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Thursday, July 8, 2010

For Shame! (Sculpture in the Streets)

An example of Seward Johnson's work (not part of current Albany show) titled First Ride

When the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District mounted their annual Sculpture in the Streets exhibition last summer using challenging contemporary art culled by some of the region's best curators, I was thrilled and heartened (see review). "YES!" I thought at the time, "It IS possible to put something better than that dreck by Seward Johnson in Albany's downtown for all the world to see and either like or not."

Well, I am now equally disheartened: Seward Johnson is back, in all his cloyingly clich├Ęd glory, and I don't think you have to be a serious art lover to notice the painful difference between whatever he produces and anything resembling original, creative expression.

It is flat-footed, unfunny, charmless, badly executed kitsch on a creepily expensive scale. It makes me feel embarrassed as an Albanian and as an artist. The public deserves better.

I honestly believe the good folks at the Downtown BID - along with the show's well-meaning and generous sponsors - should be ashamed to have taken this huge step backward in public art. And I beg them to consider going back to the best local sources for next year's installation. Pleeeaaaase!

9 comments:

Sebastien said...

I took some photos of this new installation.
http://barre.me/2010/06/23/seward-johnson-sculpture-walking-tour/

You don't think it's creepy on purpose? Probably not actually. This is not my cup of tea, but since last year was conceptual and more contemporary I'm definitely willing to give the BID a break until I see what's coming up next year...

forgingahead said...

I totally agree with you about these "sculptures." In a community like the Capital District, with so many outstanding local artists it is beyond comprehension that BID has squandered its resources on this commercial crap.

B said...

Albany Wind Orchid is still around. Maybe that juxtaposition is enough to show the difference between the last round and this one?

I think there's a great opportunity for surreality in lifesize, lifelike statues all over the sidewalks, but the execution fell way short of that.

-S said...

And why would you necessary go for surreality as opposed to hyper-reality, for example?

Me said...

It is flat-footed, unfunny, charmless, badly executed kitsch on a creepily expensive scale.

Yes! Thank you. You took the words right out of my mouth.

eeekievonkane said...

Uggg . . . creepy is right! How sophomoric and limiting - I'm afraid to learn who's making decisions about public art in downtown. With such a nationally recognized expert in public art right here at the Albany Airport Gallery - it's sinful that we don't just rebel - stage protests. All I can say is Uggg - just another reason this Albany neighbor does not frequent downtown! Bad art, overpriced, pretentious dining!

Roger Owen Green said...

About 10 or 11 years ago, my 8 or 9 year old niece loved it. It was actually the highlight of her trip, since I took pictures her at every sculpture. It was a hoot!

BC said...

Thank you Mr. Brickman for voicing criticism for this distasteful, empty, and ignorant presentation of art in our region; I nearly smashed my car into the back of a delivery truck when I spotted one from the corner of my eye (which wasn’t hard, because the sculptures scream at you with a horror that my artist’s eyes rarely see from a large scale art project such as this). I then proceeded to rant and rave to my girlfriend for the remainder of the car ride about this year’s Sculpture in the street…which I had a much better title for but I’m going try and be a little tactful here.
Mr. Brickman you are so very right when you state that this region is rich with talented and amazing artists, and there is simply no excuse for this catastrophe!!!

david brickman said...

Roger - I wonder what your now 18- or 20-year-old niece would say about the Johnson sculptures.

It's not uncommon these days for members of our generation to judge works of art (positively or negatively) based on the point of view of their kids ... but that's hardly valid if the art is intended for a primarily adult audience (in this case, downtown workers and shoppers).

A dean at my college once decided to expensively erase embellishments some friends and I had added to a concrete sculpture on the campus, despite the endorsement of the sculptor himself, after consulting his pre-teen kids on it. A kind of kangaroo court. Sometimes, we need to guide the kids, no?

BTW, this is the most comments posted to a Get Visual review since I trashed "Slumdog Millionaire" back in Jan 2009. Thanks, everybody, for weighing in.