Sunday, July 16, 2006

Saturday was consumed by an anti-social fugue. I saw no one, I left the house only to stock up on some groceries.

Started working--i.e. applying paint--to a drawing that's been on the board for almost two months. Not happy with it but I rarely am. I just need to slough off the post-grad school burnout and ennui and get back to work. Still working the apartment due to the lack of proper working conditions down the studio.

Today: PS1 and maybe painting floor in the studio. Maybe.

I was in Chicago last week for the wedding of an old girlfriend (Julie, plaid dress.) When not consumed with marital obligations, I made a concerted effort to spend some time with Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park." I've seen it in several stages of development in the last three years but this is the first time I saw in unveiled, all seams removed, shiny and tumescent. Kapoor's work is a.) an amazing sculpture and b.) an amazing piece of public art. I can't think of a more beautiful man-made object. It's liquid, fluid, forever in motion, etc. It's a huge object constructed from 100+ tons of stainless steel yet it always seems to be on the edge of disappearing altogether.

And the reactions it gets from the public: joy, wonder, amazement, awe. I've spend an hour or so just watching the public explore their own senses of perception in the mirrored surface. Can you name any piece of art--let alone a piece of "public" art--that invokes such concentration. Again, for a inert lump of steel, Cloud Gate is a remarkably interactive piece of public art. It's accessible without pandering and it shows a endearing sense of humility. It's ultimate purpose it to reflect the city, it's surroundings, it's viewers; a gracious guest at a dinner party who beauty and sophistication does everything it can enhance the charms of the host.

For a stark contrast, wander a few hundred yards south to the Jaume Plensa waterpark/sculpture. Man, this thing irritates me. It's the very opposite of Cloud Gate: it is dark, angular, authoritarian, and it panders. Oh, does it pander. It's got a kind of cynical whimsicality to it as well. Admittedly, kids seem to love it (and, as well, the parents who let their diapered tots play in the water until their Huggies are bloated and heavy, surely befouling their surroundings with kiddie poo.) But I think they're reacting more the fact that it spouts water rather than any kind of inherent aesthetic quality of the two dull towers that sprout from either end or the idealized, self-consciously all-inclusive--black, white, brown, yellow, old, young, and so on--videos that are displayed on their tessellated surfaces.

Here is what Plensa has to say about the work:

"A fountain is the memory of nature, this marvelous sound of a little river in the mountains translated to the city. For me, a fountain doesn't mean a big jet of water. It means humidity, the origin of life."

Snooze. I mean, really. You've made a waterpark. Stop trying to make it something more than that.

Contrast Kapoor:

"What I wanted to do in Millennium Park is make something that would engage the Chicago skyline…so that one will see the clouds kind of floating in, with those very tall buildings reflected in the work. And then, since it is in the form of a gate, the participant, the viewer, will be able to enter into this very deep chamber that does, in a way, the same thing to one's reflection as the exterior of the piece is doing to the reflection of the city around."


(Thanks toMills Lawn Elementary School in Yellow Springs, Ohio for letting me use the photo of Crown Fountain. Hope you don't mind.)

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