The Commingling of Color

Saturated with art, the city reflects our creative subconscious. While such art may not be a product of the beholder’s hand, the art influences his hand. The beholder is, essentially, an artifact of his environment. The colorful murals, collages of stickers, busy subway advertisements, scrawled sidewalk sandwich boards, finicky fire escapes, even the heavy medal melody of construction work, infuses the beholder with a sense of self. The self is emboldened by the city, each hour growing increasingly assured. Light refracts off of the city walls, entering the beholder, who in turn emotes energy back into the atmosphere. Take a minute to stop, to observe. Watch one individual, take note if he or she profits from or contributes to the artistic atmosphere of New York.

For the last three months, I hurried up 6th street to make a sharp turn on 2nd Ave. In transit to and from work, I passed Billy the Artist’s mural adorning the concrete wall of Lionsbeerstore. Iced coffee in hand, I instinctively glanced to my right, observing daily the crisp gestural strokes of BTA’s mural. Internalizing the artist’s motto, “create your own reality,” I took a sip of coffee, opened my eyes wider and set out to draw inspiration from my colorful short-term surroundings.

On my nine minute walk to the subway, I drew energy from many natural and artistic urban attributes; yet, I found BTA’s work particularly compelling. Why? The mural distills the key elements of our humanity into a handful of colors and forms. It stares back at its beholders, challenging them to first confront and later come to terms with its colorful absurdities.

The mural quite literally represents us, humans, through a meter of geometric black-lined shapes. Emphasis is placed on two physiological elements: eyes and mouths. Humans are physical beings who are seen, but also oral products of what is said about them. Each human is a unique, colorful product of his surroundings. As seen in BTA’s mural, humans are intrinsically linked. There is no singularity in humanity. Rather, we thrive when our eyes and mouths commingle.

The Relevance of Artistic Creations

The question is not whether an object is art, but rather whether that piece of art is relevant. In a period of rampant artistic proliferation, the line between fine arts and creative musings blurs. A subjective standard of judging art is adopted. The classical cannons no longer dictate the process of making; instead, in this modern age, the adoption of multiple canons or the rejection of all traditional models has become commonplace. Thus, rather than struggling to define what “is” art, we should determine the calculable impact that the piece has, which will subsequently determine its artistic worth. Following this line of thought, for a piece to be art, it need not be aesthetically pleasing, only intellectually stimulating.

Increased exposure to radical public art during my time in the city has prompted me to search for, and at times realize, the intellectual method of each piece. Most recently,  the works commissioned by the Public Art Fund situated in City Hall have stimulated my curiosity. Amanda Ross-Ho’s work, The Character and Shape of Illuminated Things (2015), or more bluntly an enlarged mannequin head illuminated by a fluorescent green box, continues to flummox me. While I do not find the finished product aesthetically pleasing, I can acknowledge the artist’s public statement, which critiques the need to incessantly document, or tag, oneself on social media sites. In looking beyond the physical work, I can more easily grapple with the finished product. Even though I prefer works that adhere to a more traditional cannon, I respect the political, cultural, and racial statements that artists are making in the present. Artists are utilizing public spaces to catalyze meaningful conversation, just as artists a few hundreds ago intentionally sparked controversy with provocative saloon compositions. Yet, it is still the job of the viewer to observe with caution, steadfastly searching for worthy bold art.

Felling Goliath

Simultaneously broken and whole, the monumental head of Goliath by Nicolas Holiber lies on the granite of Tribeca Park. Commissioned by the Parks Department as Park of the Art in the Parks program, the work will be on view until September 20, 2015. A conglomeration of wood, plastic, and metal, Holiber’s sculpture eradicates the fanciful illusion of Goliath as an infallible beast. The typical David and Goliath power-dynamic is reversed; the viewer looks down upon the decapitated head of goliath, examining the flaws of the beast from a more realistic perspective.

Through representing the beast physically flawed, the artist comments on the falsity of human fears, and the wild power of the human imagination. As remarked by the artist himself: “New York is the Goliath.” Our fears of failing compound, forming looming goliaths in our lives, which at times feel unconquerable. Subconsciously planning for the worst, our goliaths grow to reach immeasurable heights. However, as Holiber’s sculpture of Goliath reiterates, Goliath can be felled. Stepping back and looking upward, one can reassert one’s dominance over Goliath. The individual blocks that constitutes Goliath’s form in Holiber’s sculpture represent fears that can be proven false, blotches of color that can be erased to reveal the raw origin: truth. Made for the public and a reflection of the public, Holiber’s head of Goliath is open to interpretation.