Digital artifacts manifested as public sculpture populate the Public Art Fund’s 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).
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.
Images Objects continues at City Hall Park (Broadway and Chambers Street, Lower Manhattan) through November 20.