Tag Archives: public art

Lame Adventure 365: I, Numbskull

In February, I received an email from the Public Art Fund announcing that a new outdoor art exhibit was opening on March 5th called United Enemies. It’s comprised of two monumental bronze sculptures by Thomas Schütte.  Both sculptures feature a pair of angry men tied together but struggling to pull apart.  They are so consumed with contempt for each other their faces are distorted.  Naturally I thought:

Me: The Democrats and the Republicans!

Apparently, I was onto something for I learned some specifics about its origin:

“Conceived during a residency in Italy at a time when several politicians had been arrested for corruption, this series of works refers obliquely to these individuals, though the figures represented in the work are mythical characters rather than specific people.”

Last week, the Public Art Fund sent me an email reminding me that the exhibit has officially opened, or at least that’s what I thought the email was about. I didn’t read the email’s text.  I looked at the image and instantly thought these pairs of freaky gents would be welcome on my site.

Take fifteen seconds to read this.

Too busy to take fifteen seconds to read this.

On Sunday afternoon, I hopped on the downtown 1 local subway train, exited at 59th Street and walked east down Central Park West, prepared to take my usual mediocre photographs. As I passed each entrance and exit to the park, I was confounded for I could not find these sculptures. I knew they weren’t lawn jockey size.  Since they were bronze behemoths I thought it was highly unlikely that they were stolen or damaged.  When I reached Fifth Avenue, I considered asking a carriage horse driver if he knew where they were, but that struck me as absurd since they were obviously nowhere to be found.

I then proceeded to retrace my steps going west. I looked closer at each entrance and exit to the park, but still, there was no sign of these sculptures and my bafflement escalated.  Why didn’t I read the text in that email?  Was this exhibit postponed or opening at a later date?  I walked up Central Park West and looked over the lower end of the park.  All I saw was a woman walking two poodles clad in coats that surely cost more than my crappy down jacket.

Then, I had a light bulb: I’d look at the email!  Last Xmas The Boss gave me a refurbished iPod Touch.  I turned it on, but could not access the internet.  I felt foiled and regretted only being able to afford a dumb phone.  I really did not want to return home to read that email on my home computer, but then I had another light bulb: I may have a dumb phone but I have friends with smart phones. First, I called Milton, but he wasn’t around.  Next, I texted Coco, but she wasn’t around.  Last, I tried my pal, Lola.  She wasn’t around, either. I gave up and proceeded to walk home.  As I neared 66th Street Milton called:

Milton: You rang.

Me: Yeah. I’m trying to photograph a Public Art Fund exhibit near the entrance of Central Park, but I don’t know what entrance it’s at.  Can you research it for me?

Milton: What’s the name of the exhibit?

Me: The artist is Thomas something, a German-sounding name.  Just Google Public Art Fund.

Milton: What’s the first word I’m Googling?

Me:  Public.

Milton: What?

Me: Public.

Milton: Say again.

Me: Public.  Like the Public Theater, but don’t Google the Public Theater

Milton: Oh.  Public. The Public what?

Me: Art Fund.

Milton: The Public Art Fund.

[Channeling Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins: By Jove, I think he’s got it!]

Milton: It’s in the Doris C. Freedman Plaza at 60th Street and Fifth Avenue. Who’s Doris C. Freedman?  Where the hell is that?

Me: I have no idea. I’ve just spent the last hour walking up and down Central Park West like an idiot.

Milton: Figure it’s by the Plaza Hotel.

The Plaza Hotel.

The Plaza Hotel.

Me: I was just by the Plaza Hotel.

Milton: You were probably on the 59th Street side.  Go to 60th.

Just then a 66th Street cross-town bus arrived. I stood behind two senior citizens that paid their fares in loose change.  This took an eternity to accomplish.  I counted the traffic light change three times and began regretting not carrying a sleeping bag.  The bus crossed the park. I exited at Fifth Avenue to continue my crusade.  Metal stands left over from the St. Patrick’s Day parade were still crowding the sidewalk.

Metal stands hogging sidewalk.

Metal stands hogging sidewalk.

I noticed several well-heeled pedestrians carrying shopping bags from the tony department stores in the area walking in the street.  Clearly they have better health insurance than me. Finally, as I approached 60th Street I saw the sculptures in the distance.

Hallelujah moment.

Hallelujah moment.

Putting their best peg leg forward.

Putting their best peg leg forward.

From this angle these guys brought to mind former governor of Alabama George Wallace.

From this angle these guys brought to mind former governor of Alabama George Wallace.

Two more miserable bronze dudes.

Two more miserable bronze dudes.

