Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Downtown Sculptures - Keep it or Lose it, Part One

I haven't taken the time to talk about one of the most conspicuous installations downtown. These are the several dozen sculptures displayed in various places around the area, but concentrated downtown, that were placed as part of the Arts in Public Spaces effort of the Dogwood Arts Festival.  I believe I mentioned them in the blog I wrote about permanent downtown sculptures, but I thought it would be fun to show some of them to everyone and give my opinion. I picked eleven that I happened to run into on this particular outing. This is only a small portion of the sculptures available.

My opinion on this topic is pretty worthless in some respects: I'm not artistically trained or inclined. I have no special gift of discernment on such matters, but I do have the experience of seeing these sculptures everyday for the last few months. I've seen people respond to them in one way or another, and I've responded to them, as well. I have no idea if it is possible for the city to purchase some of these for permanent exhibit, but I hope so, and that is the premise of this piece. Also, these sculptures are for sale, so some of them may already be headed into private hands.

Given all those caveats, here are the photos of four that I hope we lose:

Andrew Brewster - "Snowflake" - Welded Steel - 6x1x4 - $700

This one I'm cheating on. I don't dislike it, actually. Like many of the others, once I read the name given by the artist, I understand it a little better. I kind of get that it represents a deconstructed snow flake. The cheating part is that I know we are losing this one: a friend of mine purchased it to plant on the front lawn of his suburban home. I hope the neighbors don't mind. At a cost of $700, it is the least expensive of all the sculptures placed. The most expensive, which is not located downtown, costs $35,000.

Taylor Wallace - "Morgan County" - Steel - 7x4x10 - $12,500

This needs to be gone, yesterday. I'll acknowledge that it is interesting in the way that antique jail cells can be, but does that make it art? Called, "Morgan County," I presume because that is where it came from or because of the connection between that place and correctional institutions, I suppose the attempt is to make a statement. Does an object qualify as art simply because it is presented that way? I'm probably missing something. I just find it disturbing and not in an artistic sort of way, more of an inhumane correctional sort of way. Even if that was the intent of the artist, I still don't understand how it is art. If I put an electric chair on display it will be disturbing to some and interesting to others, but it doesn't mean that I created an artistic work. Maybe some of you can enlighten me.

Roger Halligan - "O.K. Bouy" - Steel, Concrete, Paint - 116"x25"x20" - $19,000 

Definitely needs to be gone. The word I hear most often around this one is "Doctor," as in Seuss. At first I thought it was stone, which would make it an interesting stone formation, but then I learned it is concrete. I guess it took some skill to shape the concrete in that manner, but to what artistic end? And the black and white stripes? I have no idea. I do suspect that I could have painted them, though perhaps the art is in imagining the black and white stripes on the concrete in the first place. I just don't know. Are there seriously people who will pay $19,000 for this?

Hanna Jubron - "Rising Sun" - Stainless Steel/Bronze - 8'x20"x16" - $13,500

The last piece I'll put in the "please get it out of here" category. It does not evoke a sunrise or any form of sunniness in my soul whatsoever. It is monotoned, jagged and harsh. Maybe it's supposed to be the opposite of a rising sun. I just don't think we'll be needing that one. It looks like a $13,500 torture device (notice the spikes on the top) to me.

If any of the artists or people who bought these sculptures happen to be reading this post, I'm sure you are all very great and talented people. Just consider this my ignorant analysis, or better yet, write a comment and explain my ignorance. I'd love to hear from you. For the rest of you, what do you think? Am I all wrong, or do you agree?

I'll follow up, soon, with a blog about some I really like and hope we keep.

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At August 25, 2010 at 12:24 PM , Anonymous Art Wagner said...

First, let me say I enjoy your blog quite a bit. Your observations and opinions make for interesting reading and I admire you perseverance in posting so regularly. Your blog is an asset to Downtown Knoxville.

However, I have to say that my view of you as an openminded person has become a bit tarnished with this post. Of course, commenting on art is right up there with the danger of discussing religion or politics, but I admit I was disappointed. But, let me be clear--I am not defending in any way those works that you included. Frankly, I have yet to see any work from that series that seriously moved me or that I would want to own, but all of them gave hints to what concept, image, or idea the artist was trying to convey. Therefore, it becomes risky and egocentric to look at a work and say "I don't like it, it has to go."

I lived in Manhattan for a number of years. Every day I passed public art of varying types. Some I liked; some I didn't. But even the ones I didn't like personally, created some kind of emotion inside, even if it was mild loathing.

I will state without hesitation that Knoxville needs more art and more inspired public art in general--but I won't advocate removal of those that I don't like.

At August 25, 2010 at 12:51 PM , Anonymous KnoxvilleUrbanGuy said...

Hello Art,

Thanks for thoughtfully commenting. I tried to make it clear in my intro that I don't have any special discernment in the area of art, but I do have preferences. I don't disagree with anything you said. I wish we had more art downtown - and I'm prepared for someone to explain how I missed the boat on these particular works.

Since the installation is so prominent downtown it seemed odd not to mention it and I wanted to do more than just say, "Here are the pictures."

I'm glad you like the blog and I hope I'm only temporarily tarnished. My intention here was simply to have a little fun. Maybe I missed the mark a bit. Best wishes and thanks for being a reader.

At August 26, 2010 at 11:50 AM , Anonymous Cathy Tyner said...

We don't all agree on things, but I will agree with you on the art in these pictures. Thanks for the post, keep 'em coming!


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