See this review published on Metro New York June 18, 2014
A lunchtime stroll this week through either City Hall or Brooklyn Bridge Park will be less about smelling the roses and more about viewing the first large-scale public exhibition in NYC by Vietnamese artist Danh Vo. Sponsored by Public Art Fund, “We The People” is an interactive installation of oversized copper sculptures sharing the quiet terrain of a downtown Manhattan park.
In varying sizes and shapes, spanning the length of the two parks, the pieces slowly emerge from disparate abstractions into a conceptual puzzle. As viewers playfully put the pieces together, “We The People” becomes more than an “Alice in Wonderland” world of gargantuan lawn ornaments. It’s a 1:1 replica of Frederic Auguste Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty.
Insta-Art: The Symbiotic Relationship between Art and Instagram
Instagram and Art is a public relations niche; it is mutually beneficial to both art institutions and visitors.
Instagram is craze that continues to grow. This photography app is why #selfies and #saturdaybrunch posts are now overflowing your Facebook Newsfeed. Instagram is more than just cute pictures of your #cats or #cookies however. Its accessibility is a beneficial promotion of Public Art in New York City. I look to the Public Art Fund and their recent exhibition “Lightness of Being” as a model example for utilizing the social media venue Instagram as a way to spread awareness about current public art projects. In turn, this social sharing project creates a participatory environment for viewers to experience exhibitions on a grander scale by allowing them to tag and share their Instagram photos to the Public Art Fund’s social media websites.
For most millennials, taking photos of activities and posting them to Instagram or other social media outlets like Facebook is a quick venue for instant gratification, where your cyber social circle can “like” your exciting, intellectual and always fun whereabouts. Plus, Instagram makes it near impossible to take an unlikable photo; with the quick touch of a finger, my “Lightness of Being” (#paflob) photos became dramatic, film noir-esque stills by using photo filters. I tagged the photo @publicartfund, and upon perusing my Facebook Newsfeed a few days later, to my utter excitement I saw my photo was shared by the Public Art Fund. I became Insta-Famous, just like that.
This is a symbiotic quid pro quo relationship and is mutually beneficial for the Public Art Fund as well as viewers. For the Public Art Fund, by promoting tagging and sharing of Instagram photos, the exhibition receives free publicity and expands their target audience to not only people that follow or appreciate Public Art, but to those who are cyper friends of art enthusiasts. For those art lovers out there, not only are they experiencing the exhibition in the flesh, but they are becoming part of the experience through direct participation by taking Instagram photos and tagging them accordingly. The end result is a swirling niche and an engaging intersection between art and technology.
“Lightness of Being” is at City Hall Park, 250 Broadway, NYC, and is on view through December 13, 2013. I highly recommend seeing this show, and if you’re down there already, you might as well take some photos. Make sure to tag them #PAFlob so Public Art Fund can share them. You’ll be social media famous in no time.
- Check Out “Playground,” the Dope New Public Art Installation Near Central Park (complex.com)
- public art debate (publicartprivateviews.com)
- Curbed Maps: Mapping Twelve Stellar Examples of D.C.’s Public Art (dc.curbed.com)
I am happy to say that I was not completely wrong in my hypothesis that the transformed Getty Station was an art platform. It is, in fact, a temporary exhibition space until Michael Shvo develops this plot into high rise luxury condos. Until construction begins and produces enough debris and noise raucous to overwhelmingly stir the tranquil atmosphere of the High Line and Chelsea (excluding Thursday Night Openings, those are potentially rambunctious), the plot will wonderfully be an open forum for public art.
Sheep Station showcases 25 of François-Xavier Lalanne’s iconic epoxy stone and bronze “Moutons.” If familiar with his work, Lalanne transformed everyday objects and animals into sculptures: he did not seek to manipulate their original perception in reality, as did artists like Claes Oldenburg who transformed objects of the everyday into dilapidated, plushy sculptures only reminiscent of original forms. Instead, Lalanne sought to demystify art by transforming animals and objects of nature into timeless sculptures that encapsulate the objects physical being. We can think of Lalanne’s Mouton Sheep as signifiers to the (signified) sheep that graze the meadows and fields on farmlands around the world.
