Walking through City Hall Park, it is hard to miss the numerous works of public art and sculpture, especially McCarthy’s larger than life inflatable ketchup bottle. Common Ground, an exhibition created by the Public Art Fund opened in May and will run until the end of November. Common Ground is a celebration of public art or as Nicholas Baume, Director of the Public Art Fund stated, “an homage to the power and the potential of the spaces we share – our common ground.” The progressive exhibition shows works from ten different international artists, Elmgreen & Gragset, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Roger Hiorns, Jenny Holzer, Matthew Day Jackson, Christian Jankowski, Justin Matherly, Paul McCarthy, Amalia Pica and Thomas Schutte.
Although each piece is extremely different there are some common threads to be found. Many artists have chosen to use engraved stone or create sculptures out of stone. The use of stone allows for a sense of permanence and references a historical tradition of using stone in pieces that celebrate the country and its military history. Christian Jankowski has created a head stone for his future grave out of granite. Jankowski’ piece, Common Ground, is slightly hidden behind bunches of leaves on a remote plot of dirt. Although Jankowski is very much alive, he has created a memorial for his future passing. He joins the Occupy movement in protesting the lack of open space for the public. He does this by confronting the public space with a very private memorial referencing the days when certain parks were burial grounds. He is stating his wishes about wanting to be buried in City Hall Park and simultaneously “drawing attention to the boundaries between public and private, art and life.”
In Amalia Pica’s Now, Speak!, she has created a typical speaker’s lectern and proceeded to transform it’s meaning using a non-typical medium, concrete. This piece is one of a few works that are meant to be interactive. Pica wants the viewers to experience the work of art by using it for it’s inherent purpose while injecting their own personality into the experience. The viewer is meant to come stand behind the lectern and speak their mind regarding a myriad of issues, or simply just to say hi.
All of these works show the variety of ways an artist will interpret creating for an empty space and how the viewer will interact with these pieces. These works “remind us that contemporary art offers us both opportunities for personal reflection and shared moments of collective expression.”
To keep up to date on the world of public art, visit public art fund’s tumblr page. Also be sure to check out Paul McCarthy’s Brancusi Tree (Silver), 2007, available in the Guild Hall Summer Gala benefit auction – live now on Paddle8!