Hank Willis Thomas, "Liberty" (2015), bronze, automotive paint

Hank Willis Thomas, “Liberty” (2015), bronze, automotive paint, installed for the Public Art Fund’s ‘Image Objects’ in City Hall Park (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

Digital artifacts manifested as public sculpture populate the Public Art Fund’Image Objects in Lower Manhattan’s City Hall Park. Curated by Andrea Hickey, the seven artist group show opened last week with a disembodied Harlem Globetrotter arm gleaming in front of the 19th-century fountain, distorted marble busts, and 3D-scanned chunks of construction rubble cast in steel.

Image Objects may be one of the Public Art Fund’s least visually bombastic editions in their series of City Hall Park exhibitions, but it is one of the most forward-looking. It follows Danh Vo’s We The People last year replicating segments of the Statue of Liberty, Lightness of Being in 2013 that was heavy on vibrant and playful art, the more boisterous Common Ground in 2012 heralded by Paul McCarthy’s giant ketchup bottle, and Sol Lewitt’s understated sculptures in 2011. In contrast, Image Objects is more interested in how public art experiences can physically interpret digitally-based art, and consider how it again becomes digital through social media sharing (with every label text ready with a hashtag).

Jon Rafman, sculpture from the “New Age Demanded” series (2015), marble

Artie Vierkant, “Image Object Tuesday 20 January 2015 4:24PM” (2015), aluminum and vinyl

Two marble sculptures by Jon Rafman attend the entrance to the park, part of his “New Age Demanded” series, where a figurative bust is contorted on a computer before an industrial laser shapes it in marble. Similarly, Artie Vierkant’s nearby “Image Object Tuesday 20 January 2015 4:24PM” (2015) — from which the exhibition takes its title — started as a digital file (created at the piece’s title date) that was warped and rendered repeatedly to this 3D iteration of abstract shapes on aluminum.

Meanwhile Alice Channer’s “R O C K F A L L” (2015) has a series of seven craggy cast rocks in aluminum, concrete, and Cor-Ten steel based on 3D scans of concrete rubble. Other artists focused on the flaws of digital image documentation, with Amanda Ross-Ho’s “The Character and Shape of Illuminated Things (Facial Recognition)” (2015) framing a sculptural version of objects from an early photography manual, with a neon frame — like those found on many digital cameras that focus on people’s faces — bordering the central bust. Hank Willis Thomas’s “Liberty” (2015) extracts a basketball-spinning arm from a 1986 Harlem Globetrotter photograph, editing and framing the image into a new context, and Lothar Hempel’s “Frozen” (2015) has the familiar rainbow swirl of an Apple loading icon beneath a printed photograph of a girl on two skateboards, considering how these moments are imperfectly preserved in digital memory.

There are some odd placement choices, including Channer’s work and Timur Si-Qin’s “Monument to Expatation” (2015) with his logo for peace positioned far from the path — it’s hard to get a good look unless you disobey the “Keep Off Grass” signs. The exhibition also takes for granted that people passing through would be familiar with the digital techniques that make work like Vierkant’s and Rafman’s so interesting. As a major public thoroughfare, it’s a chance to consider our online worlds where we are constantly reprocessing digital experiences into the physical world and back again.

Amanda Ross-Ho, “The Character and Shape of Illuminated Things (Facial Recognition)” (2015), fiberglass, neon, aluminum, and steel

Alice Channer, “R O C K F A L L” (2015), aluminum, concrete, and Cor-Ten steel

Lothar Hempel, “Frozen” (2015), ink on aluminum, steel, plastic foil, forex, motor, transformer, and steel casing

Timur Si-Qin, “Monument to Exaptation” (2015), aluminum, vinyl

Artie Vierkant, “Image Object Tuesday 20 January 2015 4:24PM” (2015), aluminum and vinyl

Jon Rafman, sculpture from the “New Age Demanded” series (2015), marble

Hank Willis Thomas, “Liberty” (2015), bronze, automotive paint

Images Objects continues at City Hall Park (Broadway and Chambers Street, Lower Manhattan) through November 20. 

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Allison Meier

Allison C. Meier is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Oklahoma, she has been covering visual culture and overlooked history for print...

6 replies on “The Digital Lives of Public Art Considered in City Hall Park”

  1. What’s not so interesting about Artie Vierkant’s work is that it takes for granted that the process of making the sculpture is itself part of the work, as it suggests in its title, “Image Object Tuesday 20 January 2015 4:24PM.” The technology that makes this sculpture has long been adopted by art fabrication, furniture design, architecture, industrial design, car manufactures, and the list goes on. The piece doesn’t seem to say anything that we already know about the digital process, but rather it shows just how superficial and pathetic this piece can be in our current culture of digital technology.

