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Thread: Questioning public art

  1. #26
    Cyburbian b3nr's avatar
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    I would agree with many of you that the reason so much of this is completley non-memorable pap is to avoid controversy. I think the best bit of public art I have ever seen is the Famine memorial in Dublin. Its horrible, but at least I remembered it, and it can't help but make you think.
    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Im...ial_dublin.jpg

  2. #27
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    My girlfriend told me about a fascinating study that was conducted by artists Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid, to determine aesthetic preferences and taste in painting for various countries.

    This project, created by the dissident Russian artists Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid, attempts to discover what a true "people's" art would look like. Through a professional marketing firm, a survey was conducted to determine what Americans prefer in a painting; the results were used to create the painting America's Most Wanted. This project was expanded in both scope and audience through the Internet at Dia's website, allowing visitors to see the paintings based on completed polls of over a dozen countries, analyze the survey data, and participate directly a website survey to create a new "Most Wanted" painting specific to the Internet community.
    From The Most Wanted Paintings web site:

    In an age where opinion polls and market research invade almost every aspect of our "democratic/consumer" society (with the notable exception of art), Komar and Melamid's project poses relevant questions that an art-interested public, and society in general often fail to ask: What would art look like if it were to please the greatest number of people? Or conversely: What kind of culture is produced by a society that lives and governs itself by opinion polls?
    Several countries were included in the study:
    • China
    • Denmark
    • Finland
    • France
    • Germany
    • Netherlands
    • Iceland
    • Italy
    • Kenya
    • Portugal
    • Russia
    • Turkey
    • Ukraine
    • United States

    Of all the countries, only the Netherlands expressed a preference for abstract art. Otherwise, the resulting "people's art" tended to have a traditional style.

    USA:



    Netherlands:


  3. #28
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    That representative national art thing is both hilarious and tragic!

    It figures.... the country that brought the world atonal music likes abstract visual art as well
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  4. #29
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    Is public art is art education?

    Do you consider walking by public art ...art education?
    If you do, then it could be one of the most significant factors in predicting participation in creation of any of the arts...

    the NEA survey has some pretty interesting results..

    I dont discount the power of statistics or survey tools to help understand our society.

    Is public art, art education?

  5. #30
    Cyburbian Mark's avatar
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    Blue Light Special

    We got this from KMART Headquarters on a Blue Light special; Michael Aryton's Reflective Head.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails reflective-head-redo-400.jpg  
    Ohhhh Mama, can this really be the end!

  6. #31
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    an art is an art is an art

    The choice of art is an expression of the degree to which we understand things. We might not be able to determine what is understood, but we can determine, very quickly, how many layers of reality have been pealed away to date. Except, if it is privately commissioned and funded, public art tends to reveal only the most superficial layers of reality. Because our collective understanding is very limited, our art can only reveal the simple, the banal and the mundane. I don't think we humans can choose art any other way.

    Simple as it is, public art is not without its revelations. The last part of the 20th century was dominated by public art that celebrated the materials they where made of. The steelness of steel, the stoneness of stone, the redness of red, and we had a few like Oldenburg who celebrated the objectiveness of objects. This was at a time when materialism and consumerism where the most prevailing idioms of our time. As a society we came to understand the value of things for their own sake. Public art, and the more successful artists expressed that understanding directly.

    Now, we are beginning to form a different kind of understanding. Our concern is less for the nature of things, and more for the relation of things, one to another. The relationship between the Oldenburg Binoculars and the Frank Gerry building is far more interesting the either the binoculars or the building. Again, the degree to which this relationship is understood is very superficial; its graphic, stark, two dimensional, however, what is understood is slightly different.

    Of course a lot of public art reveals no understanding of anything what-so-ever and has no value. One can only hope that sooner or later these things can recycled. Then again, I've seen photographs of fields full of old statues of Soviet leaders. They lie random and broken and oxidizing. The images are very intriguing. Perhaps, we could create something similar. Collecting all the meaningless public art we have made to date, dump it all together in a field, and call it art.

  7. #32
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Here are my favorite examples of a particular style of public art by Robert Dafford;

    Portmouth, Ohio flooodwall murals: http://www.portsmouthmuralproducts.com/

    Paducah, Kentucky floodwal murals:
    http://www.paducahwalltowall.com/
    http://www.aboutpaducah.com/photogal...loodwallmurals

    Vicksburg, Miss.: http://www.riverfrontmurals.com/

    They tell local history, on large available canvas, their floodwalls.
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  8. #33

    The Fonz

    Well I guess it could be worse, seeing all these pictures, but Milwaukee is getting a bronze Fonzie. "Public art."

