Outdoors, and Out of Bounds
Seventeen artists and groups of artists are part of the second annual outdoor sculpture show organized by the Shore Institute of the Contemporary Arts in Long Branch. The works are installed throughout the city and along the oceanfront boardwalk.
The best way to see this entertaining exhibition is on foot, beginning at the Shore Institute. Free maps are available there listing the location of each of the 26 works. It takes about an hour to see everything if you take your time, which I did, for part of the fun is ferreting out the sculptures in the urban landscape.
This is not always easy, for some artists have worked hard to make their sculptures blend into the environment. Chela St. Onge’s “Pueblo,” a blue and white concrete structure in a pedestrian walkway between buildings, doesn’t immediately register as art. It looks more like a playhouse for kids.
Last year there was a great deal of abstract metal sculpture in the show, and this year is the same; it is a smart choice for the outdoors, since it doesn’t deteriorate. Kevin Karwan’s “El Nuevo,” for instance, is a tubular metal abstract installed near a bus stop in front of the Portuguese Club on Broadway, the main street. It looks pretty good there, livening up the sidewalk.
Farther along the same street is Bob Mataranglo’s “Cone Boy,” a figure with an ice cream cone for a body, a boy’s head and sneakers. Standing on top of a building, it is easily missed. The boy is watching another figure, also by the artist: a man suspended on a pole as if flying. It is a lot of fun.
Happily, vandalism and theft have not been too much of a problem for the artists, according to Douglas Ferrari, the exhibition coordinator and the director of SICA. However, one night somebody removed the figures from Merelee Syron’s mixed-media installation “The Snowball Fight” and rearranged them in a compromising position on a median strip. They are now in a vacant lot behind a fence.
Several works are installed along and around Ocean Boulevard, which pretty much divides the beach from the town. Once again, you’ll have to take some time to look for them, but most are easy to find. Many of the best outdoor sculptures in the show are also installed here, with two in particular catching my eye.
The first was Jane A. Craven’s “Artistic Platforms,” a group of wooden soapboxes for impromptu speeches installed at a busy intersection. Ms. Craven has customized each of them for different kinds of public pontification, painting along the side words like “religious,” “political,” “feminism” and “academic.” I love the artist’s cheekiness.
I also liked Pat Brentano’s “Missing Tree,” a silhouette of a tree cut from an aluminum plate and installed in a vacant lot against trees and scrub. When viewed from the front, the metal plate looks like a tree itself. It is simple but clever, and a bit more intriguing than many of the other pieces.
Most of the artists in this exhibition are from New York and New Jersey. The majority are not very well known, which is refreshing but means the standard of work varies considerably. Some of the pieces were also a little worse for wear when I saw them in August, about three months into the show, suggesting that not all the artists are experienced at making sculpture for outdoor environments.
Adam D. Murray is one artist who seems to have a good understanding of the specific challenges of outdoor sculpture. His “Weeds,” installed on a median strip in the middle of a traffic circle at the bottom of Garfield Avenue, opposite the beach, is one of the most successful works in the show.
Mr. Murray’s work consists of a series of narrow metal rods topped with decorative arrangements made of pieces of rubber car tire. They look a bit like Hawaiian tiki lamps, which is not a bad association since they are installed right near the beach. Over all they are strange yet powerful, something different from the flowers that often grace such spaces. These are darker blooms.
Location is crucial in placing outdoor sculpture. That SICA managed to get the city behind the exhibition, giving the organization access to so many interesting spaces, is what makes this show different from, and a lot better than, most other temporary urban sculpture parks.