Tag Archives: sculpture

Lame Adventure 433: A Koons of One’s Own

If you happened to visit Rockefeller Center, as I did recently, you might notice a 37-foot tall sculpture weighing 150 tons festooned with 50,000 flowers that looks distinctly like either a monumental Chia Pet (continuing where last week’s Lame Adventure left off), or half a child’s hobby horse and half a child’s dinosaur toy  in front of the Comcast Building* at 30 Rock.

Comcast Building

The Comcast Building.

Say hello to Split-Rocker, a sculpture by artist Jeff Koons standing where the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree will tower three months from now.


Split-Rocker (the bronze gilded statue is full-time resident, Prometheus).

If I had any say about this, I would suggest that “we” throw tradition to the wind, save a tree and hang holiday bells over Split-Rocker. Unfortunately, that is not in the cards. This whimsical exhibit will close on September 19th. But the Whitney is currently showing a retrospective of Koons’s work through October 19th.

Koons designed Split-Rocker in 2000. It was originally exhibited at the Palais des Papes in Avignon, France. He made two and owns one, the one on display in New York. Once it is dismantled, maybe it will head into storage in his garage in York, Pennsylvania. The other Split-Rocker belongs to billionaire industrialist, Mitchell P. Rales and his wife, Emily. They’ve had theirs on display in Glenstone, their private museum in Potomac, Maryland, for about a year. If you cannot visit New York in the next four days, you might want to give them a call.

Koons claims that his inspiration for this sculpture was a toy pony owned by one of his sons and a toy dinosaur.

Pony side.

Pony side.

Dino side.

Dino side.

The dinosaur owner was not identified, but considering the proliferation of toy dinosaurs that have ruled toy stores for the past twenty years it could have belonged to Any Kid or possibly someone age forty-five — coincidentally, Koons’s age in 2000.

Recently I read a lovely essay in the New York Times written by Bill Hayes about visiting the Metropolitan Museum with his two nieces, who are fourteen and eighteen. His older niece is an aspiring photographer who was blown away by Garry Winogrand’s photographs. His younger niece was more taken with the paintings, particularly Monet’s Water Lilies. This was the first time she had seen a Monet water lily painting. Bill told both girls that they could fall in love with a work of art, just as they can fall in love with a song. That work of art is theirs.

I cannot say I fell in love with Split-Rocker, but I thought it was fun. When I crossed the plaza to take a head on photograph of it, I noticed that there was a Metropolitan Museum gift shop. The windows were filled with Split-Rocker souvenirs.

Buy Split-Rocker stuff here.

Buy Split-Rocker stuff here.

The plate caught my eye, I could see myself having a slice of baked salmon on it, and so I entered the store looking for it.

Split-Rocker plate, perfect for display or dinner.

Split-Rocker plate, perfect for display or dinner.

I could not find it anywhere. I asked a clerk who was yawning where it was, wondering if it had sold out? She explained to me that if I were interested in it, she would contact the Met on my behalf.

Me: That’s very kind of you. How much is it?

Clerk: $500.

I parroted what she said, and she parroted me. There was a lot of parroting going on, but now I was intrigued.

Me: So how much is the vase?

Split-Rocker, the vase.

Split-Rocker, the vase.

Clerk: $5000.

I said nothing. She looked amused, indicating to me that she must be very used to stupefied expressions.

Me: Is there a Split-Rocker tee shirt?

I figured that in the law of averages wearable Split-Rocker might sell for $50.

Clerk: No. But the little book sells for $15.

Split-Rocker bargain book.

Split-Rocker book (not available on Amazon; I checked).

I refrained from barking:

Me: Finally! A bargain!

I thanked her for her time and left. I’m perfectly content with owning my memory of seeing Split-Rocker and enjoying some of the 50,000 flowers for free.

Actual living flowers in Split-Rocker.

Actual living flowers in Split-Rocker.

For those of you who will not make it to New York in time to see Split-Rocker in person, here’s the Lame Adventure movie.

* For you history buffs, this building was originally known when it opened in 1933 as the RCA Building. In 1988 until 2014, it was the GE Building. Now, Comcast owns it. Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Myers, NBC News and MSNBC all tape their broadcasts here.

