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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope

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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Hideous Public Art: "I see boobs"

In today's installment of Hideous Public Art we take a trip to the deep south for a look at works by Craig Wedderspoon, art professor at the University of Alabama. An aluminum sculpture of his called Argyle was recently ... um ... erected in a quadrangle of the univerity's campus in Tuscaloosa.

According to the Tuscaloosa News the sculpture has provoked some mild but, in my opinion well-deserved, mockery:
Although Craig Wedderspoon's 10-foot-tall “Argyle” was crafted as part of a series on fabrics and textiles, frozen in metal, some viewers see more than an upwardly mobile construction set on a stout base.

The buzz began Jan. 25 as the sculpture, consisting of 1,500 4-inch aluminum squares welded together to create a sense of arrested twist, was being installed in the center of the University of Alabama's Woods Quad.

“We had a lot of people come by and comment ‘giant phallus,' ” said Wedderspoon, head of the sculpture program at UA's Department of Art. “When confronted with something abstract, we may not know what it is, it's curious how quickly it is we go to our sexual organs.

“But on a college campus, at least, it may be what everyone's thinking about,” he said, laughing.
Fellow metal-sculptor Steve Davis doesn't see what all the fuss is about:
“To me, its smooth and textural lines belie a more complicated structure, made up of welded square components,” Davis said. He walked around the work in late afternoon as sundown approached. “I enjoyed seeing the sunlight bounce off the form, and could really see the subtle waves twisting their way around the piece.”

It's clearly abstract and not representational, he said, but if he were to describe it in realistic terms, he'd pick a gourd, the kind people carve for purple martin houses.
William Dooley, dean of the UA's art department, defends the installation:
That sense of looming, impending physicality, combined with the abstract nature of “Argyle,” could lead to initial negative reactions, including juvenile references.

“If you don't ‘get it,' it's kind of an instinctual response to reject it,” Dooley said. “If I don't know what it is, I really don't want it.”

I don't know - to me it looks like a shmoo. Remember the shmoo? They were a race of creatures living in the Valley of the Shmoon and discovered by Li'l Abner:

Wedderspoon is no stranger to Freudian controversy. A previous work of his entitled Soft II is on display at Virgina Commonwealth University:

According to VCU's student newspaper The Commonwealth Times, Wedderspoon explains that this work represents "an argument between individuals as expressed through what they have unknowingly left behind."

Some VCU students apparently aren't getting the symbolism:
"Basically, I see a lot of geometric figures made into one gigantic figure," junior business major Jonathan Cummings said. "I guess it's interesting ... that would be the best adjective to keep things positive. … All right, I'll come out and say it; it's a pair of testicles. That's what I see.

"Someone put a huge sack in front of the business building, and, being a business major, that's kind of a slap in the face."

Chrysany Collier, a sophomore broadcast journalism major, said she didn't see testicles. Although she originally likened the sculpture to "a messed-up world," she admitted the robust art form could resemble a pair of breasts.

"When I first saw it, I thought it was a wasp nest," Collier said. "But I could see boobs."
"I see boobs." That's as good a description of much of what passes for art these days as we're ever likely to get.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Phallus worship is big in ancient religions. (real conservative)