Pastoral shot of park doubling as eyeball cleanse.

Picturesque shot of park doubling as eyeball cleanse.

Lame Adventure 348: Before and After

Last month, I either entertained or bored (depending on who you are) my dedicated readership of seven, when I took you on a virtual tour of the outdoor Saint Clair Cemin sculpture exhibit currently on display near seven subway stops on upper Broadway here in Manhattan.  For those of you that would like to take that tour click here.

“In the Center” in the center of the exhibit map.

Since I am a tactile type I have been known to run my hand over a surface, but I recall keeping my grubby mitts to myself when I photographed each work of art.   The sculpture called In the Center struck me as rather intimidating.  It’s an imposing fourteen and a half foot tall plaster of Paris, wood and metal figure in a gaucho hat holding a divining rod.  It’s so big it’s easy to feel like a dwarf when in its presence.

Before: “In the Center” under cloud cover giving me the divining rod.

A week ago, as I was approaching it, I was distracted from my regular go-to thoughts about sex and death while narrowly sidestepping a slow moving pigeon, when I did a double take.

After: “In the Center” under wraps under blue skies.

I thought:

Me (thinking):  Why is it in that huge plastic baggie?

Then, I looked closer and saw the answer.

Memo that arrived too late

Arm before.

Arm after.

I suppose the downside to a public art exhibit is some members of the audience, in particular those with the intellectual acuity of a small soap dish coupled with a lack of impulse control.   I don’t know who was compelled to climb it; possibly it was some dunderhead inspired to do chin-ups using the arms.  Or, it might have been a child that garnered parental approval when he or she needed to scratch the jungle gym itch.  Whoever it was I imagine that they had an audience and laughter filled the air until someone asked:

Someone:  Hey, is it me or do you hear something cracking?

Whoever was the culprit, it was not raining geniuses that day.  As for the progress of the restoration, In the Center remains under wraps.  In this state of disrepair, a more accurate name for it might be In the Bodybag.

It seems to be a very slow moving restoration.

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

Lame Adventure 252: Kiwi Appreciation

I was walking up Broadway on the Upper West Side when I noticed a massive bright blue sculpture outside the 72nd Street subway station.

No inhibitions on display here.

I wondered what this enormous spread-eagled blue blob was about so I walked over to inspect it further.

Rather bottom heavy.

This exhibit is a public art program featuring the whimsical sculptures by artist Peter Woytuk currently on display in Manhattan along Broadway from Columbus Circle up to Mitchell Square Park at 168th Street in Washington Heights.

A mother exiting the subway station with her son, a boy about seven or eight, insisted to the lad:

Mother:  Look!  There’s Flipper!

Flipper through the eyes of Fernando Botero?

Lad:  Why does the sign say kiwi, Mom?  Who’s Flipper?

Sign more noticeable to people under five feet tall.

Mother looks at sign, perplexed.  Another woman exited the station and she, too, assumed aloud that she was looking at an abstract version of the TV star dolphin boomers grew up with in the Sixties.  I thought:

Me:  If that’s Flipper, he sure got morbidly obese.

To younger Lame Adventures readers, Flipper was the Lassie of the Sea; he was raised by a single father with two sons.  This was the era of TV shows featuring heroic animals and mischievous offspring raised by kind, patient and understanding single parents.   No one was divorced and the single parents never seemed stressed.  This utopian family unit almost made me wish I was a half-orphan especially when my mother was bellowing at me to clean my room, stand up straight, or when we engaged in negotiation mom-style:

Mom:  Do you want a slap?  I’m warning you, that’s where you’re headed if you keep it up!

The perfect parents on these TV shows were always widowed. They never had a financial worry and were never grieving.  The deaths of their spouses were seldom explained, so with all the wisdom I have acquired forty-odd years later, I can only assume that these cheerful single parents must have had extremely crummy marriages to show no signs of remorse.

Back to the sculpture, no way was this sculpture of a dolphin. The lad with great reading and comprehension skills that his mother lacked since she failed to read the sign next to the sculpture identifying it as a kiwi, got it right.  This blue blob in a state of ecstasy is a bird, specifically a chicken-sized flightless bird endemic to New Zealand.  It has the distinction of laying the largest egg in relation to its body size when compared to all other species of birds.  It’s also an endangered species.  Weasels, dogs and cats love to munch on them.   Apparently, on the Upper West Side, idiots with black marking pens find scribbling on them irresistible.

Is this really necessary?

This sculpture, made from aluminum and weighing 18,000 lbs stands 12 feet tall and it’s 6 feet wide, so had it fallen off its base and onto the scribblers, they would have been flattened.