Plop, plop, fizz, fizz ….

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The debate over “plop art” continues – especially when art seems to provide more fizz than substance. Four sculptures by Niki de Saint Phalle, which now sit outside the National Museum of Women in the Arts on New York Avenue, have some wondering if our exterior public spaces are given the same respect as our hallowed museum walls.

Despite their rotund nature, our local Post critic thinks they lack “weight”. Agreed. To a point. His take on it is that such engaging and fun works lack the potency of the subject matter on the canvases and sculptures within the area’s museums; that there is a dichotomy between our expectations of exterior and interior sculptures. As noted, some of de … Continue reading

Metalheads: 3 Recent Public Artworks

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Funny thing, the number of project plan applications in Silver Spring peaked right before the requirement for workforce housing became effective. The now voluntary program would have required affordable housing for any projects over a certain residential density threshold. The fact that we had a rush of applications to beat that deadline was bad news for those of us in the “workforce” that need affordable housing, but it turned out to be good news for those of us who love art in public places.

Three examples, originally approved in 2005, have recently been installed around the Silver Spring area. Each uses various metals in significantly different ways and achieves distinct effects. Generally, they add a touch of contemporary style … Continue reading

The Fun Theory: Musical Stairs

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For all of the beauty of downtown DC’s Metro stations, subway culture in DC has always felt a bit austere. The rare mural or artwork feel forced, intended not to offend rather than uplift or enliven stations. Street buskers aren’t plentiful either, though I’m not sure it would matter. When the Washington Post had world famous violinist Joshua Bell play during rush hour at the L’Enfant Plaza station, seven people stopped to listen. Only one recognized him. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to pick him out of a lineup. All of this seems to suggest that we treat our stations as through-puts rather than informal cultural venues, or momentary sites of entertainment. Yet their potential is immense.

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When public art isn’t public enough, who does it benefit?

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One of the most fascinating pieces of public art in Silver Spring is “Coastline,” a sculpted water feature by Jim Sanborn, which is tucked into the plaza near the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at 1301 East-West Highway. For those who know it is there – mostly office workers from the surrounding complex – it is a wonderful place to relax during lunch or coffee breaks. And the lucky kids who come across the piece are transfixed by the threat and prospect of being hit by the spray of the surf.

The sculpture: A large, pneumatically activated pool that sends waves crashing into stacked, sculpted red granite, creating an intense sound and sense of dynamism to which most water … Continue reading