Andria Hickey, curator at Public Art Fund in New York, opened her lecture by giving a little history of the organization, such as Public Art Fund’s early contribution of the historically profound “Messages to the Public” light board in Times Square, and explaining a bit about how the privately supported nonprofit develops and presents temporary exhibitions in specific locations.
Then Hickey disclosed that this Tuesday Evenings lecture had in fact become an opportunity to test a working hypothesis on the state of contemporary sculpture. This hypothesis, which is still taking form, developed as Hickey moved from the sanctioned space of art galleries and museums, which was her domain before coming to Public Art Fund and in which she continues to operate as an independent curator, and the unsanctioned public spaces she works with as a curator for Public Art Fund.
While the title, “The Public Object: On Sculpture and Thingness in Public Space,” and description of Hickey’s lecture gave a clear sense of what to expect, I found myself coming to new conclusions and having revelations as Hickey puzzled over the complications of translating a tower of tires, readily accepted as sculpture in a gallery space, as anything more than merely a tower of tires out on the street. Does art’s success lie in its ability to disrupt? Are all spaces equal? Hickey shared that the artist Mark Manders gives his work a trial run in his neighborhood grocery in a small town outside of Ghent, stating, “If it works in the grocery store . . .”
With the current function of the readymade being miles away from Duchamp’s original intent, Hickey expressed concern that our discourse has not evolved accordingly. She alluded to our tendency to point rather than reflect and mentioned the visual shorthand of the internet that works against experiencing art in the public realm. Do we “encounter objects the way we would read, engaging in a very narrative process”? While such queries can send your head spinning, I found Hickey’s presentation provoking but also clear and digestible. See what you think.
Image credit: Nairy Baghramian, Waste Basket (Bins for rejected ideas), 2012. Wire mesh and rubber, in Object, Food, Rooms at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery