Hardened Gothamites are used to seeing strange things on the streets of New York City. Often, the very strangest things come in the form of sponsored “art” projects designed to provide concrete canyon dwellers with a respite and bring their benighted souls closer to that transcendent thing we call “art.”
Or something. Needless to say, most of these community art projects are dismal failures. Community trusts are too frightened of anything that could be perceived as highbrow, or culturally exclusionary or even remotely interesting – how, under those restrictions, would it be possible to succeed? Better stick with the tasteless pabulum that is all-to-available in galleries today.
And no better example of that pabulum can be found than up and down Broadway with seven sculptures by Saint Clair Cemin (born 1951) organized by the Broadway Mall Association in collaboration with the Paul Kasmin Gallery. Ideally the world’s largest paperweights, these sculptures underscore the high camp joke that the Fine Arts have become in the United States. Or, as “art historian and critic” Donald Kuspit writes, Cemin’s endgame modernism – a synthesis of old modern manners, breathing surreal new life into them – artfully condenses the absurdity in singularly perverse works. Yes, I’ve read that twice and it still makes no sense. Equally delicious is his official bio, which reads: Saint Clair Cemin … looks to string together the rational, the unknown, the unconscious, and the dream with a synthesis of old modern manners, breathing new life into them. Saint Clair Cemin creates surreal portraits of absurd characters as well as sculptural snapshots of his own past, blurring the line between figuration and abstraction in this collection.
Or something. The piece above is called The Four, and is described as a Corten steel sculpture that longs to be at once both geometric and organic. I stood before the sculpture just this weekend, and I didn't immediately notice it longing to be anything. I, on the other hand, quickly started longing for some of the sculptural treasures in the nearby Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Readers with a sense of humor and high tolerance for camp can see all seven of Cemin’s sculptures in parks and pedestrian malls along Broadway between 57th and 157th Streets.