23 July 2011

You Can't Blame This on 'Formalism'

"As bad as art can get"? Dunno, I can always think of worse things. At the very least, it's a reminder of some of the reason I was recently ready to bid farewell to Chicago.

"Public art is all about creating a dialogue. When you can get people talking, in particular if they're not saying the same thing to one another and they have differing views, that's an exciting thing. That's something that people who are interested in placing public art are happy to see happen."

But really, the sculpture above isn't that different from a number of works by Jeff Koons, is it? The difference having to do with a post-modern irony and self-awareness in relation to the matter of "kitsch" and its place in the broader culture.

About 15 years ago I had a class under the critic Jerry Saltz. At one point, in a group discussion we briefly kicked around the topic of why does so much public art suck? We couldn't reach any sort of solid consensus on the matter. But by Jerry's estimation, about 90% of public art was guilty of sucking. Personally, I felt that that was too generous a number, and that the ratio falls more in the area of 95 or so. And so long as cities and organizations continue to shell out funds for projects like this, the remaining bracket incrementally shrinks with each passing year.

And it's all a little too common -- bad decisions, errors in judgement, etc. Take, for instance, Chicago's public sculpture commemorating the Haymarket Affair. After decades of protests from the law enforcement community, the city finally commissioned and installed one roughly a decade ago. And this is what they got for their money:

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W. Kasper said...

Despite how they seem to have forgot to include the front of her head, I've seen much worse. It's very 'fairground' isn't it? Like something you'd see at the side of a rollercoaster or something.

Greyhoos said...

"Fairground." I like that.

And it makes me think that "roadside" might apply, as well.

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