Olaf Breuning, "The Humans" (2007), marble, bronze six characters cycle of human evolution from fish to fisher king looking comically miserable to whole loop around

Olaf Breuning, “The Humans” (2007), marble, bronze (all photographs by the author for Hyperallergic)

Some curious creatures have arrived in City Hall Park, although they look pretty miserable about it. Olaf Breuning’s “The Humans,” with its loop of anthropomorphic figures showing a story of humans evolving from fish to fisher king, has each whimsical figure sporting a deep frown upon their marble faces. While they’re definitely the most charming highlight of the new Lightness of Being Public Art Fund sculpture exhibition, there are 11 artists with playful art to discover elsewhere around the park.

There’s nothing quite as garishly monolithic as last year’s giant ketchup bottle by Paul McCarthy, which is for the best as if you’re going to have an exhibition all about whimsy and playing with perception, some subtlety is appreciated. However, when I stopped by for a morning visit I didn’t encounter the “big-bellied clown with a larger than life presence” that will “stand-in for a modern day shaman” ostensibly being brought in by Ugo Rondinone, so if you stop by on a Friday afternoon I have no guarantees about that.

As for what’s installed through December, there are some distorted objects, like Alicja Kwade’s Raleigh bicycle that had all of its parts dissembled, bent, and then reassembled in a circle; Cristian Andersen’s stack of found objects cast in metal topped by some hats; David Shrigley has left a steel cast of his own flip-flops by the fountain as if he’s jumped in for a swim; and James Angus’ warped copy of a John Deere tractor, the photograph of which actually makes me a little nauseous. None of it is too conceptual, the closest being the late Franz West’s small forest of looming pastel carrot shapes, and while the title references Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, it has definitely cut the dark “unbearable” part that refers to vacuity of being so light. Here’s a photographic tour of Lightness of Being, from sculpture aiming to play with your mind to sculpture that just wants to play.

James Angus, “John Deere Model D” (2013), painted steel, painted cast iron

Alicja Kwade, “Journey without Arrival (Raleigh)” (2012/2013), stainless steel, aluminum, rubber, plastic

Sarah Lucas, “Florian and Kevin” (2013), cast concrete commonplace objects into monoliths. casts of concrete vegetables

Franz West, “Untitled” (2012) (finished posthumously), epoxy resin, metal, lacquer

Cristian Andersen, “inverse reverse obverse” (2013), bronze, stainless steel

David Shrigley, “Metal Flip Flops” (2001), steel

Gary Webb, “Buzzing it Down” (2012), cast aluminum, paint

Olaf Breuning, “The Humans” (2007), marble, bronze

Olaf Breuning, “The Humans” (2007), marble, bronze

Daniel Buren, “Suncatcher” (2013), powder-coated steel, glass, vinyl

Inside Daniel Buren’s “Suncatcher” (2013), powder-coated steel, glass, vinyl

Lightness of Being is in City Hall Park (Between Broadway, Park Row and Chambers streets, Lower Manhattan) through December 13. 

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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...