was over at kottke a couple of days ago, i think, and noticed jason had put up a link to a new blog dedicated to christo’s soon to be completed “the gates.” no surprise there. his comment though gave me a moment of pause. “almost here! can’t wait!” hmmm. those exclamation points… “jason can’t wait for ‘the gates?’ really?” i thought. it surprised me. i guess the idea that any new yorker’s were genuinely excited by this project just never occurred to me. now as tom so often reminds me i do tend to be cynical, or “extremely cynical” as he put’s it, but i for one am not even remotely excited about “the gates.” i can say without reservation that i don’t like it thus far, and from the concept sketches i fully expect to continue not liking it.
in april i posted about the project’s imminent arrival and will repost here, now that it’s actually topical, before moving on:
--- in february of 2005 central park will become the latest staging ground for one of the artist christo’s massive artworks. evidently he and his partner in crime jeanne-claude have been trying to get the green light on a central park project for decades. unfortunately, even though it will be on par in scale to some of christos other works, the quality of the work strikes me as decidedly sub-par.
since becoming aware of christo i have felt a begrudging respect for his work. sure, it is basically an exercise in logistics and spectacle, but at its best his work can also be surprisingly elegant, and yes, dare i say it, even beautiful. this new piece as planned, however, is far from elegant and conceptually shoddy. evidently i am not the only one who thinks so. found this on a site called forgotten delights-
What message will The Gates convey? None at all. If you examine every fiber of the million square feet of fabric, you won’t be a nanometer closer to knowing what sort of person you’d like to be, what you should focus on, what sort of world you’d like to live in. Prominent art historians and critics at the Whitney, the Museum of Modern Art and The New York Times haven’t even tried to proclaim any meaning in The Gates. They merely assert that it will draw attention to Central Park. “It might work and it’s not permanent, so why not give it a shot?” asked the publisher of the New York Observer. The twenty-year controversy over whether to allow The Gates to be erected in Central Park was driven largely by fears of the work’s environmental impact. In fact, there’s a much more basic reason for rejecting the project: the lack of any impact on the minds of those seeing it. If it conveys no message, it isn’t art. And if it isn’t art, why allow it in the Park? We might just as well grant permission to The Picket Fences or The Discarded Taxi-Bumpers. If you want to enjoy art in Central Park, do your best to avoid Christo’s giant slalom poles. Instead, seek out the dozens of figurative sculptures scattered through the Park, from Duke Ellington to the Delacorte Clock, from the Maine Monument to Samuel Morse, from Still Hunt to the Untermeyer Fountain. Like genuine works of art ever since the caveman’s time, these have the potential to speak to you - to inspire, provoke and amuse you in a way that Christo’s Gates never will.
the author might go a little far in saying so flatly it isn’t art. i’ve long ago resigned myself to the pointlessness of the what is and what is not art argument. it’s enough to just take someone’s word that his pile of rotting fish, or his room of hard to detect smells is indeed art, just a spectacularly terrible piece of it. all subjective. aside from that little glob of bile though i agree with their approximation. it has no specific ties to the site, a site which you’d think would be rife with things to explore, and as such falls very short. it just does not have the elegance of a running fence or the “wow” of a wrapped reichstag, or the unexpectedness of a valley curtain.
to be honest, i wish the city had not given it the green light at all. central park is one of the few places in new york you can go to escape the meaningless, ugly spectacle. central park should not be gussied up. it should not be crowded with vertical lines and orange fabric. it’s unexpected nooks and crannies should not be homogenized with 8,000 identical “gateways”. and for god sake it should not be turned into any more of a tourist attraction than it already is! instead of this christo piece i would far prefer phony pamphlets handed out to each and every arriving visitor explaining that central park is now a biohazard and should be avoided at all cost. an even quieter, more peaceful, more secluded park… now that would be beautiful.
anyhow, to look on the bright side of (what appears to be) bad art, it’s only up for two weeks and those weeks are in the middle of february, when i will most likely be holed up in my quiet, peaceful, secluded apartment. --- (repost 04/09)
well as it turns out, in that i have a photography show to prepare for in the spring, i have not been as “holed up” as i expected to be. in fact just last weekend i took a photo excursion into the park. christo’s frame works were in various stages of erection throughout the park and having been there, amongst them, i can say i hold to my previous opinions. granted, i can be cynical. granted, the much ballyhooed “safron” fabric is not up yet. granted, in a concept drawing where you can choose your perspective and viewpoint the project looks dynamic and harmonious, but in the parallax shifting of reality? granted, from a helicopter the completed project may provide some fascinating and novel views, but from the ground, inside the project… i can’t help but feel the whole thing is an ostentatious train wreck. very simply put, it is not particularly successful as far as site specific artwork goes. if anything the gates themselves seem to transport the familiar sense of oppressive crowding of the city proper into the park. our congested city’s counterpoint of peace and space is effectively nullified because the gates are unavoidable.
i live a block from the park, so every morning on my way to the b train i get to see “the gates.” it does not please me in the slightest. it simultaneously diminishes and complicates one of the few simple pleasures of my daily grind. add to this the fact that the project has shut down all central park drives at various stages of its instillation, screwing with native new yorker commuting, and what exactly is it we are supposed to be so excited about? pomp? fuck that.
one positive was a realization “the gates” afforded me. while i trekked through the park, taking photos of mud and dirt and snow and dead flora, of tiny crevices and unassuming 6 inch stretches, i was struck with how lucky i am in some ways. that i can get my creative rocks off fully with a quiet walk through the park is a blessing. that i don’t need to stop traffic and transform huge swaths of public space, that i don’t need to drape entire buildings, or dam valleys is wonderful. i don’t mean that in a snide way at all. i’m being totally serious. i’m thankful that finding and capturing the beauty inherent in the natural processes under our feet and under our noses brings me pleasure rather than feeling the need to tackle the mountains of red tape, contracts, manufacturing, assembling, installation, maintenance etc needed to complete work like christo’s. the photos i took that day will always bring me just that little bit of extra pleasure being invisibly contrasted with “the gates” project which was being constructed just outside of their frames.