New York Daily Photo Analytics

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Leave it to the Critics

One of my first art "discussions" was regarding a piece of work I saw on the streets in SoHo in the early 1970s. I recall it was a flat surface with an array of bolts - essentially looking like a bed of nails.

Having done carpentry work, I felt that I did know something about bolts and that someone driving them into a board at different heights did not constitute art.

However, an artist friend at the time, in a futile attempt to educate my boorish manner, informed me that what made it art was conceptual, not reducing it to its material elements. Like the defense once made by Marcel Duchamps, whom I did not know at the time - it was art because he said so. I was, nonetheless, not impressed - to me, bolts were just bolts.

This type of installation art is controversial, even amongst those who are schooled and knowledgeable about fine arts. To put it bluntly, coming from someone who was originally a science guy, my question is whether there is any objective criteria for art and, if so, where does artisanship end and art begin?

Recently, I have noticed a number of lamp posts around Astor Place/ Cooper Union bedecked with colorful plastic cable ties. This, like the bed of nails, also challenges my beliefs of what constitutes art, since cable ties are another area of great familiarity to me - we use them regularly in my business.

During my first exposures, it appeared to be whimsical, but after taking a number of photos, it occurred to me that there might be more to it. Sure enough, this is part of an art installation called Flaming Cactus. The Animus Arts Collective utilized 32,000 fluorescent colored wire ties around approximately 15 lamp and sign posts in Cooper Square. The project was done with cooperation from the Department of Transportation. It is permitted to remain in place until June of 2012.

One person commented:

The same art just went up on Spring St and in the Urban Plaza by Trump on Spring. It actually looks very nice in solid colors on the Trump lamp poles.

However, another said:

To me it's cheap looking. It's simplistic and inane, exactly the sum of its parts--zip ties on a light pole. It would look gaudy in a suburban shopping plaza. If bits of brightly colored cheap plastic brightens up your day then more power to you.

Bolts, plastic cable ties, art, or craft - I leave it to the critics...

Related Posts: I'm Really Good at Paper Mache, Surfaces and Surfing, Finger Painting, Acquired Taste, Real? Fake? Why?


Magpie Mason said...

At first I thought they were those plastic handcuffs cops use today.


Leslie said...

This is great. The question of whether or not something is art can be argued til the cows come home. Usually if it's clothed in enough art speak people buy the concept. I figure it is a creative effort, so if you want to call it art, so be it. If you like like it! Even the Impressionists had their innovative work rejected in the beginning.

Anonymous said...

When I first see this photo I thought it was a greener version of Hoiday lights and decorations........

Anonymous said...

That's crazy, yesterday I saw a public sculpture like this in the german City of Hamburg but in black and white
zip ties.

Anonymous said...

Why use plastic? It's really disappointing that it's not even thought of that all of these ties will wind up in bird and fish bellies and eventually in our own. I wish there were more recognition about the impact our plastic laden trash has on our planet and all its inhabitants. Public art would be a great place to voice a resistance against such wanton excess.