So, what would you think about the LA Police Chief if you heard that he had expressed support for a controversial public artwork installed in front of the new police headquarters? Would you worry? Rest assured, outgoing Police Chief William Bratton simply hates the eight monumental bronze sculptures installed at the new LAPD. In his statement about the commissioned artwork by Peter Shelton, Bratton showed his true colors as a macho, red-blooded American male, and not – God forbid – an art-loving sissy. I first read about his silly comment a week ago in an LA Times column by Steve Lopez, who quoted with glee the Police Chief's opinion of the new artworks as "some kind of cow splat." Lopez himself also seems to have an issue with these sculptures, which he says resemble giant molars or a bunch of animal derrieres.
I've been following the career of well-known LA sculptor Peter Shelton for a couple of decades, regularly seeing his works at LA Louver Gallery and in museum exhibitions around town, and reading about his various public art commissions in other parts of the country. As I couldn't attend last Saturday's official unveiling of his latest public artwork in front of the new police headquarters, I drove there late last night, took my chances by parking illegally in front of the LAPD, and went for a walk around the building to look at the sculptures.
The eight semi-abstract bronzes, each on its own pedestal, line the sidewalk along Spring Street directly opposite the LA Times building. At first, looking at these bulbous forms, I was amused, giggling at the evocation of cuddly animals with their wiggling derrieres and heads buried between their paws. It wasn't love at first sight, but I was charmed by the playfulness of the works, especially appreciating the irony of seeing something so whimsical in front of the building that embodies Law and Order.
As far as public art is concerned, Los Angeles has come a long way, and it has clearly helped foster the reputation of the city's art scene across the pond. The latest example is ARCO, the annual contemporary art fair in Madrid, which opens in February 2010. In previous years, this fair chose to highlight the art scene of one of the participating countries, however, this year, in an unusual break from tradition, the focus is not on a whole country, but on a city, which happens to be our very own City of Angels. Sixteen local art galleries have been invited to participate in the fair, and each has been asked to exhibit three LA artists. So if you're lucky enough to travel to Madrid this February to attend ARCO, you will feel right at home.
And now, with Spain on my mind, let me share with you the fascinating photo which was shot in the courtyard of one of Barcelona's most famous landmarks, La Pedrera, an apartment building designed by Antonio Gaudi. Forty years ago, this mesmerizing building played an important role in the Antonioni movie, The Passenger, starring Jack Nicholson. Recently, more than a hundred works by French sculptor Aristide Maillol were temporarily installed in and around La Pedrera, and you can read about it on the Art Knowledge News website, which every day highlights with gusto the best of what the art world has to offer. All that makes me want to start packing my suitcase to go to Spain, how about you?
Banner image: Installation photography, Peter Shelton, sixbeastsandtwomonkeys
, outside the new Police Administration Building, Los Angeles