Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University
Since the 1950s artists have been taking art of of museums by creating works that engage with their contexts. “Site-specific” works began appearing in the 1960s by minimalists, conceptual artists, and earth artists, simultaneous with community arts movements, whereby art was to be available to all, not just the privileged few. National governments in the 1970s started funding public art projects. These works are not meant to be monuments. They become a means of transforming the site. Emphasis with site works has been on projects that unite artists, architects, patrons, and the public.
Claes Oldenburg (1929- )
BatcolumnCommissioned in 1977 by the US General Services Administration, this piece is a baseball bat almost 100 feet (30 meters) in the air in the center of Chicago. The whiffle structure helps it to withstand the weather of the Windy City. Honored are the local steel industry and the Chicago School of Architecture. The piece also resembles policeman’s truncheon — a reminder of Chicago’s reputation of corruption and violence.Oldenburg noted that a building turned upside-down would look like a bat on its handle.
Richard Serra (1939- )
Tilted Arc (1981)
The work is 12 feet high, 120 feet length, 72 tons, at Foley Square, NY, for the Federal Plaza building complex. The piece interacts with the design of square and drew attention to the uniform grid of Manhattan. Critics praised the attention to steel as an economic foundation, and the piece appears weightless. But as an “iron curtain” it forced people to detour. The work was intentionally disruptive: as Serra said, “I want to direct the consciousness of the viewer to the reality of the conditions: private, public, political, formal, ideological, economic, psychological, commercial, sociological, institutional” (qtd. in Dempsey 263). But the public furor was a disaster. The piece was removed in clandestine fashion in the nighttime, in 1989, the year the other iron curtain came down.
Daniel Buren (1938- )
Deux Plateaux (1985-1986)
These freestanding cement and marble columns in the Palais Royal courtyard in Paris are of various heights, and the site work includes lights and a sunken artificial stream. The stripes are Buren’s trademark. This also received a hostile reception initially, with accusations of selling out or defacing the site. But what was an ugly car park was transformed into a public space. Red and green lights at night create a runway effect, and blue fluorescent lights color the steam escaping from underground.
Antony Gormley (1950- )
The Angel of the North (1998)
The site is a former colliery pithead bath in Gateshead, northeast England. The piece is 200 tons of steel, which towers at 65 feet, with a wingspan of 177 feet. The site reminded Gormley of a megalithic mound. The piece seems to be a celebration of industry.
Dempsey, Amy. Art in the Modern Era: A Guide to Styles, Schools & Movements. NY: Harry N. Abrams Inc., Pub., 2002.