Friday, July 24, 2009

Public Sculpture in the Post-Postmodern Era

As the article in the NY Times today starts out, "Outdoor art isn't what it used to be." With the introduction of installation art in the 70s,  traditional monuments have nearly gone extinct and have been replaced by the more broad term "public art sculpture". The purpose has changed and most commissions are no longer created to memorialize or celebrate a person or event. How many times have you walked around (especially in large metropolitan areas) and run smack into a seemingly random object (usually oversized about 10x larger than life – at the very least), like an oversized spider, a huge car, a gigantic picnic table or Hello Kitty?

Sometimes they're amusing, other times they act as great backgrounds in tourists' photos. The more permanent "monument installations" such as Claes Oldengurg's oversized replicas of simple, everyday objects (clothespin, typewriter eraser, etc) are shocking at first and with repetitive exposure become just as familiar and unnoticed as the skyscrapers they attempt to enliven. I think more people took pictures next to Takashi Murakami's installation piece of three massive bronze spiders than they did with the classical popular Prometheus at the Rockefeller Center Plaza.

So what does it all mean?

Will there ever be a return to the "good ole' traditional monuments" of highly ranked and good-postured men on horses looking off into the distance? Will our children know about Prometheus and general William Tecumseh Sherman? (say who?!??)

I'll say one much as one can say that I'm desensitized to the temporary, site-specific oddities (in the good sense of the word) springing up around the city here and there, they're still great eye candy that turns my head and makes me, well, smile and feel a little warm all over. I don't know what it all means. We'll just have to wait for post-post-postmodernism to find our answer.