Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ugly Public Art

On the grassy lawn in front of the parking lot for the Los Angeles County Courthouse in Santa Monica there's a sculpture.

It looks like a peculiar cloud formation; a bizarrely gnarled tree; a stalk of grey-purple cauliflower or broccoli.

When you get closer to it, you realize that it appears to be composed entirely of links of iron chain, tumbling together and rising up to form a large bulbous cloud.

The piece is by Paul Conrad, and it's called "Chain Reaction." Conrad was a Pulitzer prize winning political cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times from 1964 to 1993. He was also a sculptor, working in bronze. In 1990 he offered to give this sculpture to the City of Santa Monica, and it was installed on the lawn in front of the Courthouse parking lot.

The sculpture depicts a nuclear cloud after a bomb blast, and is intended to be an anti-nuclear statement. A plaque mounted at its fee says, "CHAIN REACTION - This is a statement of peace. May it never become an epitaph."

At this educational arts site, the piece is explained:

In creating this piece, the artist points out that with the discovery of the lethal capabilities of the split atom came the knowledge that mankind could destroy the world. Ironically, it is this knowledge of potential destruction that has provided a deterrent to a third world war. Conrad's sculpture stands as a symbol of this "peace" which the split atom has provided, as well as "a warning to all nations that they dare not risk the chain of actions and reactions of nuclear war, but must seek to coexist and settle their differences peacefully." To the artist, the work is a peace statement, and one that he hopes will never be an epitaph.

I agree with the artist's idea and concept, and sympathize with the point he's trying to make. I even admire his clever visual pun in the title. But I can't help thinking this is the ugliest, kitschy-est, most awkward and ungainly thing I've ever seen.

Can we accept Bad Art as long as it's in support of good ideas? What about Good Art that supports ideas we disagree with? Can you share any ugly art you've seen?


DaveyWaveyGoodAsGravy said...

Its official name is the "Monument of States", although I think of it as "The Tower of Frozen Foods". It's in Kissimmee, FL, and is the ugliest, most ungainly 50' heap of cement and mineral samples I have ever enjoyed giggling at.

Here's a link to a site reviewing this historic landmark/work of love.

Queenly Things said...

We have a odd sculpture that pas every morning. it is a car with fat chubby legs coming out of the bottom of it. It is not funny just odd. We have a few others that bewilder me as well. Maybe I should go take some photos.