.” I think that could work for O Pensador. Thanks for sharing your impressions.


  17. Aphrodite reminds me of a fork. Freud would have a field day with me.


  18. My favorites are Portrait of the Word Why, O Pensador, and the Wind. I would spend some time with those. Obviously I am not on the UWS nearly enough. The only one of those pieces I know about is the Railrider’s Throne, which I know very well. And the funny thing is that I have never ever seen anyone sit on it. EVER.


    • Those are my choices, too, along with Aphrodite — I like women in all shapes and sizes. I’ve seen pictures of small fry climbing all over Railrider’s Throne, but the germaphobe in me tries to avoid touching or sitting on anything in a station.

      Yes! You must spend more time on the UWS Weebs!


      • Jesus H. Christ woman! Go ahead and sit on things in the station. Aren’t you wearing a minimum of 1 layer of clothing? Regardless, whatever don’t kill you will only make you stronger (as the song goes). I know you missed out on the joys of raring little ones. What started out as a 5-second rule turned into a next-Tuesday rule in our house. If it hasn’t changed color significantly or grown a penicillin fuzz then it’s okay to ingest.


  19. Thanks for the delightful tour, which looked like fun to take! Meanwhile, the gold one could be Jabba the Hut as a teen.


  20. I love your commentary and the subway sign the best! I can’t wait to visit this winter!


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