Discussions about public art tend to circle around the same topics—is it successful; is it integrated into the space it inhabits; how do people interact with the object. The list goes on, but one topic that always comes to my mind when evaluating art out there is if where defines what.
It has always been my sense that America tends to be a bit stuffy or stilted when it comes to public displays of art. In contrast, there is so much striking communal art—as spectacle, as protest, as remembrance, as warning, as play—cropping up at international sites.
In a recent post, Glenn Weiss of Aesthetic Grounds [http://www.artsjournal.com/aestheticgrounds/2007/11/henk_hofstra_blue_road_netherl.html] brought up such an ingenious example.
Henk Hofstra’s Blue Road, a semi-permanent installation in Drachten, the Netherlands, was created last April. The artist painted a half-mile stretch of one of the city’s main thoroughfares in bright electric blue. “Water is Life" was written it across the road.
Maybe this is a case of the grass being greener on the other side of the fence, but I have my doubts as to whether Hofstra’s project would have made it in the United States. Not because of the subject matter or notions of propriety, but because of the sheer disruptiveness of the work, and I mean that in the best way.
There is an underlying taint of much of the public art in America that is all about containing the work and boxing it in. There are sculpture gardens; flags in parks and giant clothespins, but the works that really sweep you up with their energy and stimulate you are few and far between.