Public Art

How It Brings Communities Together

 

As If It Were Already Here, Janet Echelman

BY ITS NATURE, ALL ART AT ANY GIVEN TIME HAS BEEN PROVOCATIVE; IT IS MEANT TO STIMULATE THE SENSES AND ENGAGE THE VIEWER. 

 

                    The Gates by Christo, Central Park, NYC, September 2005 Photo: Johnson Flickr

                    The Gates by Christo, Central Park, NYC, September 2005 Photo: Johnson Flickr


Barnett Newman Broken Obelisk installed in the reflecting pool designed by Philip Johnson outside of the Rothko Chapel in Houston TX

Barnett Newman Broken Obelisk installed in the reflecting pool designed by Philip Johnson outside of the Rothko Chapel in Houston TX

The words “public art” seem to ignite more controversy and confrontation than many works of art presented in today's contemporary museums. After all, by placing art in our community we are making a somewhat universal statement about our taste.  We are curating the aesthetics of a piece of art for our neighbors and visitors.

Richard Sierra, Wake, Seattle WA

Richard Sierra, Wake, Seattle WA

Has public art become a cultural intervention on the part of certain arbiters of sophistication, or is art in the public realm a way of engaging the society?  Does it give our community a sense of place or well-being in society or is that too much to ask of art?  “At its most public, art extends opportunities for community engagement but cannot demand a particular conclusion.”Knight, Cher Krause (2008). Public Art: theory, practice and populism

Once public art referred only to monuments and memorials. These are perhaps the oldest and most obvious form of officially sanctioned public art.

 

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Architectural sculpture and even architecture itself is more widespread and fulfills the definition of public art. 

Frank Gehry, EMP Museum, Seattle, WA

Frank Gehry, EMP Museum, Seattle, WA

Others through pointing at the incongruities of existing public sculptures and memorials, such as in Krzysztof Wodiczko’s video projections onto urban monuments, or in the building of counter-monuments (1980s) and Claes Oldenburg’s Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks (1969-1974), a giant hybrid pop object – a lipstick. Most aspects of the built environment are seen as legitimate candidates for consideration as, or location for, public art, including street furniture, street lighting, Lock On sculptures and graffiti. Banksy is one exampl

Public art in recent years has introduced social ideas, and by doing so, has increased the controversy surrounding a particular artist’s intent.  Making visible issues of public concern in the public sphere is also at the basis of the anti-monument philosophy, whose target is mining the ideology of official history.

Introducing intimate elements in public spaces normally devoted to institutional narratives, such as in the work of Jenny Holzer, Alfredo Jaar’s projects and Felix Gonzales-Torres’ billboard images (see above).

Sculpture intended as public art is often constructed of durable, easily cared-for material, to avoid the worst effects of the elements and vandalism; however, many works are intended to have only a brief existence and are made of more temporary materials.

Some artists working in this discipline use the freedom afforded by an outdoor site to create very large works that would be unfeasible in a gallery. The Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy has brought to Boston a monumental sculpture, As If It Were Already Here, from internationally renowned local artist, Janet Echelman (statement)  Here the artist uses over 100 miles of rope weighing one ton to cover half an acre. See our opening image.

Amongst the works of the last thirty years that have met greatest critical and popular acclaim are pieces by Christo, Robert Smithson, Andy Goldsworthy, James Turrell and Antony Gormley, whose artwork reacts to or incorporates its environment.

Artists making public art range from the greatest masters such as Michelangelo, Pablo Picasso, and Joan Miró, to those who specialize in public art such as Claes Oldenburg and Pierre Granche, to anonymous artists who make surreptitious interventions.  

Boston's most beloved work of public art remains the Ducklings. 

 

 

Newburyport has public art in the Somerby's Landing Sculpture Park:

 

                               Robert Motes - An Imagined Place

                               Robert Motes - An Imagined Place

The NAA is currently engaged in seeking proposals for a sculptural installation to be attached to the façade of our building at 45 Water Street.  We believe, as our mission states, “Art is For Everyone”.  We hope by creating this opportunity for artists, we will not only engage people from our surrounding cities and towns, but we will connect with communities to discuss art and what it means to each of us.