Lame Adventure 376: Glimpse of the Future, Gander at the Past

I am hanging out with my friend Coco in SoHo, a neighborhood in lower Manhattan to anyone unfamiliar with this island. SoHo means South of Houston Street, and Houston is pronounced like Mouse-ton with an h, not like the city in Texas, or the movie director, John Huston, Anjelica Huston’s dad. Eagle-eyed Milton took this gotcha shot of Anjelica last year with his iPhone when we were people watching outside the New York Film Festival.

Anjelica Huston at the New York Film Festival in 2012.

Anjelica Huston at the New York Film Festival in 2012 unable to escape Milton’s iPhone.

Fast forward back to the present, Coco and I are walking south on West Broadway, a street rife with expensive boutiques I never enter and art galleries that can be interesting. Coco is very excited because she wants me to see something. She’s walking so fast, she’s almost jogging; she cannot wait for me to see this sight. She stands in front of a window, antsy.

Coco: You’ve got to see this!

My reflexes are a tad perverse. I look at the window right across from me, into a salon. I look back at her quizzically.

Coco (insistent): Look here! In this window!

Coco resists banging her head on the pavement. If she is thinking something rude about the inefficiency of my ability to comprehend, she resists mentioning it out loud. I walk over to join her outside the Eli Klein Fine Art gallery barking:

Me: What?

Industrial strength sign.

Unassuming sign.

Coco smiles devilishly. I see it: a lifelike sculpture by artist Shen Shaomin of a hag who checked her modesty at the door. She’s sitting naked as a jaybird on a deck chair sunning herself. It’s called, I Want to Know What Infinity Is.

I Want to Know What Infinity Is, 2011-2012

I Want to Know What Infinity Is, 2011-2012

Is this, the artist’s rendition of what a woman who lives to be older than dirt can anticipate — catching rays and forgetting about wearing a bathing suit? Am I looking at myself in approximately 50 years? Will my flab be overcome with sag? I update the grocery list in my mind:

Mental grocery list: bananas, pita bread, yogurt, someone who’ll still love me when I’m completely decrepit and will ensure that I’m always clad.

Coco is marveling at the sculpture’s stick thin calves and how gravity has taken such a toll on the breasts. Until my friend mentions that the two dark pointy nubs are actually nipples, I did not realize that those were breasts draped on the sides over the ribs. I assumed that I was looking at leathery flesh dotted with buttons. Because I have a few decades on my pal, and I’m much closer to looking like this withered snoozing crone than she, and that is not a comforting thought.

I wonder if there is someone out there that would actually buy this sculpture and display it in his or her house? It would be quite a conversation piece:

Sculpture Owner: Someone else bought Munch’s The Scream. That was when we decided to go in a completely other direction.

Shen’s even equipped this sculpture with a motor to make it appear to be breathing. I’m not sure how many D batteries are required nor do I know if they’re included with purchase

Foot traffic continues to move at a steady pace past the gallery. Let’s face facts; New York City pedestrians come very close to having seen it all.

Eh, just your average old lady tanning au naturale.

Eh, just your average old lady sculpture tanning au naturale.

Across the street, something even more shocking than this silica gel replica of a naked centenarian catches my eye. Once again, I’m completely captivated.

TV antenna in modern day Manhattan or rooftop art?

TV antenna in modern day Manhattan or rooftop art?

I cannot recall the last time I’ve seen a TV antenna in the thirty years that I’ve lived in Manhattan. It’s possible that I’ve never seen one here until this very day.

Me: Coco! Look up there!

Let's do the time warp again!

Let’s do the time warp again!

I point. Coco looks up. It’s her turn to look at me quizzically.

Me: Who still has a TV antenna in Manhattan in the year 2013?

Coco ignores my question and returns her attention to the sculpture.

Coco: Look, she even has a bunion on her foot!

Maybe in this case, "Untitled" would have worked better?

Maybe in this case, “Untitled” would have worked better?

