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July 28, 2003 1:52 PM   Subscribe

Port of San Diego Considers Gigantic, Cartoonish Eyesore for Park Sculpture
An unsolicited proposal for a 200 foot long, 50 foot high sculpture in bronze, granite and water is under review by the public art committee of the Port of San Diego. The artist is A. Wasil, a master builder of the Robert Kaskey (Portlandia, WWII Veterans Memorial) school. The presentation is high tech, the concept is 'bold,' the corporate backers are many (and they're bidding for naming rights). One problem: it sucks. Read Robert Pincus's review of a piece of public art he (and I) hope will never be.
posted by rschram (62 comments total)

 
One problem: it sucks.

Problem Two: Dolphins on leashes. It just seems wrong somehow. But maybe that's just me.
posted by soyjoy at 1:58 PM on July 28, 2003


Oh, they're supposed to be whales? Well, then, no problem. Carry on.
posted by soyjoy at 1:59 PM on July 28, 2003


Just so you don't think San Diego is a total cultural wasteland, I point you to the UC San Diego Stuart Collection, a campus-wide collection of site-specific sculptures and installations that includes Niki de Saint-Phalle's 'Sun God' and Nam June Paik's video installation 'Something Pacific,' and the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla. How can one city contain two polar opposites as these?
posted by rschram at 2:00 PM on July 28, 2003


Make it a naked chick instead of a dude and I'm all for it.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:00 PM on July 28, 2003


Make it a naked chick instead of a dude and I'm all for it.

Yeah, but then it wouldn't so goddamn phallic. That seems to be a theme in Wasil's portfolio.
posted by rschram at 2:02 PM on July 28, 2003


That reminds me: it's been ages since the last time I saw Clash of the Titans...
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 2:03 PM on July 28, 2003


Bernini, one of the great 17th-century artists, tops the list with his glorious Trevi Fountain in Rome (co-credited to architect Pietro de Cortona). Its Neptune is surely one inspiration for Wasil's, but "Spirit of the Seas" makes one think of Las Vegas' Caesars Palace more than any Italian landmark.

My thought exactly.

And for those Eiffel tower comparisons: bigger does not make it better. (Unless we're talking about penises, of course.)
posted by widdershins at 2:06 PM on July 28, 2003


Problem three: No one here in San Diego wants it. Nothing says San Diego like........ dolphin racing???
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:07 PM on July 28, 2003


You're right PST, it makes me want to shout, "release the Krakon!"
posted by Pollomacho at 2:09 PM on July 28, 2003


Wow. I'm reminded of the opening credits of Xena, with that CGI watery god rising out of the sea. Somehow, I don't think that's the intended result...
posted by kaemaril at 2:09 PM on July 28, 2003


"I am Neptune, god of the seas! I conjure up storms and destroy ships!" (Family Guy)
posted by Sangre Azul at 2:15 PM on July 28, 2003


Honestly, that thing kicks ass.

And it's a gift to the city, for chrissakes. If you don't like it, keep the receipt.
posted by Samsonov14 at 2:18 PM on July 28, 2003


Yeah crash, where the hell are the mermaids?
posted by pitchblende at 2:25 PM on July 28, 2003


One problem: it sucks.

People said the same thing about the Chicago Picasso when it was built.

Granted the Chicago Picasso is a little classier than this thing. But is San Diego. Okay - maybe I'm a little ignorant of this town - but isn't it mostly a Navy town? I'm sure they will think it's "bitch'n."

Of course - I just saw a documentary about Mt. Rushmore and one of the things they pointed out was that the monument was actually a little tacky. And that got me thinking - you know... it sort of is in a way. Especially now a days with the specter of run away patriotism hanging over us. Granted, its no God Bless America Pizza Box. But I digress...
posted by wfrgms at 2:31 PM on July 28, 2003


That's just awful. You enter through an archway to see this huge sculpture on an even bigger plaza with 5 benches and no facilities, in a land where there are apparently no tides, so the whole thing can rest just above the ocean's surface and never be flooded.

Why would people go there? Okay, why would they go more than once? It's not an adjunct to anything, and it even sucks as a meeting place, for all the noise from the fountains and lack of seating or stages.

This is a work of someone with a bigger ego than Poseidon. The artist should really know better.
posted by kfury at 2:32 PM on July 28, 2003


That looks awful, at least in the artist's rendering. Seriously, we're still regretting the unfortunate design of the EMP, aka Technicolor Vomit Wad, here in Seattle. Don't make our mistake.
posted by Hildago at 2:33 PM on July 28, 2003


Problem three: No one here in San Diego wants it. I hope so! But Pincus says it's receiving public support.

