Monday, February 14, 2005

 

New York City, February 2005: The Gates of Central Park

Wherein I prove yet again that I am a no-fun philistine!

I spent some quality time with Christo's Gates today in Central park, which were being enjoyed by throngs of people.

For an account by someone who appreciated the Gates as they were meant to be, one can’t do better than Nina’s blog, whose extensive photo essay beautifully captures the experience in words and pictures. Nina was all over those things. Here at CM, you’ll have to settle for the opinions of a sore-head.

I thought the Gates were kind of neat: 20 foot high plastic trestles in a pleasant “saffron” color, lining several miles of Central Park’s winding walkways at 5-10 yard intervals, varying by width to match the width of the pathway, each adorned with hanging saffron sailcloth or some such fabric waving in the gentle breeze.

And yet, part of me couldn’t help but feel like this was another situation in which the talent of the “artist” is that of the tailor in “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” or Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man. This isn’t the first “art” exhibit based on the theory that a large, neatly arranged assemblage of like items can be shaped into art. I think of the oil can collection in a glass display case at Luna Café. Perhaps a collection of several thousand supersized traffic cones or road construction warning flags lining the paths would have worked just as well aesthetically.
“No that’s exactly the point. The fact that you think an orange cone or flag would work just as well as a saffron-colored, sailcloth-draped gate shows precisely that you are not an artist!”
True enough, I’m no artist. But are the gates so different from, say, those colorful lamp-post banners that many cities now use to announce their museum shows, symphonies and Major League Baseball teams? I really like Christmas lights. Aren’t the gates just a clunkier attempt, than Christmas lights, to dress up some already awesome landscaping? We’re talking about Central Park here, one of the most beautiful urban parks in the world. What a bore, huh? Did it “need something,” like bland chili?

When it comes to deploying an army of pretty flag bearers in a tree-lined field, Cristo’s Gates seem quite pale next to Kurasawa’s movie tableaux in Ran and Kagemusha, whose scenes of thousands of soldiers in color-coordinated medieval Japanese armor take your breath away.

Speaking of pale, Cristo’s “saffron” did get me thinking. If only he could have interspersed royal blue gates with his saffron ones, we might have had a lovely celebration of the New York Mets, or if you like, the 40th anniversary of the 1964-65 New York Worlds Fair. Are the Mets colors blue and saffron? “There’s a thought,” I thought as I sat on a park bench peeling my tangelo. Holding the tangelo peels up to my eye, I found the color to be very close to that of the gates. How close are these other oranges to saffron?
Orange peel
Zabar’s shopping bag logo
Traffic cone (too red)
Automobile front end turn signal
I began to notice orange all around me. The festive orange-colored winter hat (very close to saffron) of the woman in front of me was to worn to have been bought for today’s Gate-watching, but some of the orange scarves we saw, as my companion B observed, looked pret-ty new. The traffic cones have too much red in them. The cabs are an orangy-yellow, but definitely more yellow than orange – next to the gates.

Hmmm. Getting your butt out to Central Park on a crisp winter day, getting you to think about color. Is it perhaps... art?

Comments:
hehe. You make me laugh. For the reocrd, it's Christo and JEAN-CLAUDE's Gates. They make a big deal of the fact that she now shares publicity for these projects. I saw it on tv. Apparently their art projects were first marketed under his name only for simplicity sake, but now she gets credit too. The royal blue and saffron idea is great though, just so you don't think I'm criticizing ya. And I'm not even a Mets fan.
 
So much to be said about your post, so little time to say it (a lecture needs polishing for tomorrow).

How can anything that attracts so much passion and discussion be not worthwhile? Imagine, Oscar, we here, on this side of the ocean, are engaged in a discussion of art -- what is it? what impact it has on us? etc.

Isn't that in itself splendid??

But if you want to play free association, I think that one commenter said it best when he (I think it was a he... maybe not) said HOME DEPOT!

One more quickie: seeing the Gates on a rainy Monday is hardly an uplifiting experience. Been there, done that. And yet, it even drew you to take a look , to formulate an opinion.

Think: urban art, free, for everyone to comment on. How cool is that!
 
Turns out it's spelled Jeanne. Sorry about that.
 
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Saffron gates are what we need much more of in our war of the worlds world.I missed my call to get to the gates but when we all dressed in our don`t shoot us orange colors they would have seen the peace and lovemovement of john lennon and if we had all been there for john he would still be alive to walk the saffron gates with us but alas lifes get busy and minds go muddied but the healing of the saffron is there for the takeing for all who would see.One day for John lennon with all of us in orange makeing the walk from the dakota to the park and though the gates and peace and love would have been reborn if only for a day or two.The gates were by everyone and for everyone but the curtain call was missed and now there is only parts of a puzzle that many do not understand but if on that day in 2006 and onward if we on that day we heed our call and show up at the dakota and make the walk in large numbers than peace and love could still be reborn thats all we are saying.
 
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