About the Exhibition
Building on the successful six-year history of the MetroTech public art program organized by the Public Art Fund, four new works by emerging artists are on view at the MetroTech Commons in an exhibition entitled Beyond the Monument. The artists selected for this year’s exhibit reflect the diverse communities resident in Brooklyn, and their works address expectations of monumentality in public art. Korean-born artist Do-Ho Suh; Brooklyn-based artist Tony Matelli; Chakaia Booker, a leading African-American sculptor; and Brazilian-born artist and Brooklyn resident Valeska Soares respond to the corporate and educational complex with four distinctive artworks.
Chakaia Booker, Serendipity
Chakaia Booker’s project for the MetroTech Commons, entitled Serendipity, is a 60-foot-long, perforated wood screen richly textured by salvaged tires. Made entirely of wooden planks covered by the treated rubber of automobile, bicycle, and moped tires, the strong, graceful presence of Serendipity belies the rugged quality of the materials from which it is constructed. From the Commons, viewers can see through the undulating wall, creating new views of the area, while viewing the work from high office windows reveals the sculpture’s shape as a question mark. Booker’s treatment of the tires, salvaged from Brooklyn’s scrap yards, renders an exquisitely varied surface to this remarkable artwork. Drawing a direct relationship between the re-use of tires in her work and the regeneration of urban areas, Booker (b.1953, Newark, NJ) specifically refers to the historical use of tired rubber in her outdoor urban beautification projects (Green Thumb and Mother Tree projects in Brooklyn) and in domestic gardens (as flower planters and pots).
Tony Matelli, Stray Dog
Tony Matelli’s hyper-real sculptural work challenges established perceptions of American icons, often creating a disconcerting tension. At MetroTech Center, Matelli (b.1971, Chicago, IL) presents the ultimate stray—a lost seeing-eye dog that seemingly wanders about without his blind master. Stray Dog, a golden Labrador retriever fitted with a leash for his blind master, is seen along in the Commons, wondering where his dependent owner could be. The missing blind person, Matelli proposes, is another potential “stray” lost without her/his guide dog. The artist considers this incredibly detailed, eye-catching rendering the perfect anti-monument—“forever on the move and either endearing or hopeless, perhaps lost for good.”
Valeska Soares, Histórias
Valeska Soares’s text-based Histórias focuses on “the garden” as it has been constructed over time, both conceptually and visually. Referring to the sometimes-mythological idea of the garden, the title of the piece reveals a fluid definition of “histories,” which in Soares’s native Portuguese can refer to both fictional and non-fictional texts, fusing the historical, the anecdotal and the literary. At MetroTech Center, Soares’s conceptions of “the garden” are articulated by eighty two-inch copper bands attached to each of the delicate trees that are formally arranged at the heart of the Commons. The copper bands are engraved with the bibliographic information of an international array of books printed throughout the century, all with the word “garden” in the title. The rich selection of authors and titles (in more than ten languages) creates a visually striking and poetic space among the trees. These engraved bands will gently oxidize and turn green over the length of the exhibition, marking the changing of the seasons and providing a counterpoint to the formality of this architectural space. Soares (b.1957, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerals, Brazil) offers this collection of bibliographic information to provide an enhanced, evolving experience of the Commons.
Do-Ho Suh, Public Figures
Do-Ho Suh (b.1962, Seoul, South Korea), questioning the role of memorials and statues dedicated to illustrious individuals, turns the traditional monument upside down in his Public Figures. Instead of a single figure perched on her or his pedestal, Suh creates a pedestal supported by hundreds of miniature, anonymous male and female figures, refocusing the viewer’s attention from the individual to the masses. Challenging the established notion of the common citizen revering a monument to an important figure, Suh emphasizes the power of the individual and repositions the citizen within public space. The “public figures” supporting his stone pedestal, Suh says, “represent the multiple, the diverse, the anonymous mass…supporting and resisting the stone.” Suh’s work is informed by his personal experience of making the cultural shift from South Korea to the United States, and focuses on the individual’s ability to claim both private and public space.