The fantasy of this exhibition is the backdrop. What fun to transform a once busy, polluted, and loud corner of Chelsea into a beautiful, surreal landscape filled with undulating hills, populated with grazing Simulacra Sheep stoically standing about the grassy planes. I am excited to see this space utilized for art purposes until construction begins for this luxury high rise. We all know that once construction begins, the plot will be back to its raucous origins.
For more information on Marcel Duchamp, visit Artsy’s Marcel Duchamp page
- Chelsea Gas Station Becomes a Sheep Pasture (animalnewyork.com)
- #GettyStation: Chelsea Art Installation (collabcubed.com)
- Sheep Station, Francois Xavier Lalanne/Michael Shvo, Shireen 9/15 (justineelkhazen.wordpress.com)
- Do Art Collectors Dream of Concrete Sheep? Gas Station Gives Way to Les Lalannes Meadow (galleristny.com)
- Chelsea’s Blingy Tree Ring (becomingmiddlebrow.wordpress.com)
The Michael Shvo Show; Or, When the Art / Not-Art Distinction Becomes Too Tricky to Tell
I work in Chelsea, a large gallery district in NYC. Art is everywhere in this neighborhood: gallerys line the streets, graffiti takes over building facades, public art fills the High Line, and at times artistic performances, interventions and temporary site-specific installations populate the urban Chelsea landscape. In this “art-is-everywhere” neighborhood, one will stumble upon a desolate gas station circumnavigated by 50, 7 Foot tall Arborvitae trees on 10th Ave at 24th Street.
Questions ensue: Is this an artist’s interpretation of the “Green” movement? Is this a comment on how capitalism affects our environment ala MoMA PS1’s recent “Expo X” Exhibition? Is this the face of a new installation pursuing contemporary ecological concerns?
The short answer is no, and is quite the contrary in fact. This is not art, but is instead an artistic statement by Michael Shvo, a real estate mogul who recently bought the gas station in order to develop the land into luxury high rise condos. The trees stand as a hedge-fence around the future construction site. So really, the trees are just decorations until construction begins.
I was duped in thinking this tree wrapped gas station was an art installation because it is in the artsy Chelsea neighborhood. I am not saying anyone proclaimed this plot of land as art, I am only considering the complications in differentiating between works of art and artistic expressions because this tree grove could in fact have been a work of art if it was not tied to a decorative real estate venture. In contemporary art, it is hard at times to differentiate between “art” and “not-art”. The visual distinctions between these broad categories began slowly fading away when Marcel Duchamp turned a urinal upside down, signed it R. Mutt, and declared it an original piece of art in 1917, or later when Andy Warhol proclaimed his “Brillo Boxes” in 1964 as works of art. The slowly evaporating art/not-art divide has potential negative effects for viewers. I’m sure everyone has walked into an art museum and heard someone proclaim in front of a Jackson Pollock or a Paul Klee, “That’s not art. My child could paint that!” Literally, maybe. But, any person should realize art is historically embedded into the time period when it was produced and art is connected to the socio-politico-economic factors during that specific epoch. With that being said, maybe your child can paint like Pollock, but mimicry is not art.
Art is a means to an end in itself. Of course art is a part of our world network; it is meant to prompt ulterior interests, questions and concerns’ correlating to contemporary political, economic and social issues, but, art is in itself an autonomous entity. On the contrary, artistic statements serve a purpose and are rather a throughway towards a larger concept rather than an entity in itself. Because art is so vast today, it is important to distinguish even broad categories between art and artistic expressions. Not everything can be art; we must learn from early 20th century Avant-Garde masters like the Russian Constructivists or Bauhaus intellectuals who sought to integrate “art into life”. What ends up happening is, art as a factor drops out of the scenario and all we are left with is life.
