Modern sculpture has a problem. Well two problems. One it’s hideous and the other is people keep seeing things in it. Remember ‘The Embrace’ that was supposed to honor MLK’s wife?
The 20-foot tall, 40-foot wide “The Embrace” statue was unveiled Friday on Boston Common, where King gave a speech on April 23, 1965, to a crowd of 22,000. The statue was inspired by a photograph of King and Scott King which captured them hugging after he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
The art piece, designed by Brooklyn-based conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas, only features the couple’s arms during the embrace and not their heads, which has sparked criticism and mockery online. While some people defended the sculpture, others described it as hideous or disrespectful, with social media users posting memes saying it resembled a sex act.
Here’s the latest example.
An art installation meant to shed light on a somber topic — those who have died of AIDS — has instead sparked a lowbrow debate, leading the artist to say he’s redesigning the piece.
The sculpture by Palm Springs artist Phillip K. Smith is planned for the Downtown Park at Museum Way and Belardo Road, near the “Forever Marilyn” statue. Under Smith’s original design, the front of the sculpture consisted of a large piece of limestone shaped into a circle with several concentric ringed grooves cut into it surrounding a hole in the middle.
The back side, which had received the most criticism, was to consist of a ring of protruding forms surrounding the hole. That’s what led Smith to tell the Palm Springs Public Arts Commission last week that he is working with the task force supporting the sculpture to develop a new design because some people say the plans resemble the anatomy of human buttocks.
These problems wouldn’t keep coming up if monuments actually looked like things instead of being abstract obscenities that make a virtue out of a pointless minimalism.
Nobody likes this stuff except a handful of tastemakers and no one, including the people it’s done for, especially appreciate it.
There was a time not all that long ago when monuments actually made public statements by clearly being what they are. Now monuments make public statements by way of their vagueness. And robbed of a clear statement, people instead find things in them.