Some impressions of Christo World in Central Park. Walking briskly under the nylon-draped "gates" gives you the feeling you are under a low canopy or awning. The indoor experience of walking through tunnels and hallways morphs strangely with the outdoor experience of walking through open greenery (or brownery, since it's winter now). This is actually not a good thing. Because of the gates' slick fabrication, you feel as if the park had been rented to demonstrate some newfangled, all terrain, corporate convention habitrail system (shades of George Bush's request for a special platform so his feet would never have to touch the dirt of another New York park--Eisenhower, in Nassau County). This might work if the Christos had any sense of irony or self-awareness, but from their interviews they, or at least J-C, the mouthpiece, are tres earnest that it's all about "feeling." Also, the concept of an artificial second layer hovering over the park's rustic walkways fails due to compromises with the Park board. You're walking through an orange tunnel and it suddenly sputters out to accommodate a series of trees that couldn't be trimmed, or abruptly dumps you into one of Olmsted's large open, rock strewn spaces where a bunch of loose gates stand around without any sense of rhythm, solidity, or purpose. The Christos weren't allowed to dig post holes for the gates, and the concrete "feet" that anchor them are an awkward solution. One has to laugh (good naturedly, of course) at the discretely-inserted shims propping them up to adjust for a path's natural slope. But at the end of the day, bad and corporate-looking as the project is, ya gotta say, "damn, they did a lot of work!"

Below is a sculpture by Ross Knight, the "Un-Christo," at the Sculpture Center last year. Knight was allowed to dig into the earth, paradoxically making his work both more ephemeral and more integrated with its surroundings (see link for how all this worked), and his project succeeds, at least in part, because he accepts the modest scale and doesn't succumb to any urges to sit heavily and selfishly on his fellow humans. He also has a sense of humor.

More discussion of the evil Christo and Jeanne-Claude on this ridiculously long (but not ridiculous) thread on Sally McKay's page. Surprisingly many people have stepped forward both here and there to defend the Christos! (This post has been edited slightly.)

- tom moody 2-16-2005 2:27 am

Hmmm...Safely hidden behind the Sculpture Garden's fence, this is more intriguing and thoughtful (than a Christo) piece because it's got a sunken foundation, is small and doesn't feel "the need to sit heavily and selfishly on his fellow humans"?
- Jatsimpleposie (guest) 2-16-2005 4:07 pm

One reason for putting links to previous writing on artists is so it doesn't have to be restated. I changed a phrase or two of the Ross Knight description--hope it helps!
- tom moody 2-16-2005 5:35 pm

The works ARE formally and compositionally (at least on the surface of it) quite similar and this IS sort of uncanny and funny which I thank you for pointing out.

I liked your writing on both pieces as I generally do - but I don't think the link to your piece on Ross Knight's work demonstrates how it's more thoughtful and intriging than The Gates. The Christos, as you call them are into spectacle in the public domain. They're not (I don't think anyway) carefully contriving shoddy (good shoddy) capriccios of Anthony Caro in an enclosed sculpture garden.

I think you hit the nail on the head when you said 'at the end of the day, bad and corporate-looking as the project ( The Gates) is, ya gotta say, "damn, they did a lot of work!"' The scale these guys are working with courts an unbelievable amount of commentary and sure lots of it is completely inane. But there is something about it I find interesting.

I'm in Toronto so it's all voyeurism - voyeurism that nonetheless has me speculating. I saw a lady being interviewed on tv after having done the walk-through and she stood there breathlessly saying how though she knows nothing about art, she thinks she just experienced something truly fascinating, original and a really special moment in history. I wonder if the piece by the Un-Christo would have had the same effect on this lady?

- Jatsimpleposie (guest) 2-16-2005 11:39 pm

The Knight piece was located at the entrance to the Sculpture Center. To enter the Center you had to walk through the piece (or do an awkward detour through the gravel). Hence the shot of the sidewalk going out to the street (maybe you thought it was an alley, but the area around the sculpture certainly isn't "enclosed") and hence my statement "Unlike the egomaniacal Richard Serra, Knight doesn't rudely block ingress and egress to a public building, though. You just walk right on through."

It's difficult to discuss (much less debate) work that one of the parties hasn't physically seen. Which is one reason I try to refrain from commenting on Torontonian art I see on blogs. Nevertheless, thanks for your attempt to shore up the Christos, who are indeed--you'll have to trust me on this--less thoughtful and intriguing artists than Ross Knight. They need all the help they can get!

- tom moody 2-17-2005 12:25 am

alrighty then

- Jatsimpleposie (guest) 2-17-2005 1:51 am

Just to belabor the point, I would have been gladly spared having to read the phrases "safely hidden behind the fence" and "carefully contriving shoddy (good shoddy) capriccios of Anthony Caro in an enclosed sculpture garden" applied to an artist I admire, by someone who's never seen his work. I'm so tired of the presumption that work for private delectation (which Knight's only partly is) somehow pales next to art that gets out and engages "the people." The Christos are not saints, they're millonaire artists with heavy political clout who talk about "feeling" like pampered Hollywood stars going through some fad therapy regimen. What they do is bang "the people" over the head.

- tom moody 2-17-2005 4:01 am

"feeling" and "our esthetic"...

- bill 2-17-2005 4:12 am

I think one of the most interesting aspects of the "The Gates" is that you and everyone else are talking about it! Whether you like it or not, this is brilliant. How many artists can get the entire city of New York talking about art (even it this is a disguise for talking about Christo and Jean-Claude)?
- Aaron Yassin (guest) 2-17-2005 4:56 pm

Everyone's talking about Michael Jackson, too.
- tom moody 2-17-2005 7:35 pm

Gee, Tom, I check you blog regularly and I must have missed your post on Michael Jackson.
- Aaron Yassin (guest) 2-17-2005 10:55 pm

Here t'is. A few more Peter Pan and/or Neverland movies have come out since to keep the vibe alive.

- tom moody 2-17-2005 11:12 pm