  9. #34
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by MilwaukeeBeer View post
    Well I guess it could be worse, seeing all these pictures, but Milwaukee is getting a bronze Fonzie. "Public art."
    Heeyyyyyy!!!

    But, on a serious note, I think if you compare the public art of the depression period with the current output......
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  10. #35
    Cyburbian
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    Do not underestimate the Amish!

    The community has almost no creative class-types that better appreciates public art. The "arts" to those living in middle-class blue-collar exurbs more often means Thomas Kinkade prints, Amish quilts, and community dinner theater rather than the pretentious dress-in-black gallery openings and avant-garde works that are more favored among those most active in the arts community. Those promoting public art usually are part of what is seen as "that snooty art crowd
    I concur with your disdain for Thomas Kincade. The cottages make me want to puke. On the other hand, the Amish community here recently had a "parade of quilts". Many of them were downright beautiful, and very warm-looking. Even some of the patterns and the color combinations were remniscent fo some "modern" artwork I've seen. Would I hang a quilt on my wall? Probably not. But if i had $1,000, I would proudly display one on my bed. I think Amish quilts fall under the "accessible design"/"design for all" movement. They are functional, but in some cases very finely crafted ornaments that the average person could justify buying because it's "useful".

    I don't think that an appreciation for modern art and an appreciation for traditional art have to be mutually exclusive. And really, if public dollars are being spent, it should be on something that will withstand the test of time and not something that is a fad - this goes for artwork, street design, zoning/development ordinances, and ESPECIALLY public buildings. I wonder what's going to happen to all these Frank Ghery musuems in 20 years....

  11. #36
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    Commoditized

    First off, I would argue that to refer to the so-called blobworks as "formless" is not at all correct. They are indeed forms, though I would certainly concede not recognizable ones. Still, I'm not interested in a semantic debate, but I'll ask these questions: Do the blobs like this arouse your curiosity? The artist wants the viewer to ask questions about the work as they explore something they've never encountered. The obstacle you're suggesting is that you have encountered blobworks before, and now they do not interest you.

    But let's look at it the other way around. What is so compelling about the bear? What is so compelling about the Christ sculpture or the Eiffel Tower? Is it simply that they are recognizable? Is it simply that they speak to prior experiences? Personally, I think they are only popular because of the way they have been marketed. The Rio Jesus is a logo. The Eiffel Tower is a logo. Don't buy that? Then why is the miniature eiffel tower at King's Island in Cincinnati, Ohio not as famous? I'm sure Jesus statues identical to the Rio Jesus sell like hotcakes, but there is only one Rio Jesus. It's not the forms of these artworks at all that draw us, it's the relationship of the works to their location. Without this relationship, the significance of the work is lost.

    So, you say you are bored with someone placing a blob on a pedestal and saying this is new, no one has ever done this: no one has ever put this exact blob on this exact pedestal. True, but you know very well: the concept is worn out, this is really nothing new. And that's exactly the point when it comes to blobworks. Sure, the first one ever created was something new, but then we get to "Amorphous Metallic Blob #917," and its just no longer interesting. This is what the art establishment refers to as the "commoditization" of ideas and art practice. When a new idea goes mainstream and shows up in front of municipal buildings all over the country, then it's no longer so compelling.

    But what if that blob said something about its site. Someone already mentioned this, but that's exactly what the "Jelly Bean" Blob in Millenium Park in Chicago does. Everyone has to see it from all angles - even from the inside - to fully experience it. It literally reflects its environment and you. This is part of the new paradigm of public artwork. The work must comment on its environment, else it is no more than a mere marker, logo, or object. Someone also already mentioned the Vietnam memorial, and that is an excellent, excellent example of compelling art. Its form is not representative: it's purely abstract, but few people will disagree about the depth of its symbolism.

    As a quick rundown:
    The names on the Vietname Memorial are in chronological order. This breaks them up (so you don't have a bunch of Smiths grouped together - this makes the monument more poignant, stressing the sacrifice of every individual). Plus, you can see your own reflection in the polished granite, connecting you with those names.
    This is the only monument I can think of that is cut into the ground. This was a deliberate choice by the artist (Maya Lin), because it directly opposes the verticalilty of most war monuments and national/political monuments. It also makes the monument a little more funerary (you descend into it, until the walls overshadow you, like descending into a grave, then rising out again). One arm of the memorial points at the Washington monument - the largest phallus in DC - and the other arm points stodgy old Lincoln Memorial.
    The monument is a simple V-Shape. V is for Victory (debatable), V is for Vietnam, V is for Vagina (this is one of the only monuments on the Mall designed by a woman)
    The names and the dates signifying the beginning and end of the war are the only enscriptions. There is no reference to duty or honor or the United States of America - this depoliticizes the war and speaks, once again, to the individual sacrifice.

