Drawing its inspiration from the dedicatory sculptures that punctuated the streets of ancient Rome, Busted plays with the popular tradition of urban monuments and civic landmarks that have defined public spaces for centuries. Who are today’s heroes and who does the public expect to see memorialized in monuments? Busted raises some of these questions by bringing together a group of artists who are questioning the tradition of commemorative sculpture and the format of the celebratory monuments. The invited artists touch upon – at times with levity and sense of humor – issues of democracy, taste, and representation of the self in the public space.
Busted features ten international artists including:
Bronx-based artist John Ahearn – known for hyper-realistic sculptures of everyday people – created a sculpture from a live plaster cast of Florent Morellet, inspired by the 16th-century painting Bacchus by the Italian artist Caravaggio. Morellet – flamboyant restaurateur and champion of the Meatpacking District – was chosen by popular vote to be commemorated on the High Line as part of Busted.
New York-based artist Frank Benson (b. 1976, United States) presents Human Statue (Jessie), 2011, a life-size sculpture of a standing woman; arms gently open as if holding an invisible object, with a shield-like disk resting at her feet. The sculpture is a mix of the old and new. References to classic Greek statuaries are evident, but the figure is dressed in modern clothes. The manufacturing process reflects a similar complexity as the sculpture combines traditional materials like bronze with digital 3-D scanning.
London-based artist Steven Claydon (b. 1969, United Kingdom) presents the newly-commissioned UNLIMITEDS & LIMITERS, two seemingly traditional busts of a bearded man made of concrete and resin mix. The sculptures will weather over the course of the exhibition, revealing the synthetic material of the interior, as well as reflecting on the operational qualities of artworks, artifacts, and other objects.
George Condo (b. 1957, United States) is a New York-based artist who emerged in the 1980s New York East Village art scene and has gone on to become one of the most influential and active painters working today. Distorted faces, screaming creatures, and mutant bodies are some of the recurring features in Condo’s theater of the absurd: his exploration of human psychology is both comic and tragic. For Busted, Condo presents Liquor Store Attendant, a bronze bust that depicts a grotesque face covered with barnacles.
Known for abstract paintings that combine mesmerizing colors with multilayered texture, Los Angeles-based artist Mark Grotjahn (b. 1968, United States) has created a series of sculptures out of discarded cardboard boxes. Grotjahn’s masks resemble infantile creations and vernacular constructions cast in bronze and carefully hand painted. Grotjahn’s strange masks are contemporary scarecrows that combine the use of materials typical of early 20th century avant-garde with the eccentric energy of outsider art.
Working primarily as a painter, New York-based artist Sean Landers (b. 1962, United States) is known for intricate canvases where figurative imagery is intertwined with a flow of written words – a stream of consciousness that adds a diaristic element to his work. For Busted, Landers presents Pan, a bronze sculpture of a satyr wearing a Scottish kilt. Installed among the vegetation of the High Line, Pan surprises the park’s visitors by evoking a world where reality and mythology meet.
London-based artist Goshka Macuga (b. 1967, Poland) creates works which draw upon singular historical episodes to investigate collective memories and political events. For Busted, the artist presents Colin Powell, a sculpture of the former Secretary of State as he delivers his controversial 2003 speech on weapons of mass destruction at the United Nations. Macuga depicts the scene during his address when he famously held up a vial of anthrax. Rendered in the Cubist style, the sculpture is inspired by the replica of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, the artist’s iconic anti-war painting which usually hangs in the same room at the UN, but was covered by a curtain during Powell’s speech.
Alongside her neo-folk paintings, Los Angeles-based artist Ruby Neri (b. 1970, United States) has been experimenting with sculpture in a series of works made by assembling disparate materials such as ceramics, bronze, plaster, and found objects. For Busted, Neri debuts Before a Framework, a sculpture of a woman leaning against a window frame. By casting in bronze a figure portrayed in a meditative pose, the artist creates a composition which appears as a strange hybrid between vernacular art and classical sculpture.
London-based artist Amalia Pica (b. 1978, Argentina) has distinguished herself among a generation of emerging artists who reinterpret the tradition of Conceptual Art. Working with a range of different mediums, Pica questions the role of art in our everyday life. For Busted, she presents Number One (from the series Heroes on the Run), an empty pedestal made of concrete and covered with oxidation marks suggesting that the sculpture has been removed or has disappeared, which is a frequent fate for monuments in an age of political turmoil.
New York-based artist Andra Ursuta’s (b. 1979, Romania) work merges the traditional folklore of her native Romania with an investigation of feminine identity. For Busted, she presents Nose Job, a newly-commissioned sculpture of a giant nose made of white marble installed in a wheel barrow. Evoking references that span from ancient Greek statuary to Nikolai Gogol’s novel The Nose, to the remnants of socialist monuments defaced at the end of the 1980s, Nose Job is a portable sculpture which speaks of the perennial rewriting of history through gestures of iconoclasm and destruction.
Photos by Timothy Schenck.