What I want to know is what's really going on here. The website for the proposal and the UT review both suggest that the intent is to build a grandiose icon by which the San Diego region can be known generally, much like the St. Louis archway, the Seattle Space Needle, or (in its day) the Eiffel Tower. This may be a good enough reason. But whose idea is this anyway? Does the Business Club of San Diego just have to scrape together enough backing, hire some shill, and wow the local politicians with a crowd-pleasing 'tribute to man's conquest of nature' or whatever, and they get to have their own tourist trap on public land?

Another, less conspiratorial theory (but then again PetCo Park, the new stadium for the Pads, opens downtown in April 04) is that this is an artistic preemptive strike on San Diego by the conservative culture-warriors who want to stop "meaningless" public art and prefer money be spent (either public or private, but eventually it's always public) on works which represent the "Western tradition" and the greatness of American civilization. (Sorry, no links, I guess I'm just a crank.)
posted by rschram at 2:40 PM on July 28, 2003


I dunno. I don't totally hate it on sight. However, there is something a bit odd about creating such a huge Greek Myth sculpture in this day and age. And in that location. Is there any sort of local Native American legend about the sea that would make a better piece?

And I'm not too sure about the harnessed whales either. (I thought they were dolphins too until reading the site.)
posted by dnash at 2:44 PM on July 28, 2003


Aw man, fuck you guys, that's the coolest fountain I've ever seen, and I went to Art School.

What it really needs is an intricately timed fountain extravanganza (Right now I only see the "Bidet" and "Blowhole" varieties in the animation), coordinated to a laser light show with the Carmina Burana's "O Fortuna" blasting into the sky. I'm not kidding, I want to see this happen. And like, you definitely need to make the pool around 30 feet deep so the Cirque Du Soleil "O" divers can have space to work.



What I don't really understand is why this isn't part of a larger "San Diego Aquarium" project.
posted by Stan Chin at 2:48 PM on July 28, 2003


Wow, that would be hilarious! I really hope they build it.
posted by homunculus at 2:49 PM on July 28, 2003


Or maybe San Diego is feeling a bit jonesy with San Jose's spectacular MONOPOLY IN THE PARK.


I have four words for you San Diego:

Giant. Hungry. Hungry. Hippos.
posted by Stan Chin at 2:52 PM on July 28, 2003


I like it, but only because it's not in my town.
posted by 2sheets at 2:55 PM on July 28, 2003


It's not boring, and it's not oppressive. That puts it miles ahead of most large-scale public art, in my book.

It's overblown as hell, deliberately kitschy, and kind of fun. So what's the problem? You'd maybe rather have Highly Conceptual Featureless Bronze Cube No. 37?
posted by ook at 2:59 PM on July 28, 2003


It looks like that Wyland guy's art on a massive scale. Does anyone hate his whale murals as much as I do? There's one in downtown Atlanta above an old railroad depot across from the World of Coke, hundreds of miles from the closest whale. He's the Thomas Kinkade of the deep.
posted by Frank Grimes at 3:00 PM on July 28, 2003


I'm SO dumping 1200 gallons of detergent in that pool.
posted by kahboom at 3:00 PM on July 28, 2003


1) There are a number of "whales" that do, from what I recall of cetacean physiology, look vaguely dolphin-ish. I thought they were dolphins too.

2) I'm from St. Louis, home of the Arch. It's the "Gateway to the West", a monument to westward expansion (the phrase "westward expansion" is in the official, National Parks Service name). It's also rather abstract. Also in Downtown St. Louis are a sculpture by Richard Serra - large steel slabs, and the art-deco "Meeting of the Waters", which is what the San Diego sculpture reminds me of. I think public art works best when it's done in the current style. I absolutely love art deco styling, but when it's alluded to in modern works, I can't but think, "get your own damn style".
Also, the more abstract pieces - the Arch (I'll admit bias), the Eiffel Tower, fountains, all seem more timeless.
posted by notsnot at 3:03 PM on July 28, 2003


When San Francisco was "furnishing" the new Yerba Buena Gardens (situated across the street from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) and destined to host the Yerba Buena Center for the Performing Arts, the city commissioned only artists from Los Angeles for the sculpture contract (as if SF had or has a dearth of fine sculptures.)

The winning design of the lot submitted from LA (for which the artist received $80K) was a series of four very tall (several stories high) walk through arches, each with a permanent banner at the top.

The four arches would (in insanely bold block letters) read out thusly:
    THIS IS A BEAUTIFUL NEIGHBORHOOD
Thankfully, cooler (and more tasteful) heads prevailed.

So, although the artist was paid for their idea, we were not --in the final landscaping realization-- subjected to the proposed and rather un-San Francisco-like confection.

Next time I hope they offer local sculptural projects to some of our very talented local artists: gifted folks who have a very good feel for the San Francisco vibe.