To see more of Shen’s fascinating, freaky and disturbing work, click on this link. As with the elderly woman sculpture the animals in the series I Sleep On Top of Myself are motorized to appear to be breathing. As my grandmother would say:

Lame Granny: What will they think of next?

In Shen’s case, maybe we don’t want to know, but I imagine that if I saw it, I would not be able to look away.

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 338: Kid Art

Last month, I noticed that one of my neighbors, a fit-looking woman in her early to mid-thirties that resides on the fifth floor in my building, had been walking with a significant limp.  Climbing up and down five flights of stairs appeared to be agony for her.  Curious and concerned, I asked her what had happened, anticipating a story about some terrible accident she suffered.

Upstairs Neighbor:  It’s so embarrassing.  I was sitting down, I got up,  and I somehow stood on it funny.   It’s been hurting me ever since.  I’m going to the doctor.

My initial thought was:

Me (thinking):  She’s about twenty years younger than me, she’s slender and in shape.  If something freak like that can happen to her, what might happen to me if I sit down and get up funny?  Could I break a leg?

I said:

Me:  I hope you get well soon.

She thanked me, we parted ways and I made a mental note:

Me: This is a warning sign that you absolutely, positively, no ifs, ands, or buts must start working out again.

Then, I resumed my sluggish ways.  A few days later, it felt like a sleeping squirrel had woken out of a sound slumber behind my right kneecap and was trying to make a break for it with its sharp teeth.  In other words, it was a strange sensation that hurt.  Since the weather was also pleasant I refused to let my discomfort force me to stay housebound.  I simply had to leave my hovel and take a walk; I had to make an effort to burn off some flab (famous last words).

There I was, dragging my hobbled right leg up West 84th Street toward Columbus Avenue, when I encountered a delightful display of outdoor art produced by children attending P.S. 9.

P.S. 9 entrance.

I was so intrigued with their witty and entertaining sculptures I completely forgot about whatever it was gnawing at me from behind my kneecap.

Atomic Hula

Who knew that just looking at imaginative kid art would be therapeutic?

Room for Art

I hope whatever was lurking behind my kneecap will continue to forget about me.

Pin Art

Yes, clothes pins.

If only looking at art could gift me with fitness, but I suppose I shouldn’t grouse, at least I didn’t need to ride an ambulance home.

Three Musicians

Three Musicians detail straight from the Bed Bath and Beyond kitchen accessories collection.

Meanwhile, check out more of the whimsical kid art that may or may not be packed with magical healing power.

Faces in the Crowd (made from plates)

Sock Monster (or where lost tube socks go).

Refuse to grow up and write a blog.

Lame Adventure 309: Eye Catchers

Every so often I hang out with my friend and fellow blogger, Natasia, from the demurely named site, Hot Femme Writing in NYC.  On this particular get-together we are walking down my block to my sanctum sanctorum when she notices the Recreational Vehicle that has been polluting my Upper West Side neighborhood for years.  It’s curbside blight that I have written about before.  Tas reacts like she’s had a celebrity sighting.

Easily confused with Angelina Jolie on a bad hair day.

Tas:  Hey, there’s that RV you hate!  It’s almost parked in front of your building.

Egging me on, she adds:

Tas:  That pisses you off, doesn’t it?

It does, but I am a self-control machine.  Therefore, I say nothing other than a low growl.  My contempt for this vehicle strikes me as ridiculous considering that I spend most of my time in one of four places – inside my apartment, inside a subway station or train, inside my office, or outside in general Gotham City.  I spend very little time on any given day standing like a doofus in front of my building hyperventilating about a legally parked eyesore.  Yet, irrationally, whenever I see that unsightly trash barge on wheels hogging space outside my door, it sets me off like a Roman Candle.  At that particular moment, I know my blood pressure is rising.

Tas:  Look, matzo!

I assume that she is firing her special brand of snark at me.  I detonate:

Me:  What are you talking about?  Why are you yammering about matzo now?  It’s out of season; it’s May!  You told me you wanted to eat a baguette!

I pause for breath half-wondering if the chest pain I feel is gas or a heart attack, and if it’s the latter, will she hesitate to call an ambulance from the iPhone that seems surgically attached to her mitt?  Ignoring my conniption Tas points at the vehicle and insists:

Tas:  Matzo!

