263 Comments

I found the discussion on art really interesting. I have thought about this too. I think there is also a part that art pre-20th century was the best they could do for realism. We have photos, video, even some holograms, that can capture reality so remembering an event or person is much much easier now.

I think art has more become practical, but I think it's still as it ever was. There's a lot of focus on what buildings look like. And prominent figures like a president or speaker get a portrait, but mainly as tradition. We have realism all around us, so the public art seems to cater to the abstract.

With Queen Elizabeth's death, I didn't realize how much work was done in Westminster Abbey. There is a series of statues of 20th century martyrs on the church and MLK Jr is one of them. So the old form of art is still around us, we almost become numb to it, so the abstract may be what keeps our attention.

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The whole bit about art is essentially an argument by authority, from someone who is a novelist, not even a visual artist.

Wolfe may make valid points in a void but his ignorance of art history is pretty obvious, lol especially in his slightly denigrating reference to Henry Moore who was born in 1898, and thus whose career spanned from 1921 to the early 1980's. But surely Moore would have fit into Wolfe's rather pedestrian view on sculpture (which honestly seems to be that nothing but hyperrealist sculptures in the style of the late renaissance are beautiful).

Then there is the cherry picking stories about the art world being hostile to folks who have the technique to pull the above off. As anyone who is versed in any way in modernist art history would know, the VAST majority of abstract artists had the chops to create hyperrealist art but chose not to do so.

Yawn, this read like an artistic version of an old man yelling at kids to get off his lawn.

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Smart people can separate concerns. For example, I am against racism AND I think this piece is ugly and inappropriate. Evidently, you are also against racism BUT like the piece. Let's end it there, shall we?

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At first glance, I thought it was something by a M.C. Escher wannabe.

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This is great. It reminds me of an old Modern Painters editorial by Peter Fuller pleading for spirituality and beauty in art. For public art add joy.

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I'm having trouble that so many comments about the King sculpture seem to come from folks who have already prejudiced themselves about anything new, somewhat different, abstract, and representational. Yes, it's more complex than a man holding a flag and proclaiming victory. But this sculpture was years in the making. The artist was carefully chosen. The committee from Boston was very selective. The King family was very involved in the process. They all decided that this was how they wanted to convey the message of love and hope that MLK and his wife tried to bring to America.

But so many people seem to immediately dismiss it because "modern art is ugly," or they don't understand it. Fine, that's an opinion. Everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion. But it saddens me to read that so many people gleefully reject anything they feel might be "elitist" or "woke," so quickly. Is it because it is unfamiliar and may be challenging, or is this just another manifestation of the divisive "culture wars?"

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I think we need to be honest. So much public art is just atrocious. This MLK statue is just more bad art.

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"Contemporary" art is a grift worthy of Trump.

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Charlie, I agree with you about MLK and everyone else deserving better. Much of the public sculpture these days ranges from the truly hideous such as the thing in Boston to at best the trivially decorative. There probably are various reasons for that, but I would guess the emperor’s new clothes hypothesis explains a lot of it. I assume this monstrosity was paid for by money extorted from the taxpaying citizens of Boston. One has to feel sorry for them. At least when individuals spring for this sort of thing, it only a case of a voluntary separation of rich fools from their money.

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On contemporary art: Born in 1936 in a poor, WV mountain family, my mother got an 8th grade education in a one-room schoolhouse. She spent her life with a feeling that she wasn't as good or smart as virtually everyone around her. I vividly recall one DC day in the 1990s. I took her for a walk in Georgetown, and we encountered a confounding piece of non-representational contemporary art. It was not beautiful. My mother turned to me and whispered, C---, is that art? I told her I believed it was, and we had a good laugh. Bad art--nice memory.

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founding

Thank you for Tom Wolfe's critique. However, sculpture wasn't the only field of art that embraced the absurd. I have a dropcloth from our last housepainting that makes more sense that much of Jackson Pollock's stuff...mine actually tells a story. And the reverence shown for this nonsense, which is most venerated on the coasts, is part of middle America's resentment toward the elites who tell us how insightful and inspiring the junk is... and the incomprensibility of the art and its supporters spills over into their politics in the minds of many "real" people.

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Is it that middle America doesn't like it, or they don't understand it right away and it's not worth the effort. A lot of art is complex and confusing by design. It is supposed to draw out a reaction. That is true if it is six parallel lines or a Jackson Pollock. Not everyone wants to bother figuring out the message. That's fine. But artists don't have to dumb it down to please those who don't care.

I find it especially frustrating to read critiques from people who have only seen a picture of the piece online or in a newspaper. It's impossible to experience the scope and magnitude of it that way. But.... everyone has the right to their opinion.

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founding

Your view is ahistorical. Art was commissioned to tell a story. That broke down in the early 20th century, when the response to WTF was “middle America doesn’t like it because they don’t understand it.” If the audience doesn’t understand the message, the problem is not the audience, it is the messenger.

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founding

I saw the sculptor on CBS’s Sunday Morning. I love his conception of the Kings’ embrace, but not the execution of it so much. Maybe if it were life-sized I’d like it better. But for “critics” to attribute anti-MLK sentiment, or to insult, the piece is a little over the top. (A penis? Puleeze!!!) Why must everything conjure controversy? Sometimes an awkward sculpture is just an awkward sculpture.

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I think the problem is that people were expecting a tribute to MLK. Yet, many people don't see MLK or Coretta in the sculpture. Those arms could belong to millions of others, not a man who did so much, gave so much and suffered so much. And the sheer size of it - I don't see warmth at all. I'd really love to see the rejected ideas.

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VERY un-PC, but my impression of most modern scupture is ars excreta artis.

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DeSantis doesn’t care if he makes a trans kid feel different. He exposes them maliciously every chance he gets. Not sure what you meant about BLM, but hope you weren’t bothsiding the issue.

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The glossy surface and bronzey toning puts this smack dab in Jean Shepherd’s “slob art” department. That so many see a penis, bratwurst or hippo indicates that someone should have stepped in at the maquette stage.

If a sculpture is to evoke an emotion, a skillfully executed abstract object can work. If it is to represent specific persons, it can be attenuated, but it damn well better be recognizable as those persons. See: the Washington sculpture of MLK Jr. (text aside.) I can imagine a granite carving of the two emerging from a rough hewn base, huge, but only from waist up. Embracing, but with faces buried in each other’s neck, with hair and shape and enough forehead/cheek showing to be immediately recognizable, but full visages left to each of our memories.

Only question I am left with is How does this one eventually depart the Common? How about in a couple of years a Common rehab project is proposed. It goes to the MFA “temporarily” but becomes a permanent installation/their problem. You’re welcome.

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as I said, no amount of explaining can save it, whether you call it a sculpture or a statue

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