Tuesday, March 7, 2017

One Photo Says it all About the Current State of Public Art and Architecture

Contributed by Michael Rouchell

In the background, barely visible among the urban clutter, is a bronze statue of a soldier on a granite pedestal. It commemorates the American soldiers that fought in the Spanish American  War. It represents what once was considered "public art".

Right next to it is a street car stop shelter that is too close to the statue, and obscures it  completely if you are approaching from the other direction. The shelter is completely over  designed; it appears to be a simple structure trying to be more complicated than it has to be. As  if it couldn't be any more complicated, there are solar panels added to the roof, perhaps to  please the green energy promoters.

In the foreground is a recently installed "piece" called "Endless Picnic" by Bob Tannen. It  consists of wooden picnic tables stacked on top of each other and is supposed to represent our  culture of festivals and cuisine, while giving nod to Constantin Brancusi's "Endless Column" part of an abstract Romanian World War I Memorial in Romania that no one around here would  be familiar with. There's a sign that explains the "art" for those that aren't part of the art  cognoscenti.

It saddens me that our public officials were duped into thinking that this is a work of "art". What  talent it takes to neatly stack wooden picnic tables! Perhaps an out-of- control SUV will one day take out the "Endless Picnic" but in the mean time we will have to wait for it to slowly  deteriorate. What's even sadder is that several genuine works of public art -- the kind that  requires the talent of a sculptor to make -- are threatened with permanent removal because of  political correctness, while more of these kitsch pieces are added to our public spaces.

Contributed by Michael Rouchell

1 comment:

  1. Cities grow through incremental design as one thing is added to another. Over time you can get Rome, or you can get this mess. The remedy is not in architecture or urbanism but in the shared civic culture of a place that takes place seriously. Here we see the work that needs to be done to restore architecture and urbanism as civic arts and leave the arts of self-expression secluded from public view but accessible for those who want to visit them.