Displaying her own level of self-control, she resists adding for emphasis:

Tas:  Look dumbass!

Window dressing matzo — move over Martha Stewart.

Me:  Huh!  How’d they do that?  Gee, good eye, Tas.

We conclude it’s probably very stale and walk on.

A few days later, I’m running an errand for dish soap.  As I wait to cross Broadway at 77th Street, I look up at a boring high-rise apartment building.

Another innocuous tall box that could have been designed by Ambien.

This is the exact kind of building I usually find invisible, but this time I do a double take.

That mannequin’s butt naked! Hide the small fry!

Logically, this naked mannequin might belong to an artist or designer, but illogically and based on nothing other than my own imagination run amuck, I make the assumption that it might belong to someone with kinky proclivites.  Hm, all roads return to artist or designer.  My next thought is I wonder if they own or rent?

My favorite eye catching sites are the Peter Woytuk bronze sculptures that dot the Upper West Side.  Three of them are in a three and four block radius of my home base.  Last year, he had a giant blue kiwi on display outside the 72nd Street subway entrance (or exit if you’re leaving instead of entering).  That big blue bloated bird (try saying that three times fast) has now been replaced with a raven standing tall atop a cluster of apples bringing to mind Edgar Allan Poe, fruit that’s available year round and an impressive balancing act.

How do you like them apples? I do! I also like the raven on top.

I admire his three fat hens planted in the median on Broadway outside Fairway.

“How dare you call us fat!”

My blood pressure appreciates all of these sculptures and I would welcome any one of them outside my building.

This might also scare away the rats and skunks.

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.

Lame Adventure 103: Head Moves

Earlier this month, on a Friday when I was on my way to work, I saw a large construction crane outside the 73rd Street entrance of the 72nd Street 1, 2, 3 subway station.  A worker, with the thankless job of directing foot traffic, was shouting repeatedly to everyone trying to enter the station, “Stay to your left away from the monument!”  A defiant elderly woman shouted back at him, “Why should I?”  The worker gave this (likely) native New Yorker a weary look.  Grumbling about how her tax dollars are wasted, she stayed to her left.

To people exiting the station he just shouted at them to stay away from the monument.  It occurred to me that he should have shouted at them to stay to their right, but surely someone who should have stayed left, would have moved right, and someone who should have stayed right, would have moved left, chaos and confusion would have reigned, and suddenly the crane operator would have been hoisting a few dumbshits along with the sculpture.

I stayed to my left and took this image:

Everyone, just get the hell out of the way!

The monument the worker was referring to is the Manolo Valdés sculpture Odalisca (2006), which has been on display as part of a public arts project up and down Broadway since May that lasts through January.  For more details about her installation see Lame Adventure 46: Free Art on Broadway.

At first, I was concerned that Odalisca was being removed early.  Up close she does look a tad weathered for a four year old, but she’s cast out of bronze and I know she is supposed to be out in the elements all day.  I am certain she is not a wimp.

I arrived at work still thinking deeply about the fate of Odalisca.  Then, I entered my department’s bathroom, and was distracted by the toilet paper.  Someone, not amongst my colleagues, was pulling this idiocy for about a week.

Balancing act.

It seems possible to me that whoever was doing this was also a member of the dim bulb club that would move left when needed to move right.

That evening, after work, when I exited the 72nd Street station on the 73rd Street side, I had the sick feeling that Odalisca had left the premises, but much to my delight I found her now perched near a newsstand.  Possibly it was decided that she was hogging too much space in the area where music is performed on weekends so she was moved a little lower and to the left of the station’s entrance.

Odalisca from behind.

Odalisca in her new location a little lower and to the left.

Considering that music was often played in that space outside the station on weekends all summer, and Odalisca was relocated at summer’s close struck me as rather post-mature timing.  Maybe it took three months to cut through 4627 miles of bureaucratic red tape to get clearance to move her, or maybe it took three months before someone saw daylight and realized she had been positioned in the wrong place all along.