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Because of its many-sided
character, sculpture is subject to a great deal of interpretation. This
is the very nature of the dialogue at the ISC. Decade by decade, we witness
the evolution of individual contributions rather than schools. The isms
of the past are replaced by art fairs and marketing, but at the same time
there is an engagement with many more ideas and much more diversity. There
is, in fact, a meteoric rise in talent, energy, and general exposure to
sculpture. The evolution of sculpture as a phenomenon is fundamental to
modern art and culture, wresting from painting the title of ruler of avant-garde
thinking and design. From Duchamp and Brancusi to David Smith, Tony Smith,
and Louise Bourgeois, to the recent efforts of such contemporary artists
as Christo and Jeanne-Claude, the evolution of sculptural directions has
seen colossal shifts in ideas, paradigms, and materials.
Recently it seemed that the entire world walked through The Gates in Central
Parkwhether we experienced them directly or through the media. They
appeared in giant form in photo spreads and on banner headlines. They
glowed on computer screens and served as the topic of bemused TV conversation.
Why so much attention? Is the world secretly attracted to orange? The
first answer is scale: 7,500 separate gates covered paths across the 23-acre
park. On the ground, they seemed to go on forever like the Yellow Brick
Road. Second, the simple post-and-lintel structure of each gate created
a special place in which viewers could see something new enlivening a
familiar setting. Third, everyone could participate in The Gates: all
the activities of the park became part of the sculpture. Christo and Jeanne-Claude
achieved what all artists strive fora unique, nearly indescribable
experience, shared by many but different for each individual.
The Gates built a brilliant conceptual plan on a classic paradigm: man
versus nature. Christo and Jeanne-Claudes repetitive structures
followed the paths of Olmsteds blueprint, set against the colors
and patterns of nature in mid-winter. The rectangular forms punctuated
the organic web of tree limbs and branches. The visual contrast was brilliant
too. Added to this were the masses of people delighted by the simple act
of walking through and passing under a gate.
Central Park is an oasis for the city; with The Gates, it became a staging
ground for something described as enchanting, memorable,
cool, tremendous, magical, and marvelous.
Even the cynics applauded. Many people asked if it was art. The resolute
reply was yes, because it took the ordinary and made it extraordinary.
At the same time, New Yorkers could also experience three outdoor steel
works by Mark di Suvero in Madison Square Park, a selection of works by
Julian Opie in City Hall Park, and Tom Otternesss bronze creatures
displayed along lower Broadway. New York is not alone (although the scale
of its efforts may be greater); cities in America and around the world
are aware of the impact of art, its contribution to the quality of life,
as well as to tourism and economic vitality.
Sculpture, like architecture, can define and contribute to the energy
and dynamics of a metropolitan community. Sculpture lives in the streets,
in plazas, and in parks, and it functions well in all of these contexts.
Are we entering an era when sculpture will be, as it is in other parts
of the world, a characteristic of urban design and planning? If so, we
welcome the opportunity, if not, we want to recommend the approach.
ISC Executive Director
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