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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Art, For Public's Sake

Patriotic Cow
Photo by myself in Park Slope, Brooklyn, at 7th Avenue and 9th Street.

I am digging into my photo stash today - the skies have been gray, drab and rainy.

This photo was taken around July 4th. A patriotic cow was seen in cahoots with the younger crowd.

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The above photo reminds me of a public art installation, called the Cow Parade, which took place in New York (and, I'm told, everywhere else) in 2000. Bajillions of full sized cows were decorated by artists and littered around the city. The sculptures were then auctioned off to provide money for various charities focused on education, children and those in need.

What is public art these days?

One obvious answer would be 'graffiti'. Some people would disagree, declaring that public art should beautify and lift our minds toward an ideal higher than someone's initials.

Recent attempts at public art on a larger scale in New York has received mixed reviews. Many people were not impressed by Christo's 2005 installation of orange flags in Central Park. I personally found them okay. I was inspired by the sheer turnout to enjoy The Gates, rather than the gates themselves.

The current installation of the waterfalls by Olafur Eliasson is not so impressive. This is the sense I get from the people I have spoken to. If you have an alternate opinion about them, I'd love to know about it.

To me, the most successful public art in recent times has to be the Tribute in Light, which commemorated the victims of September 11th. The World Trade Towers were re-created as beacons of light, that could be seen along the length of Manhattan.

The Tribute was a spatial, ethereal and simple gesture. From my experience, the simplest gestures are the most effective.

Related posts: At The Brooklyn Museum - The Dizzying World of Murakami and Art For the Masses.

16 comments:

Reluctant Blogger said...

Oh how funny - we are heading down to the city today to hunt for elephants

They had the cows in Edinburgh a few years back I think.

Anyway we must be off on our elephant safari - we have 53 to find.

Have a lovely day (although I guess it is night with you now!)

Carolyn said...

Cows in NYC?!?!?!

The Tribute in Lights was awesome. I didn't see it in person. I am sure it was even more impressive to see it in person.

Abraham Lincoln said...

I think the cow thing make headlines all over. I know they were in Dayton, Ohio.

Abraham Lincoln
—Brookville Daily Photo

Kitty said...

Hi RB
I love the elephants! They look divine. Welcome back!

Hi Carolyn
Yes, Madison Sq Park especially, was crammed with cows. I wish I'd been into taking photos back then.

The light tribute was especially wonderful because you could see it from just about anywhere.

Hi Mr Lincoln
I love the cow concept. They are so basic and earthy. There is something about them that works. A horse or sheep would not be the same.

Olivier said...

on a eut sur Paris (l'année dernière) une exposition dans la ville de Vaches toute totalement délirante. j'aime NYC pour toutes ces expositions dans les rues (j'avais adorés les pommes).

we took in Paris (last year) an exhibition in the city of cows all totally delirious. I love NYC for all these exhibitions in the streets (I loved apples)..

Kirsten said...

The cows were pretty cool. Toronto had something similar with moose - though maybe it was just one. I have a picture somewhere of a moose painted to look like a mountie in front of the CN Tower.

The waterfalls look like a construction project gone wrong.

BrianC said...

I actually enjoyed the orange flags, especially when it snowed. The contrast between orange and white was striking. The waterfalls, however, are less inspiring. In the conceptual drawings that advertised the installation, it looked promising. But the reality looks more like a water treatment facility.

fishwithoutbicycle said...

The Gates looked too much like laundry to me. I even went to the roof garden at the top of the Met to see if it was anymore impressive, but no, it still looked like laundry.

I quite like the waterfalls, especially the one under the Brooklyn Bridge, but their placement makes them easy to ignore unless you happen to hang out on Pier 17 where you can see 3 or 4 of them.

The cow thing was great. Didn't they try and follow it up with Apples a few years later?

Kizz said...

I liked the Gates a lot, actually. I worked close to that part of the park and went a couple of times on my lunch break to look around. I hated that job and enjoying the Gates were one of the good things that came of it.

I really wanted to like the waterfalls and I tried. I did get a couple of OK pics but it wasn't as moving as I wanted it to be.

I love the tribute in light. I said that in mixed company once and thought I'd covered my bases by saying that I knew it sucked energy but for a few nights a year it made me feel better. The person I thought would object to the energy suck couldn't wait to tell me that not only was the energy wasteful but that birds were flying through the beams and, I don't know, being blinded and falling to their deaths or something. She just made me feel really guilty for liking the art and I hated that.

Do you know of any other public art we might be getting soon?

alison@idealist.org said...

I love it. And, wondered the same types of things at this: http://idealistnyc.wordpress.com/2008/07/22/sticky-situation-gum-art/#comments

Spandrel Studios said...

It's such a cliche, but all of New York City seems to me to be a living-breathing form of public art... I'm always amazed at the sights when I pop into the city.

Mo said...

Cool pic, I think I saw these on a Texas blog awhile back. They must travel the country.

Paz said...

A very patriotic cow. ;-)

Paz

ken mac said...

Nice shot. I never feel comfortable photographing people's kids in the City. But then, you look much nice than me!

Kitty said...

Thanks for the comments, folks, especially from the NYers out there. I love hearing the different viewpoints.

I wish the waterfalls project had turned out differently. It seems to me more technological than visual. When I first saw one of the towers from the subway along the East River, I thought it was part of an electrical plant. So naive am I.

Kizz, I dunno what's on the boards for more public art. The electrical bill wasn't even on my mind, but it was when I saw the waterfalls.

Ken Mac, photographing kids can be tricky. I can understand that a guy doing it is way different than a woman. It's a sad world in which we live.

Disco Damon said...

According to the Cow Parade Web Site (http://newyork.cowparade.com/cow/detail/452/) it's painted by Pauli Suominen.