Saturday, October 24, 2009
THE MEANING OF ART
People who don’t read the LA Times miss out on a lot of hilarity. In such a big city there is always something to laugh at, and now we readers are getting a dose of “cow splat.”
The Police got a beautiful new, sorely needed headquarters building, and local sculptor Peter Shelton got a commission to provide some artistic ambiance. An LA Times article this morning described the building this way: “As a presence in the skyline, alas, the headquarters – 10 stories tall and covering 500,000 square feet – remains cautious and largely unimaginative, a well-appointed office building wrapped in limestone panels and broad expanses of glass....”
So while the building isn’t much to talk about stylistically, apparently the sculptures, which are interspersed among trees that form a promenade along one side of the building, are making up for that. Especially since the outgoing Police Chief Bill Bratton said, after viewing the installed sculptures, they looked like some kind of “cow splat.”
Today’s Times column “Art Review” by art critic Christopher Knight was not only a good piece of writing and helpful to me in understanding the artist's intentions in these most unusual pieces but also it made me burst out laughing when he said, “Bratton’s crack [does not] demonstrate that he knows zilch about contemporary sculpture, as one might suspect; it demonstrates instead that he doesn’t know much about cow splat. Born and raised in Boston, the chief has lived and worked on police forces there and in New York City and Los Angeles, where encounters with cows are rare. Perhaps he can be forgiven for not knowing what bovine poo actually looks like.”
Also making me chuckle was that the whole column was written in a way that I could understand what the author was saying, a real accomplishment not only for me but for the writer; I’m no dummy but usually these reviews are written for the elite, not the bourgeois.
What the sculptor has done is create six ballooning forms that are held up by two elongated, vaguely quadrupedal creatures on either end. In another recent article Shelton described his idea for this project was to “develop a contrast in the physicality of the forms from the corporeal and ponderous to the attenuated and light” and in explaining these forms, he stated, “In some cases they might represent power and authority or are guardians,” he says. “In other cases, they could be our animal alter egos, our most basic selves.”
So of course now my next trip into LA will be specifically to take a look at the newest art. I’m sure I won’t understand it any more that Chief Bratton, but at least I am not likely to be quoted on my uttered thoughts. There is a lot about art I don’t understand, but I realize that is my fault, not the fault of the artist!