As far as the "Neptune Cowboy" sculpture goes: Hm. I lived just north of Diego for a while, and I somehow don't buy that the local populace believes that a gigantic "Whale Stagecoach" sculpture just screams "San Diego!"

(On preview, what notsnot sez.)
posted by Dunvegan at 3:16 PM on July 28, 2003


The whales are obviously Orcas, which I don't even think live around San Diego. Grey whales? Okay. Orcas? No. But it looks like it'd be located right off the Embarcadero by Seaport Village, which is a complete tourist trap anyway. I doubt I'd ever even see it.
posted by LionIndex at 3:18 PM on July 28, 2003


Frank Grimes .. .I like this whaling wall in Redondo Beach, one town south of where I was born. . .is it just so much kitsch? Don't know, and one of these far from the ocean (Atlanta?) does not appear to make sense either..

Oh btw, I sort of like the San Diego proposal. With monumental public art, there will always be people who legitimately hate it. I hope that San Diegans get a full voice in deciding, though.
posted by Danf at 3:23 PM on July 28, 2003


I like it.

And I am a highly elitist, hater-of-the-common-man, snobbish Derrida-reading architect.
posted by signal at 3:29 PM on July 28, 2003


The damned thing looks like really kitschy Hollywood decor, worse than Cecil B. DeMille in its rendering. Why does Neptune remind me of the floating head from Zardoz? And the action of the whales is completely out of proportion with Neptune's grip. Has A. Wasil ever heard of torque?

If this monstrosity goes through, then the City of San Diego deserves the nightmare that they get.
posted by ed at 3:33 PM on July 28, 2003


It's not boring, and it's not oppressive. That puts it miles ahead of most large-scale public art, in my book.

Wait, the giant bronze sculpture of an ancient sea god isn't oppressive? What does he have to do, shoot fire?
posted by Hildago at 3:41 PM on July 28, 2003


"maybe I'm a little ignorant of this town - but isn't it mostly a Navy town?"

It's a Navy town. But it's first and foremost a cultural crossroads. Since you can ride the trolley from downtown to Mexico it will be no surprise that there is a huge Mexican/Spanish influence. But there is also a thriving Asian and Filipino community. One of the main draws in town is Balboa park with it's 15 museums and free organ concerts. Also a wonderful mix of Internet and bio tech. Nice music scene as well.

The city has nothing to do with Poseidon as far as I know. It would make as much sense to erect a huge statue of Custer.
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:42 PM on July 28, 2003


Beats the Chicago Picasso hands down.
posted by rushmc at 5:23 PM on July 28, 2003


Good god, that looks like something that you'd see airbrushed on a van!
posted by ukamikanasi at 5:25 PM on July 28, 2003


thank you homer:

When Herbert learns the monstrosity costs $82,000, Herbert realizes he's doomed. Homer gives the horn a honk, and it plays `La Cucaracha'. Herbert's bags are packed as a crane replaces the `Powell Motors' sign with `Kumatsu Motors'.
posted by lsd4all at 5:31 PM on July 28, 2003


"Good god, that looks like something that you'd see airbrushed on a van!"

Like, totally!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:54 PM on July 28, 2003



Wait, the giant bronze sculpture of an ancient sea god isn't oppressive?


Residents of the Klingon Empire, aka Albany NY, know from oppressive. This sea god, on the other hand, looks like he should have carnival music playing out from his nose. Along with the fire. That would be, like, totally!
posted by ook at 6:03 PM on July 28, 2003


I LOVE IT. I would gaze at it in awe, I'm quite sure.
posted by PigAlien at 6:28 PM on July 28, 2003


Man, I like it. I like it a lot, and I love the fact that it's gigantic- completely remniscent of the ancient wonders statues, and sure, it doesn't say San Diego to me now, but then again, nothing much does. If they had something like that, I would remember and correlate, and probably visit just to see it.
posted by headspace at 6:29 PM on July 28, 2003


for what little it's worth, I like it as well. And if the philistines in San Diego won't have it, I'm sure we'd take it here in Virginia.
posted by crunchland at 6:30 PM on July 28, 2003


Residents of the Klingon Empire, aka Albany NY, know from oppressive.

Ha, I've never heard the Empire State Plaza, Opera House, and office buildings referred to as that. I have always loved that place. Hope it doesn't make me a hypocrite. I certainly don't think so.
posted by ~rschram at 6:46 PM on July 28, 2003


one question -- do those guys have lasers on their heads?

though holy jesus rschram, you like the Stuart Collection? bloody Sun God is like Superchicken, except without the cool battle cry. that shit was a constant source of disparaging jokes from every corner while I was at UCSD -- especially Sun God, Vices and Virtues (a bit from the site on V&V -- "This complicated performance, generated by the mechanical sequencing of a simple moral dichotomy, dramatizes the instability of any ethical judgement." What a load of crap. It's a bunch of neon signs wrapped around a concrete building!), and my personal favorite, Trees -- speakers playing tapes through big metal trees, interspersed in the completely and obviously artificial eucalyptus groves on campus. A favorite of acid trippers from the Che Cafe at any time of day...

