Controversial public art often becomes the lightning rod of all public art, unfairly so. Artists can justify what they do, and what they create with highly intellectual rhetoric and collection/ commission history. I’ve often said, “Context is everything,” which certainly seems to be the case in this public art installed at Los Angeles Police Department’s new headquarters.
This LA Times story was brought to my attention by a general member of the art viewing public, Dan.
Dan: Outside LAPD headquarters…is this public art:
They look like piles of poo, but they’re not–they’re really just the bodies of animals with their heads and legs cut off.
Why does this have to be Yet Another Example of Bad American Public Art? And why did the city of Los Angeles blow $500,000 on these six sculptures?
I think the hippo torso, by the way, would look better with a pink tutu on it.
Miami Art Exchange: What would you have installed there as public art?
Public art these days go through many committees and public hearings so, it got approved. I’m not justifying it by any means but, having to design something (after having made the first round of selections based on previous work) for installation at the police HQ would be a very difficult one. I think just about anything there would get a negative reaction for some segment of the population. However, that’s what the “percent for art” programs are. It was probably 1% of the total project budget and the artist has to take his pay from the announced budget which includes producing the work and getting it installed.
Dan: I look at this art, and say “What value does it have to someone 20 years from now? What does it say?” Public art has the burden of being relevant not just now, but in the future.
What this art says to me at a superficial level is that the Los Angeles Police Department are butchers, killers, willing to leave you by the side of the road, limbs torn off. It verges on saying “This is where Rodney King policing” is done–the blackish, bronze material hints at the “animalistic” parts of Los Angeles, where the black and brown people live, which must be subdued, rigorously, limbs methodically cut off, to maintain peace and order in front of the pretty white Temple of Discipline.
That’s my extreme reading of these sculptures, and I’m (frankly) shocked that I can see that in this art. I find it disgusting. I’m no Pollyanna, but Los Angeles and the LAPD are better than this crude reading. This is regressive art, and I’m repelled by it.
LAPD’s ‘cow-splat’ art
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times / October 20, 2009)
Public art costing $500,000 has been installed on the west side of the Los Angeles Police Department’s new headquarters. Although the cast-bronze sculptures have been likened to six large black blobs, with two tall, skinny structures on either side, artist Peter Shelton of Los Angeles says the shapes are a rotund beast, two bison, two bears and two hippos.