City Hall Park is enlivened by the Public Art Fund’s Lightness of Being, a group exhibition of sculpture and performance by international artists. Spanning a range of materials and degrees of interactivity, the show offers clever details to sharp-eyed enthusiasts and garish obviousness casual viewers.
Evan Holloway’s Willendorf Wheel, 2013 is discreetly insulated by foliage and awash in dappled sunlight. At a glance, it appears to be a bronze, textured hoop. But step onto the grass and find a chain of copies of Venus of Willendorf, the 25,000-year old fertility icon. Venus cascades the exterior of the hoop in two “columns.” In one, her circumnavigation eternally returns head first; in the other, she orbits feet first – as if in a breech position. (But which way is north? And is this how we’ll feel in Elon Musk’s future?) On the interior, we see the internal hollows of Venus, ready to be filled by chocolate, latex, or substances of wishful thinking.
Sarah Lucas’ Florian and Kevin, 2013 are two magnified and cast seasonal vegetables stretched out on the grass like limbs or other appendages at rest. “Like benches made for giants,” says Public Art Fund. Actually, benches are low on my list of mental associations, as supported by Sarah Lucas’ bigger and longer repertoire. But I will admire how the sculptures seem to point toward the nearby Greenmarket.
A motley crew of cartoonish aliens rings the circular tablet at the southern end of the park. Wide-eyed, rigid, and indisputably frowning, the morphologically humanoids of Olaf Breuning’s The Humans appear to be conflicted about their appearance. With appendages of mythological, political, sartorial, and architectural significance, they could represent “the ages of man.”
Suncatcher, a walk-in “pavilion of light” by Daniel Buren, is a structure, platform, and lens that transforms daylight into a kaleidoscopic array of color. It offers dimensions of interactivity: alight on the platform for a polychrome bath, then gaze upward for a retina-parsing view of the Woolworth Building or Frank Gehry’s 8 Spruce Street. It’s a great piece even for uninitiated viewers who happen by this high-traffic site. (It also reminds me of a work by Peter Coffin a few years ago at Deitch Projects.)
Lightness of Being unburdens itself of the “Unbearable” part of the title it swipes from Milan Kundera. Likewise, chief curator Nicholas Baume has selected works that exhale “whimsy and visual invention…in contrast to the more formal traditions of historic statuary and fountains.” Indeed, the show feels snappy and clever, with the efforts of production concealed. In that sense, it probably is a refuge from reality.