Snake Path is cool though. Leads to the flying saucer library. But based on the UCSD Art Dept. and it's all very appropriate. Too damn bad Italo Scanga's dead though -- that must have been a real blow to the department, and the SD art community.
posted by badzen at 7:00 PM on July 28, 2003


It looks way too big for the space shown, leapin' right out of the pool & all....since it's gonna be funded by corporations, maybe they should move it just slightly offshore?
posted by cookie-k at 7:30 PM on July 28, 2003


I must be insane, but on first glance I love this thing. It is cartoony, and pop, and monolithic, and very much Harryhausen channeling Bernini on steroids.

Then again, it is a man-like god asserting his dominance over the seas in the form of orcas on leashes. Couldn't ol' Poseidon just frolic with some dolphins or something?

The work pays homage to our intimate involvement with the world's oceans, myriad world cultures and our rich heritage of interdependence with the seas.

The work symbolizes our rape and destruction of the world's oceans...
posted by Shane at 7:31 PM on July 28, 2003


Well I love it, but it's well known that i have a weakness for ridiculously oversized sculptures of people (ala The Colossus of Rhodes). Also, that I have questionable taste...
posted by jonson at 7:42 PM on July 28, 2003


At least this thread makes it clear why we will never have a MetaFilter sculpture gallery.

"Shouldn't Matt's head be bigger?"

"But then you couldn't see the ponies!!!"

"DAMMIT! Why can't you all see that a binary module is the better isomorphic metaphor!!!"

"Pike!"

posted by yhbc at 7:49 PM on July 28, 2003


Well, I won't be satisfied until !rschram has had his say.
posted by ook at 8:08 PM on July 28, 2003


I have to admit that I like it too. It would make a hell of an album cover for an obscure '70s progressive rock band.
posted by kindall at 8:11 PM on July 28, 2003


This is a pretty dynamic piece. I don't usually go for representative art in the public arena, but this ain't bad.

What is bad (sorry, no link) is what went up in my home town of Denver a couple of months ago. A 1.5 million dollar sculpture of a couple of anorexic alien "dancers." You can't please everyone, but when choosing a piece of art, it's not good to piss off 90% of the local artists.
posted by kozad at 9:48 PM on July 28, 2003


As long as the whales are made to represent all the major US ethnic groups, then it's okay.
posted by HTuttle at 11:28 PM on July 28, 2003


At least it's not Brushstrokes in Flight. To appreciate my disdain for this piece, though, I suppose you'd have to have lived through the hype that surrounded it when the city of Columbus decided to shell out for it. Even if it had been brilliant, it would have sucked.
posted by kindall at 12:11 AM on July 29, 2003


Man, I like it. I like it a lot, and I love the fact that it's gigantic- completely remniscent of the ancient wonders statues...

So if San Diego builds this they get +1 trade unit in every square of their city radius?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 3:50 AM on July 29, 2003


Dolphins on leashes The whales are obviously Orcas
Orcas is a Dolphin. Orcas are dolphins. They are the biggest species in the family Delphinidae. Shamu is an Orcas, it eats whales why it's common name is Killer Whale.

The 5 whales represent each city that the Port of San Diego serves: San Diego, National City, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, and Coronado
Looking at what they are calling whales the shade patters look like Shamu known too as Orcas. The description whale alone is a miss-print without Killer.
posted by thomcatspike at 5:53 AM on July 29, 2003


looks like something only zippy could love!
posted by aiq at 5:54 AM on July 29, 2003


The 5 whales represent each city that the Port of San Diego serves: San Diego, National City, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, and Coronado

...being controlled by leashes in the hands of a big, burly, white guy, err, god. I wonder who Poseidon represents?
posted by RylandDotNet at 6:59 AM on July 29, 2003


I like San Antonio's Torch of Friendship.
posted by gimonca at 7:19 AM on July 29, 2003


TCS: d'oh! Got me!
posted by LionIndex at 7:35 AM on July 29, 2003


So if San Diego builds this they get +1 trade unit in every square of their city radius?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 5:50 AM CST on July 29


God damn, that kicked ass.
posted by COBRA! at 7:37 AM on July 29, 2003


Orcas is a Dolphin. Orcas are dolphins.

Oh. Well then, my original objection is back on. This sucks.
posted by soyjoy at 7:47 AM on July 29, 2003


I tell you what, I'll trade you for it?
posted by Pollomacho at 9:34 AM on July 29, 2003


oh man, that totally rocks!
posted by centrs at 10:14 AM on July 29, 2003


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