American Idyll

About the Exhibition

Public Art Fund is proud to present a new exhibition of contemporary art at MetroTech Center. American Idyll continues MetroTech’s commitment to supporting the work of emerging artists. Each year artists are asked to respond to the Commons, the public spaces surrounding the vibrant downtown areas of MetroTech Center and Brooklyn Polytechnic. The artists in this year’s exhibition—Jon Conner, Amy Gartrell, Dave McKenzie, Pentti Monkkonen and Roman de Salvo—have each created works that observe and playfully comment upon outdoor recreation, roadside Americana, and idyllic pastimes and pleasures.



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Featured Artists

Jon Conner, Perfect Day
Jon Conner’s recent work investigates the irrational sentimentality rooted in memories of youth. In Perfect Day, a sculpture of a father and son holding fishing rods is perched atop an oversized Igloo cooler, a familiar two-tone icon of recreation that brings to mind beach trips, picnics, ballgames, and other daytrip escapes from business-as-usual. In placing the father-son tableau on top of it, Conner suggests that even the most banal, utilitarian objects can live larger-than-life in our memories, tied as they are to our childhood recollections and adventures.

Roman de Salvo, Liquid Ballistic
Liquid Ballistic, Roman de Salvo’s project at MetroTech Center, is a mahogany cannon that doubles as a seesaw and releases a gentle stream of water when activated. Manipulating the cannon’s traditional function, de Salvo (b.1965, San Francisco, CA) renders it useless as a weapon and considers alternate applications for such an outmoded relic. Calling to mind the countless cannons found on revolutionary battlegrounds along the East Coast of the United States, Liquid Ballistic‘s update of age-old weaponry is literally disarming. Spectators are invited to ride the cannon and enjoy themselvesnot a typical response to an instrument of attack while partaking of de Salvo’s humorous and absurd work.

Amy Gartrell, Wishing Well
Amy Gartrell’s towering Wishing Well, a stylistic departure from her other work, draws from the world of fairy tales, fables, and local theatrical productions. Meant to look like a misplaced stage prop, the painted well is adorned with climbing wisteria vines and is topped by a tin bucket that is almost impossible to reach. The distorted height of the well gives it a mischievous character, defying its audience to toss in their coins. Gartrell (b.1974, Berkeley, CA) conceives of the Wishing Well as an optimistic challenge. According to Gartrell, “You can’t just drop a penny and expect something to happen. The extra effort is what is required for the fulfillment of dreams or wishes.”

Dave McKenzie, There’s No Place Like Home
For his project at MetroTech Center, There’s No Place Like Home, Dave McKenzie (b.1977, Kingston, Jamaica) decided to recreate an existing statue of Paul Bunyan from Rumford, Maine. Paul Bunyan, the legendary woodsman, is the heroic embodiment of the American frontier. Tall tales about his incredible feats and ingenuity – such as scooping out the Great Lakes to get water for his big blue ox, Babe – began circulating in the early 20th century. Since the 1930s, statues of Paul Bunyan have dotted the country, standing guard at the town limits or, just as frequently, at local gas stations. By inserting this iconic statue into downtown Brooklyn, McKenzie brings small town America into the heart of downtown Brooklyn, a modest attempt to bridge distances across geography and time.

Pentti Monkkonen, French Fry in the Sky
For American Idyll, Pentti Monkkonen (b.1975, Minneapolis, MN) responded to the corporate-style setting of MetroTech Commons and created French Fry in the Sky, a large metal sculpture, painted yellow and complete with perching bronze pigeons. His work mimics the ubiquitous abstract metal pieces found in courtyards and lobbies. By attaching pigeons to what appears to be an example of minimalist public art of the 1960s and 1970s, Monkkonen plays with aspects of amusement and illusion, making an underhanded reference to uninspired public artwork as he creates a new work of his own.