Thursday, March 20, 2008

Fountain of Light

Installation view(s) at Rockefeller Center, “Electric Fountain,” 2007, Steel, 3,390 LED bulbs and 527 meters of neon tubing, 35 feet (10.67 m) in height and 30 feet (9.14 m) in diameter

Public art is such a highly politicized rejection of the individual in favor of the group that it often devolves into infighting and name-calling. Usually I’m one of the name callers–full of snarky insights and snide comments.

I grimace inwardly whenever I hear that a committee has been formed to decide on allocations of public funds for public art. Generally, in this format, I favor whimsy over the austere or ideological. I believe it is more accessible and therefore, more universally enjoyed. And while I do not necessarily think that universal agreement is the key to successful art, I do recognize that in the public realm, a general consensus is sometimes preferable to the coldly conceptual (of course there are notable exceptions to this rule). When I think I really successful public art, I think of the works that people visit and like to have their picture taken with…like “Cloud Gate” in Chicago.

So when I stumbled across images of the Noble Webster “Electric Fountain” at Rockefeller center I was captivated. The “fountain” channels equal parts Versailles and Vegas, a triumph of curvilinear form and chasing LED lights that mimic the movement of water through the fountain. The lights, which might be cause for concern/reprimand in these energy conscious times were (according to the Times) specially manufactured to be energy efficient–they draw 70 percent less energy than a tungsten bulb; accordingly, the fountain draws less energy than the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

The artists, Tim Noble, 42, and Sue Webster, 40, “have lived and worked together since they were art students in the late 1980s, delight in kitsch. Over the years they have gained an international following for creating illuminated signs in shapes like hearts and dollar signs or with words like “Forever” and “Yes.” They are also known for creating assemblages and kinetic sculptural installations from found objects, often projecting silhouettes of themselves on a nearby wall. (“Polymorphous Perverse,” a kinetic sculptural installation that was shown last fall at the Freud Museum in London, will go on view on Feb. 29 at Deitch Projects in SoHo).”

Back to the idea of the anonymous and self-righteous committee: the project was overseen by the Art Production Fund (a nonprofit organization that presents public art around NYC), and funded by Jeffery Deitch (the duo’s dealer) and the auto maker Lexus…one imagines/hopes that there are not so many yahoos pining away for Renaissance-inspired knock-offs in those discussions.

Though the fountain is temporary, the duo are hoping that by the April 4, when the fountain comes down, it will have found a permanent home. Hopefully wherever that is, it will be accessible to the public.

Incidentally, the city of Atlantic Beach is currently looking for artists to loan artwork to the city for outdoor display for six months. The work must be weather-resistant and able to withstand beach elements.

It would be amazing if Atlantic Beach was able to showcase something that drew people to it, something that was beautiful and innovative, and made visitors want to whip out their cameras.

*for a look at the fountain in action, click on the title of this post*


URBISMUS said...

saw this yesterday, by accident coincidence! the steel is actually like raw sheet metal that actually diminishes a kitsch factor. its really great. ill try and go back, to pic the metal. the clip was great we werent able to see it functioning. someones gotta pick it up after april.

madeleine said...

Very cool. thank you for the insight...if you post the pic on your site, let me know, I'll be sure to link to it. I'd love to get a better idea of the detail...