Ed. note: In celebration of artblog’s 10-year anniversary, we are bringing you content from our inaugural year, 2003. In September, 2003, art took us off the grid and we cheerfully admired the view as we chased her through subway stations and wooded walkways, to New York and back again. We learned about the simplistic beauty of an unconventional setting- and also that Libby loves maps!
Stopping by the grid on a sunny morning
The minute I stepped off the city’s grid and headed into the woods, I lost my way.
The map didn’t seem to conform to the paths and the land, although I’m sure it really did. I headed out on a path that turned out to be the roadway back to the city. Oh, no.
Retracing my steps, I still couldn’t find the path, but did happen upon my dentist’s former assistant, sitting right there at a picnic table, ready to help me. Aah, life is stranger than fiction.
It turns out, the path was blocked by a chain intended to block vehicles, but not people, and I couldn’t see the path for the chain.
The installation sounded kind of simple-minded in the description, but once I found it, I was enthralled by the mysteries of spatial relationships. Dormer was imposing a straight line in the forest, using fluorescent tape tied around the trees to demark a horizontal plane and to emphasize the shifting topography.
The title of the piece suggests the piece is about cutting down trees and land development.
But what interested me was how my shifting perspective showed the tapes aligned if I stood in some spots, but not aligned when I stood in others.
It reminded me of my confusion away from the city’s grid, even with map in hand. And it reminded me that the eye is a trickster, and three-point perspective merely a map for artists to get a grip on natural space.
As for the minimalist grid, I began to think that maybe it represented painting losing its perspective and looking for a roadmap out.
Stephen Robin’s new public work, “A Walk through the Woods,” took me on a walk through the bowels of a PATCO subway station at 12th and Locust last Sunday. (Image below)
“Walk,” which spiffs up a bunch of lowly support columns below ground at two PATCO stops in Center City (the other is at 15th/16th St.) is a thing of beauty so gorgeous and unexpected it’s a true gift.
The low relief, cast aluminum panels depict the flora of Pennsylvania and New Jersey as if caught under glass and bursting to get out. Soft-edged and welcoming, your first impulse is to touch them. (Detail above)
Normal subway behavior is to look down, up, away — anywhere but straight ahead where you might meet the eye of another human being. And keep your hands to yourself, as the good nuns say. But Robin’s columns, which are lined up like sentinels or other subway riders waiting their turn to pass, invite your gaze. You can look them in the eye, even cop a feel.
Nature’s irrepressible energy is a complete anachronism in this underground environment. And that makes it all the sweeter.
Robin, who shows his sculpture at Gallery Joe and is known for his large, contemplative, public projects which use motifs from nature (see detail of “Federal Triangle Flowers” a Washington, D.C. piece) has endowed the underground space with grace and uplift.
Art, commerce, or what?
Here’s a copy of the “pricelist” that Space 1026 gave out at its Gerard Doody show. So is it really a price list? (Only two of the pieces had prices on them; the rest were listed as price on request or not for sale or zippo.) But perhaps it’s part of the show? Or is it an in-your-face response to people complaining about the lack of labels and price info? I thought it was kind of funny and took it home as a souvenir. Besides, I love maps.