Monday, July 10, 2006

Public Art: Sarah Sze's Corner Plot

This is a sculpture called Corner Plot by the artist Sarah Sze. It's at 60th and 5th in the southeast corner of Central Park in Doris C. Freedman Plaza. It's said to resemble a corner of an adjacent building.

It's a novel idea, one I came specifically to see. While I was disappointed that the artist didn't reconstruct a real interior inside the windows, I admit that her jumble of lamps, grids, and junk is interesting to look at. The inside of the piece is in keeping with her earlier work -- it's the outside that is a departure.

What makes it interesting is the little world inside the buried building corner. The little world on its own, I'm afraid, is the sort of art one can say almost anything about and wind up sounding spot on -- or like a lunatic -- depending on your perspective. It's that open to interpretation. At least that's my first reaction.

I found an article about an exhibit of hers by a David Cohen for the New York Sun in 2003. Maybe it isn't fair to say, but some of Cohen's descriptions of pieces at the Whitney in 2003 could apply to this new piece ("scattered household objects," "The wall label invites a somewhat literal reading of the piece in site-specific terms (life beneath the sidewalk), but this is arguably too limiting. It is much more fun to imagine "Triple Point" as a mad scientist's model of the world.").

I think what frustrates me more about Cohen's review is that it strikes me as fancy bullshit: "The way in which artifice and nature interact in her handling of materials, the relationship between the found and the manipulated, the micro and the macro, are all symbiotic. The real beauty is that ultimately even what could be construed as faults -- flimsiness, arbitrariness -- are folded back into the meaning of the work: stabilizing as a metaphor of the preciousness of life."

Contemporary art isn't easy to appreciate, and sometimes contemporary art criticism makes it even harder.

Go here to see New York magazine's slide show on how the sculpture was built and installed. The hole Con Edison dug for it was surprisingly big. Corner Plot will only be there until October 22.

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