    Work of this calibre, however, is certainly very rare, but I think it sufficiently proves the point that art doesn't have to look like something to have at least a little meaning to everybody - good or bad. But I do agree, many of the blobworks are unreadable. Sometimes, they are even intentionally obscure, and I think this is a huge mistake for a public artists and art commissioners. Yet, I say, don't lose heart. Abstract art isn't all bad. Don't let the mistakes of a few "bad artists" get in the way of your appreciation of truly superior, meaningful work.
    Last edited by whusterj; 31 Mar 2008 at 11:18 PM. Reason: readability

  12. #37
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    City Repair

    Anybody hear about City Repair out of Portland.

    As far as I concerned nothing beats public art that is made by the public.

  13. #38
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by sunnydan View post
    As far as I concerned nothing beats public art that is made by the public.
    I don't know. The first thing I think of when I hear "art that is made by the public" is mural art. Really bad mural art.



    I'm aware of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and others like it throughout the US. Still, based on what I've seen in Buffalo and other Great Lakes cities, most murals tend to be amateurish and poorly designed. Rather than being designed and painted by master muralists, the content and creation is left up to schoolchildren and those in the surrounding community with very limited or no artistic talent. The subject matter seems to be limited to a small number of common themes; unity, social issues, tributes and memorials of various sorts, and so on. Instead of being executed and displayed as artistic expressions, their intent seems to be more of a feelgood public service announcement.

    Also, the vast majority of murals I've encountered are located in rough neighborhoods, where the bare walls exposed by the destruction of neighboring structures make an ideal canvas. Maintenance is also questionable. In my eyes, murals are more often than not indicators of decline rather than works of art. They're just another example of feelgood planning.



















    In my opinion, 90% of all urban murals are crap, and of the few that exhibit even a modicum of artistic talent, 90% are unmaintained and destined to flake and fade away.

  14. #39
    That about sums it up for what I've seen.

  15. #40
    Quote Originally posted by MilwaukeeBeer View post
    Well I guess it could be worse, seeing all these pictures, but Milwaukee is getting a bronze Fonzie. "Public art."
    Those Classic TV status aren't pad for with public money,They're actually a promotion campaign for the TV Land television network. And while the Salen Massachusetts statue of Samantha from Bewitched was in poor taste; I have to admit the Ralph Cramden Statue outside of the NY Port Authority (Bus Terminal) is pretty awesome.

    As was mentioned earlier a lot of the obscurely shaped and unformed "public" art is in actuality paid for by private groups, i.e. corporations looking for a symbol to have in the plaza (or in their mind pre -lobby) space of their building. Thats an important distinction to make from public art which is chiefly moneyed by tax payers. Whether it takes up spaced in the public sidewalk or not.

  16. #41

    The Salem Samantha

    I live in Salem and look at the Samantha statue EVERYDAY. What an uproar it caused!! Sure, TV Land re-did the park (which actually wasn't bad, but the re-do keeps the "troubled kids" away). The problem with the Samantha statue is that it really has nothing to do with the town, besides that she was a witch, but the witch happenings here are on a much higher level than just twitching a nose. I feel like a statue like that should really be connected to the town/city it gets placed in....otherwise, its just becomes this strange place for a photo-op.

  17. #42
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    Just a few words in defense of public art, firstly, public art is not limited to plaza-crown-jewel/plunk/Calder sculptures. It can be in the form of a park like Mierle Ukeles' "Fresh Kills" park or it can be a performance like Patrick Kiloran's "lost and found" work, or it can be numerous other possibilities, so to keep the discussion to massive abstract sculpture limits and confuses what public art is and can be. And secondly, just because an artwork is "public" does not mean that everyone has to agree to it, democracy and general concensus are not the same thing. The Eiffel Tower and Maya Lin's Vietnam memorial were met with great criticism and were almost removed/not built at all because of strong criticism, but today they are treasured landmarks.

    A great resource for the history and evolution of public art is Tom Finkelpearl's book "Dialogues in Public Art"

  18. #43
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    Great discussion everyone! Let me provide you an image of the worst public art in a city I've lived in (Edmonton, Alberta).



    Now one of the better and more controversial ones from my hometown (Winnipeg). Because Louis Riel was represented here as naked, the city was compelled to build those barriers around it so that the average Joe from the street wouldn't be forced to see it.


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