    The artist forgets that the sculpture is situated in the real physical world, and once it’s out there, it is been perceived with everything that comes before it. The history, material, social context, spatial arrangement, and fabrication process are all been perceived together with the sculpture, at least by people who love art. “Image Object Tuesday 20 January 2015 4:24PM” seems to disregard all the elements I listed above and pretends it can have a clean slate in the so-called “post-internet” age. As a result, it’s a boring piece and it treats art-lovers like likes-loving social media addicts. If its intention is to insult the viewers passion on art, it succeeds.

    The artist is not a very good one, but a very hyped one. Judging from this piece, it seems that Artie Vierkant is wrapped up in his own world of internet browsers and social media. The lack of understanding of art and technology is significantly present in his work and I hope he would start reading the primary source materials on art and culture in general and not piggybacking the wrong pig.

    1. Oh… I think this piece is beautiful – it reads as a 3D painting to me – and by far the most interesting in the group. It is very much “situated in the real physical world” – how it is made becomes a distant secondary notion.

      1. No doubt it’s a beautiful piece. I’m not sure what you mean by “3D painting”, the term doesn’t really make sense. I just don’t think the piece goes beyond its decorative function, and therefore should be discuss as a decor instead of art. After all this is on Hyperallergic, “Sensitive to Art & its Discontents.”

        1. Well, paintings are generally considered 2 dimensional, no? In this case it’s as if the painting has become a sculpture, but so without sacrificing its painterly aspects. As such, I find it much more than simply decorative.

          1. First of all, I want to clarify that by using the word decorative, I don’t mean it as a derogatory term. It simply indicates it’s a different category of discussion.

            Second, I don’t want to troll around a piece of reporting on public art, because it is a summer fun fair for everyone include art lovers, visual-pleasure seekers, and non-art lovers. There are many interesting pieces in the show, Hank Willis-Thomas, Amanda Ross-Ho, and Alice Channer all have good pieces there. Vierkant’s piece is as playful as others in the show, just not as substantial as others in the show.

            Third, I wish people can start using critical views on the works that come out these days, not just by the superficial quality, unless the work is about superficiality. By critical views I mean really looking at the work from a structure point of view. Whether it’s on sculpture, painting, photography, prints, video, jpgs, performance, dance, sounds, and all other forms of art, we should LOOK at its materials, scale, location, process, historical context… Everything now as an image, and how these elements come together as a piece of art work would give a new experience and image.

            As of 3D painting. Let’s break it down on the material first. “Image Object Tuesday 20 January 2015 4:24PM” (2015), aluminum and vinyl as the label indicates, it is made of aluminum and vinyl.

            1. Vinyl. Judging from the picture, the vinyl seemed to be printed with a mechanical device, most likely a commercial one based on its size. So it is not paint, it is ink on vinyl. They are prints that adhere onto the aluminum structure. I would call it a mix media from here, not painting.

            2. Aluminum. Again judging from the picture, there are visible bolts and seam lines between the aluminum panels. The aluminum structure appears to be physically fabricated, not 3D printed.

            Now we can conclude that “Image Object Tuesday 20 January 2015 4:24PM” (2015) is an aluminum structure with decals on it. The piece definitely lives up it’s title, but so does a 2016 Ford F-150 pickup truck that comes with aluminum structure frame with DMV registered decal, and every other 3D object that has a sticker on it. Well, obviously I’m exaggerating here. I guess I just want to know more about what I don’t know, and seeing pieces like Vierkant’s just deflates my enthusiasm and reminds me of another overly-hyped-young-white-male artist in the “scene”. But who cares, it’s not my money. It’s all good for him, all good for his collectors, and all good for everyone.

            I remember Roni Horn once mentioned something like that the formula to become a successful artist is to be male, white, making wall pieces, or pieces that are easy transportable (at least can go through the doors), not too heavy, somewhat shinny… Anyway, Vierkant’s public art obviously doesn’t fit into this formula, but looking at what he’s been doing, he seemed to have the formula figured out already. Again, the reason for me to write this post is not to troll but to help Hyperallergic to live up its name.

          2. Made with mud, a drawing is not ceramic.
            A painting is what occurs in the mind of its creator, regardless of the method used for its output.
            My own brother called my work too craftsy.
            (I don’t know what he meant by that, but it seemed insulting)

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