Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Gates of Wrath

I'm not really a visual arts person. I'd much rather go to a play than to a museum. Still, I have a great appreciation for public art, and think New York City needs much more of it. In a public setting, I especially like stuff that's unpretentious and fun, like those little guys in the subway station at 14th and 8th, or Millennium Park in Chicago. So I liked the idea of The Gates very much when I heard about it, and I was so very disappointed when it actually opened. It just looked so...ugly. I just didn't see the appeal.

But I knew it wasn't the sort of thing I could really judge from photos, so today, on the very crowded last day of the "exhibit," I finally dragged myself to Central Park to check it out on the way to work. I still don't really like The Gates -- I think the media attention has been ridiculous, and it's a colossal waste of money – but it's definitely a different experience up close.

My main aesthetic problem with it is the support structure of each gate. You have this flowy fabric, blowing in the wind, but it's dominated by the ugly, blocky, overwhelming metal frame atop the big black feet. You can call it "saffron" all you want, but it's orange, and those steel poles evoke nothing so much as construction equipment. Couldn't they have attached wires to trees or something? Anyway, I liked The Gates best when on a straightaway where they're densely packed, so I could look up and see only (well, mostly) fabric. I love the way you can lose the City inside the Park, and for a few feet you can lose the Park inside the Gates.

The vastness of the whole thing is impressive, from a logistical standpoint if not an artistic one. And good or bad, it's interesting to see these things in relation to nature (highly planned and landscaped nature) around them, and the way people react to and interact with them. Having spent a lot of time in the Park growing up, I wished I'd given myself more time to explore and see some of my old haunts be-gated.

Whatever I think of the piece, I love that it has people talking about art in some way. Maybe, with all the Olympic and WTC planning, we'll actually get some things that are pretty or fun.

My one hope for The Gates is that they auction off the remains for charity, because it really was an obscene amount of money for something so transient.

I know I just said it doesn't photograph well, but here are some pictures. I think I got some good ones.

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