Downtown ancestors and expanded ladies

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On the plaza outside the Ritz Carlton hotel in Battery Park City sits one of the least likely public art pieces I’ve seen. “Peace” by Chinese-born, New York artist Zhang Huan presents what looks like a gilded nude about to have a deadly encounter with a big, dark bell.

Huan, a body artist whose performances are dark and whimsical, puts himself into oppositional relationships with things in the natural or man-made world to emphasize human frailty, longing and other emotional states. (You may remember seeing him at Moore College several years ago when he showed slides and talked — via translator — about his work at a symposium about performance art organized in conjunction with the great VALIE EXPORT exhibit.)


Here, in what is supposed to be a moveable interactive sculpture (it was inoperable when I saw it), a cast of the artist’s body is headed for a collision with a Chinese bell inscribed with the names of his ancestors. The sign states “the sculpture’s movement is currently restricted” and that you should come back again another time. I was most disappointed. I imagine the ring of the bell to be wonderful but I’ll never know because I probably won’t make it back down there at a time when the bell will be working. (If you’ve heard it let me know.)

The piece, the third installment of the “Art on the Plaza” program, sponsored by Creative Time in partnership with Millenium Partners, The Ritz Carlton and Battery Park City Authority, will be there through April.

Not that I want to be a complainer about arguably one of the best public art purveyors around but this is the second Creative Time-sponsored installation that’s been out of order when I saw it. (the other was the Mariko Mori brain wave machine which was closed due to the heat (see my post of 7/12/03).

I suppose you get what you pay for but it made me question the budgeting for temporary public sculpture and how inadequate maintenance or other fixable (with staff and money) issues might wind up shooting the art in the foot and what a shame that would be. (image top, left and right are Huan’s “Peace”)

Anyway, before moving on, I’ll offer something serendipitous that might qualify as word art. We saw it in Century 21 while cruising for designer bargains. My husband Steve, who collects instances of oddball grammatical construction (eg, “Not all doors will open” an Amtrak fave) took the picture.

We wondered if expanded ladies is a new euphemism for plus-size. (image bottom is word art from Century 21)

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creative time, zhang huan

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