Damn you, University! (sculpture rant)

My university recently added a new piece of “art”.

Now, despite the fact that my tastes run to classical and early modernism, and I almost entirely despise what is now called post-modernism or deconstrucionism, I try to be reasonably accepting of artwork.

This does not change the fact that whomever is deciding what should be posted publicly and permanently at UT has his or her head (or heads) stuck so far up the anus they probably have to swallow their cellphones three days before they want to make a call.

Ladies and gentlemen, UT’s public scultpure was never what you could call good. Previous works include a vague pllar of metal which nobody understands. I even checked with the art department, and they had no knowledge of what it’s about. In fact, I checked with them because I wasn’t even sure it was supposed to be an art piece. It’s sort of like somebody took a metal I-beam and stuck in the ground. Only not as meaningful.

Another… uh… “inspiring” piece was where the artist clearly went the other way. It’s an arcane profusion of symbols welded together in the most flagrantly incoherent manner. I mean, we’re tlaking things like a semi-viking style longship, a moon, and a pair of legs sort of jumbled together. This is another piece that nobody understands. The art department didn’t even know it existed.

Now, before we proceeed to the piece’ de resistance, I want to menion that our gallery of paintings and photots and such media is really fantastic. Sure, not everything is a winner, but the compositions are clearly chosen with an eye to skill and character. Not all of them communicate something deep, mind you, but they’re not just random trash.

Enter our latest piece of “art”. In the middle of campus, right between the humanities, the library, and the theater, on the huge pedestrian mall, we get the whirlwind. Apparently the piece is supposed to represent the idea of, uh… motion or ebergy of the storm or something. What it actually is a collection of gutters bolted togther in an erratic circular shape. It’s ugly, and its ugliness is only enhanced by the coimplete lack of talent or skill in creating it. It’s awful, and the awfulness is only encouraged by the complete lack of symmetry or proportion.

It looks something like a mad mini-gold couse designer tried to create an experimental nightmare-creation engine in his laborotory and shot himself after succeeding. It’s so ugly I’ve known people to deliberately avert their gaze just to keep it out of view. Worse, the damn thing is actually located dead smack in the middle of the mall so you have to walk around, and is proudly displayed with lights focused on it to attract attention even at night. The artist stuck a daisy-like sun on top, which vaguely looks like a cheap roadside motel sign. it does not help.

The effect is probably not helped by the absolute dick of an “artist” who, after receiving heavily justified and frankly far-too-kind criticism for his unmitigated pile of crap, gave an interview sugggesting that since we didn’t “get” her piece, we were all simply too ignorant to judge art, and should therefore sit down and shut up. After all, we didn’t go to art school, so we’re not allowed to tell her talentless ass she’s a talentless hack.

The piece is entitled “A Startling Whirlwind of Opportunity,” by Alice Aycock. I think her name is quite accurate. Only A Cock would make a “sculpture” they need security camers to keep people fom vandalizing it. They should just let people do it, as it could only improve the thing.

Here is a picture of it: http://www.waymarking.com/gallery/image.aspx?f=1&guid=365dedff-fc97-4209-80bb-6c15b6808654

Do not be fooled. The actual sculpure isn’t anything like as pretty as this picture makes it look. The effect is not helped b the fact that we have early-modern but more-or-less traditional buildings on either side, including the awkward but likable library (It looks like a Q-bert stage. Really). The mall itself in a lovely greenspace with some really nice touches. It also clashes horribly with the damn pile of trash.

:dubious: I was going to say, the photo makes it look cute. Though I’d rephrase it from “cute” to “neat” if the whole flower/pinwheel apparatus was gone and it was just the whirlwind bit. I’ll have to take your word for it that it looks like a POS without the benefit of apparent Photoshop work.

It looks fine to me, but the title is criminal.

It really is bad. Trust me, the photo was shot on its very absolutely best-possible shot. It is far worse in person.

I should have explained this.

Look at the scultpure closely: note how huge it is compared to the people around it. That thing is a 15-foot pile of crap. If it were tiny like it comes across in computer-screen picture, that would at least be tolerable. But the thing is gigantic, in-your-face, and in your way. And at night they make the damn sunflowery-thing glow. It’s as tacky as it sounds.

I usually find myself in the position of defending contemporary art from its critics. In particular, I disagree with the idea that if you can’t boil a work down to some specific “meaning” then it’s stupid and worthless.

That said, I think the linked-to artwork is pretty damn ugly. It’s clear the artist is trying to achieve a sense of fluidity and motion, but the prominent vertical supports holding up the silver swirl and the awkward swoops in the bulgy pipe undermine the effect. Maybe it would work better if I was there and I could walk around it, but I doubt it. My guess is that it looked much cooler in the conceptual stage but the limitations imposed by both the fabrication process and the need to support its own weight spoiled whatever was charming about the original design.

So where is the Cat In The Hat?

Over by the physics building, they bolted together a bunch of old refrigerators and air conditioners in the form of a squarish arch, and painted it yellow.
I like it better than your helical flowerpot feeding neuronal impulses to an exploding/dying star system/flower thingy.
Does it at least have a track you can race marbles down?
It looks like it could. That’d be fun.

Well, it’s, um, …different.

I agree with Ferret Herder. Without the yellow junk it might qualify as [del]not entirely horrible[/del] kind of neat.

I think it’s okay. I like the yellow stuff.

At least it’s not rusted.


You get all worked up when you see a slightly insipid piece of public art? Man, you must have a difficult time going to malls! Putting up boring art is what public spaces do.

I’d agree that it’s not a particularly interesting statue. But it’s not offensively ugly. It just has a kind of a prefabricated cheer Ikea-ness to it. Give it some time, and people will no longer even notice it. I understand you are upset that the classical harmony you prefer isn’t popular anymore, but that battle was lost long ago and this statue is in no way an attack on that. It’s just standard-issue public art.

People in Chicago really loathed the Cloud Gate in its planning and construction stages. Once it was all polished up and everything, the sentiment really started to shift. It’s neat seeing the crowds drawn to it now. It’s hard to tell what a sculpture will look like, and what it becomes, until it’s actually in place - and sometimes it takes the passage of time for opinion to change.

And you never know exactly what you’ll get for your money. Chicago got a Picasso for free, as the artist refused payment, wanting to give it as a gift to the city.

It says to me, in a whiny, petulant voice, “but, but, why aren’t we using SOLAR power yet?”

And I say this as a supporter of alternative energy. If that really is the artist’s message, then, with friends like these, etc. etc.

At least it’s not a 15 foot penis. Your campus would be known as that place with a giant dick.

Neither of these pieces suffer from the ‘pile of crap put together by an incompetent’ syndrome found in much modern sculpture.

Judging by the initial outcry over Cloud Gate, you wouldn’t have thought so. It’s grown on us a lot since then - even if we do annoy the sculptor by calling it “the Bean”. :smiley:

Yeah, that’s what I first thought when I saw it. Still an object that large, with such a nice polish on it! It simply exudes technical competence on the part of the artisans. The Picasso, is after all a Picasso, and it totally lacks those proppy-uppy things which make the UT piece look tacky and poorly conceived.

Plus it reflects the skyline and sky quite nicely. One of the best parts is when you go underneath - the arch is structured to make it look like the surface/your reflection actually arcs far above where it actually is. Walking past, you can usually see a group of people underneath clustered together and each holding a hand up as if to try to reach into the piece.

The initial reaction? “Great, a stainless steel jelly bean.”

I like the UT piece. OP, do you suppose you could post some views of it that are less flattering?

Maybe somebody could Photoshop it into that progressively more ridiculous collage that got born here a couple of years ago.