At the recent opening of “Lightness of Being” in City Hall Park, Nicholas Baume, Public Art Fund’s director and chief curator, explained how this exhibition of eleven contemporary sculptures got its title. He quipped that it’s named after Milan Kundera’s 1984 novel, but they “decided to leave the unbearable part out.” This seems fitting, as this show is not only bearable, but humorous, ironic, and witty.
A childish playfulness presides over these works. Gary Webb’s candy-colored structure Buzzing it Down (2012), for example, resembles a towering ice cream cone beginning to melt in the summer heat. And in Olaf Breuning’s toylike sculpture group The Humans (2007), six cute, rotund marble-and-bronze figures form a circle, each representing a period in the evolutionary cycle. They include a fishlike figure with a scaly mermaid tail, a voluptuous Venus of Willendorf form, and a knightly, sword-wielding character who’s been pierced by arrows.
Several artists employed everyday objects to create their pieces. In Alicja Kwade’s Journey without arrival (Raleigh) (2012/2013), an ordinary bicycle is contorted into the shape of a circle, giving new meaning to the term “stationary bike.” For David Shrigley’s piece Metal Flip Flops (2001), the artist cast a pair of his own sandals in steel and fixed them to the ground next to the park’s fountain, as if someone slipped them off to go for a swim.
And rather than installing a sculpture at all, Ugo Rondinone recreated his 1996 performance piece dog days are over, in which a live, sleeping clown, dressed in full costume, sits on a park bench. Performances take place near the park’s fountain every Friday between 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. The clown can’t directly engage with viewers, but when I spoke with Rondinone at the show’s opening, he commented, “people can take photos with him—and that’s a great interaction.”
“Lightness of Being” is open through December 13 in City Hall Park.
Click through the slideshow below for more images:
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