Tuesday, July 21, 2009

End of tunnel nears for subway art

Touch-up for yellow stockings
"Vandalism or 'intervention' " (from Tim Connor's MTA Arts for Transit lightbox exhibit, Atlantic Ave-Pacific St subway station, Brooklyn), Photo by Lester Burg, All rights reserved

To me most graffiti seems simple-minded. And pretty much all tagging, especially tagging over other people's work, just seems ugly, a form of macho competition -- like dogs trying to piss higher up on the lamppost than the ones who pissed before. On the other hand, the little red flowers that recently appeared on the yellow stockings in my lightbox picture (above) at least have some wit. When I 1st saw them, they made me smile.

GnomesWithViewer_RanjitB415px
"Looking at 'The Gnome's Garden'," Photo by Ranjit Bhatnagar, All rights reserved

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"Viewing lightboxes," Photo by Ranjit Bhatnagar, All rights reserved

I have no doubt this uncharacteristically tolerant feeling is because I learned -- at the same time I learned about the "intervention" in my picture " -- that next week my subway show will finally come down. My eight 4' X 6' lightboxes have lit up one wall of the underground passage to the Q train at Atlantic-Pacific subway station for almost a year and a half (I wrote about the show's beginning here & here). The run was a full half-year longer than usual, BTW, a result of the worldwide fiscal crisis, which rattled the MTA even more than most institutions. So I know I've been lucky. They told me when my show 1st went up that an estimated 10,000 people go through that passageway every rush hour. According to my high school math, that comes to almost 9.5 million people for the 18 months!

Of course none of those people were (at least not on purpose) members of the Manhattan art establishment. Ironically, it took some MOMA marketeer's bright idea of plastering cheap, life-size copies of world-famous art all over the station to get them to cross the river. The idea was, I suppose, that the big-name lineup would bedazzle the Brooklyn masses into coming to see the "real thing" on 53rd St.

NanPicHallBlog
Photo from "Ballad of Sexual Dependency" by Nan Goldin, part of MOMA's exhibit at Atlantic-Pacific (note my lightboxes across the hall)

Yet the MOMA-Brooklyn show was surprisingly lacklustre. One piece each for maybe 50 artists, it felt like a sampler's pack of commodified art. Not surprisingly, MOMA's arrogance proved too tempting to resist for NY's then-notorious outlaw mash-up artist, Poster Boy, who came to the station in the dead of night to strike a blow for artistic integrity (I wrote about it here).

WilmaPosterBoy
Above picture by Nan Goldin, as altered by Poster Boy

In fact, Poster Boy's depredations of both old & new masters were funny for about half a minute (he left my pictures alone). But, I have to say, I find the idea that outrage is all it takes to make art to be childish. And the 2nd part of the formula -- that outrage plus bravado equals fame, which is also deemed a form of art -- I find even more dispiriting. As the Poster Boy kerfuffle ran its merry course in the papers & art blogs, I noticed that no one bothered to talk about the art -- or the anti-art for that matter -- you know, those things on the wall. It was the latest news, the buzz, the snide and/or snorting commentary that captivated everyone. The art was just something to argue about.

CrowdBlurAFTShowBlog
"AFT show with passersby," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

Which brings me back to where I started. This show is about to end. In another week at most (I haven't learned exactly when), it's gone. I hope, if you're a New Yorker, or traveling to New York, you'll go & see it.

The info is here (ignore the dates).


6 comments:

luis fernandes said...

How long did you wait in that spot to take that last photograph of the woman with the pink bag?

I noticed that her posture is an exact copy of the photograph in the background of the man walking past the orange garage.

Tim Connor said...

Luis, Good eye! I never noticed that. I was playing with the flash, trying by trial-and-error to combine with slow shutter speed. As I recall only a couple worked at all & this was the best one. Mostly luck.

Christine (CA) said...

How amazing it was up so long. It is a beautiful display. I'm glad I saw it.

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