Friday, October 2, 2015

Public art without fences

Whatever you may think of the above piece, it is marred by the stanchions and ropes. Aesthetically they impinge on the artwork, you cannot engage with it as an object in space or as a visual participant in the lobby without the ropes insisting on their place in your visual and physical frame. (Although I do think that in the photograph the swooping waves of the ropes offset nicely with the curved wall of the building.) As you pass through the lobby the ropes serve to marginalize the work, trivializing it, pushing it out of the frame of consciousness. I suspect the ropes are there because the work already struggles so much to be present in the visually and physically busy space of the lobby that people might be injured tripping on it or running into it. This is unfortunate curation.
Contrast it with the sculpture just the other side of the state building doors:

This may seem persnickety of me, but I walked right by the interior piece, out the doors, and then stopped in my tracks seeing the piece above, Monument With Standing Beast by Jean Dubuffet. The contrast between the impact of feeling of the two sculptures, both sculptures I like, literally brought me to a halt. I turned around and walked back into the building to get the interior photo. The way the two occupy their spaces, the way they are allowed to participate and intervene in their environment is radically different. The un-fenced Dubuffet, delightfully curated into a space that feels inevitable and perfect for it, is accessible, open, welcoming. Compare this to the cloistered, isolated, distress of the interior work, whose creator I did not gather.
Siting a work, letting it breathe, allowing it to belong to the public and not seem an imposition or afterthought completely changes the nature and role of a work of art in a public space.

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