This Tree Grove for me stemmed an age-old debate between art and not-art. Who is the final arbiter to judge its artistic status? Can art be an individual biased conclusion from person to person? Are we subjectively able to conclude arts existence, or is it the job of the art historian, curator, or critic to tell us what is and is not art? Answering these questions would be the topic of another essay. I do, however, see a difference between the public art on the High Line and Pine Trees on 10th Ave. Let’s just think of art as a completed novel, a constellation of words and sentences that exist in their own narrative right but can also inspire external quesionts and ideas about our situations as readers; artistic expressions on the other hand would be those words or sentences, existing as points along a pathway leading towards the larger story or the big picture. Art and not-art are potentially not that different, but they aren’t quite the same either.
Tatzu Nishi’s “Rediscovering Columbus”
Enclosed inside a 6th floor walk-up designed in Art Deco decor, Christopher Columbus sure got himself a swanky studio apartment in Midtown Manhattan’s Columbus Circle neighborhood. Designed by Gaetano Russo, the statue was erected as part of New York’s 1892 commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ landing in the Americas. The monument itself consists of a marble statue of Columbus atop a 70-foot granite rostral column, with Russo’s intent being to depict Columbus situated on his monumental ships’ Masthead singlehandedly discovering America.
The apartment itself is Art Deco 1950’s Chic. Able to lounge on suede couches, or sit idle in low-riding leather chairs, enveloped within low-lit lamps surrounded by child-like wallpaper adorned with iconic characters idolizing America’s recent pastime, one is anachronistically invited to sit amongst Americana splendor. Upholding this solid American foundation to the 1950s are the many books that align the small bookcase in the corner of the room, including Modern Masters like Hemingway and Fitzgerald, along with pop-histories on the Civil War and Baseball. Nishi re-presents Americana to the people, a time of post-war suburban flight, doo-wop tunes and poodle skirts, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and steadfast American individualism. However lovely it is to imagine a simpler time cruising your Chrysler around town as if living a scene strait from George Lucas’ “American Grafitti,” these pastime memories fall flat from nostalgia to pastiche when viewers are too young (or too technologically narcissistic) to remember such times. With lives so far removed from concrete Post-WWII “Baby-Boomer” pastime circumstances, present memories of the hyper Tech-Savvy Internet generation fall short of any real-world connotations, resulting in a nostalgia that becomes nothing more than false consciousness imbued with fictional symbolism.
Incongruous with the profound alliance to a 1950’s America, Nishi scatters current news periodicals throughout the apartment, including a television streaming live feed from CNN. The inclusion of high-profile periodicals is an interesting commentary on the meta-history Nishi creates in Columbus’ apartment; within the apartment, black and white birds-eye view period photographs of Columbus Circle adorn the walls and satirically, as one exits the apartment, two photographs, one of the Statue of Liberty and the other of Lower Manhattan both taken from the perspective of a passenger on a ship, hang on the wall—all mimicking Columbus’ many perspectives of New York City. With news, documentation photography and mass media broadcasting to name a few of the many contemporary outlets of informative communication that shapes societal consciousness, Nishi eloquently comments on how one view is never enough and bias is just as much a part of objective news as truth.
We are offered a never before seen glimpse of the Authoritative Explorer Columbus brazen against his masthead, taking his first glimpse of the newfound discovered continent. As adults, we all understand the story of Columbus, with his discoveries leading to Spanish colonization of the Americas. Taken from his Ivory Tower, one is able to put into question the foundational motives of the United States: at once under siege to outside foreign domination (first Spain, then Britain), our coming-of-age into the United States we know today only appropriated the same tactics of Renaissance authoritarianism. Perpetuation of individual gratification grounded in Post-War isolationism and moralizing McCarthyism foundational to American identity was never shaken from contemporary United States society, and Americana itself, however flat of a tangible connection to history (and rightfully so in the age of technological simulacra), is just as much apart of lives today as it ever was during its reign in the 1950s.