Karl Goes to Brooklyn Bridge Park and Puts on His Art Critic Hat

Mr. J. has been a consistent fan of Brooklyn Bridge Park, but on his latest visit he saw something jarring. After a little research, he found something interesting about its provenance. Here’s the Park’s take on it. Video after the jump.

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  • Karl Junkersfeld

    For the record, I’m obviously not a professional art critic. I have seen Mr. di Suvero’s work before (Govenors Island) and have enjoyed some of his pieces. In fact, this specific artwork, Yoga, was extremely complimentary to its environment when placed in Millennium Park in Chicago. In this case, though, I found it jarring upon entering Pier One on the Bridge View Lawn.

    No doubt some will appreciate having a Mark di Suvero sculpture at Pier One, sadly, I’m not one of them.

  • yoohoo

    As another lay art appreciator, I regret that you’re not in favor of Mark di Suvero’s sculpture in BBP. I first saw his work in Akropolis (?) Park on the East River in Queens and, again, on Governors Island last summer. In the 1980’s, Cadman Plaza Park hosted a large-scale “suspension” sculptures painted fire-engine red that may have been his work. In my opinion, “Yoga” is a worthy (temporary) addition to BBP exactly because it calls to mind the site’s former heavy-duty maritime past, which you mention in your voice-over. Furthermore, its installation at the bottom of the Bridge View lawn, which has had poor drainage and patchy grass cover, gives this area visual appeal. The installation is a “scoop” for the park corporation and Conservancy; their leadership is to be congratulated for having found donors who made it possible.

  • yoohoo

    I urge you to visit Storm King Art Center to see his work in that magnificent landscape.

  • Reggie

    I took a fair amount of art history in college, have been to Storm King numerous times and even visited di Suvero’s studio in LIC once. I will reserve judgement of Yoga until I have seen it in person.

    What I want to know is whether or not there was any public review of the installation. I read blogs and the local weeklies and keep half an ear cocked in the direction of the community board and the CAC. I heard nothing about all this until I read about the sculpture going up. Did I miss something or is this another example of Brooklyn Bridge Park just doing whatever it wants to do?

  • David on Middagh

    @yoohoo: “Temporary” is the key word. I can tolerate just about anything (a misplaced skiing pawn?) if it will go away in a little while.

  • Master Of Middagh

    Ewwww. It looks like just another piece of industrial debris. It isn’t meaningful or inspiring at all. It belongs on a rubbish heap, not in the park…

  • AEB

    Apparently not Mr. di Suvero’s finest hour (though one needs to see it in person in situ).

    But not a “deal breaker” either, in my opinion.

  • chris

    As if the skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge weren’t “sculpture” enough!
    Whether one likes di Suvero sculpture or not, in its current location it seems like clutter.
    What can one expect from a Park administration that destroyed the wonderful expanse between the bridges with a Carousel in an industrial looking glass box?! New Yorkers crave nothing more than wide, natural space, yet that seems to be precisely what the EDC wants to reduce in this Park bit by bit.

  • Neil

    While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this is on the level of the controversy over Richard Serra’s Tilted (or should that be Jilted?) Arc, it is another example, in my opinion, of art imposed by authorities without proper appreciation for local sensitivities.

    Is it, uhmm, ugly? To be sure, but worse is the lack of context for those “not in the know”, a prescription for a low acceptance factor.

    By the way, what ever became of Richard Serra’s vow to leave the U.S. if his Tilted Arc were to be removed from its Federal Plaza site? I’ve never heard that he relocated.

    The last I heard about Tilted Arc was that it was sitting in a Bronx industrial lot, cut into several pieces.

    Richard Serra: The Case of Tilted Arc:


  • Neil

    Hey, Karl, not to worry!

    According to Brownstoner, the thing is to be removed after one year.


  • C.

    chris 15. Dec, 2011 at 1:06 pm #
    “As if the skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge weren’t “sculpture” enough!”

    Exactly. I don’t care what art classes you’ve taken. This thing is ugly. Keep this crap on the Dumbo side that they’ve already ruined with the carousel.

  • David on Middagh

    You said it, Chris. And when the Skiing Pawn is removed next year, the powers that be can just revoke that canopied burrito-munching area that ruined the boardy expanse of Fulton Ferry Landing. Must every open space be decorated or commoditized?

  • hoppy

    Actually, there may be some practical use for this by our young park-goers as a “goal” in a makeshift football throwing and/or placekicking accuracy game.

  • JohnQ

    Hey Karl– Don’t ya know…nothings sells condos like landscaping, sailboats… and world-class sculpture!

  • stuart

    it’s just a temporary installation on loan. These kinds of things crop up in City Hall Park and then disappear. I like public art and so I applaud the BBP Conservancy or whomever for bringing some of it to Brooklyn.
    Tilted arc was a permanent installation in a plaza that was heavily used by working folk to enjoy their lunch and coffee breaks. It was a disastrous installation that cast the sunny plaza into shadow and created creepy cut off sections of space. The “waterfalls” were also disastrous. But those two cases are the exception. Most public art is well received such as the pianos and the painted cows.

  • Karl Junkersfeld


    You know you are one of my favorite posters but you and I will have to agree to disagree on this topic. For example, you mentioned City Hall Park sculptures, therefore I assume you are referencing Sol Lewitt. Here we have an acclaimed artist whose art can only appeal to a select “elite” few. I walk over the Brooklyn Bridge daily and I have been forced to look at Sol’s sculpture entitled “Tower Columbus” every friggin day. This sculpture is a bad joke.

    If you have seen it, and you couldn’t miss it due to its size and position coming off the bridge, please don’t tell me you think it adds to the surrounding area. It is ridiculous. I stood next to it one day and asked approximately 30 passerby’s what they thought and all and I mean all thought it was a terrible waste of money and hated it. (Have it on film) Not one said it added to the environment. Claude, you walk over the bridge daily, do you know the sculpture of which I speak? (See attached link)


  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/13189502@N02/ Eddyenergizer

    To argue whether or not a pice of art is “good” or “bad” is pointless as it is purely subjective. In my sense, for art to be successful it must evoke emotion. Any emotion, not necessarily “good” emotions. Clearly, the pieces being discussed here are successful. If you walk by a sculpture and it gets you to think, it is having an effect on you. Initially you may think “thats ugly” or “WTF” or “why” You may be angry but it got you thinking… those thoughts may ruminate and lead to all sorts of reflections or conclusions that have nothing to do with the piece itself. It just got you going.

    Karl, what makes you react so strongly to the Sol Lewitt piece. You call it a “bad joke”, why. Could it be it symbolizes something you believe you don’t understand thus makes you feel frustrated?

  • http://www.BrooklynHeightsFolkDancers.org Ballerina

    There are two issues here from my perspective. Mark di Suvero is a wonderful and well respected artist. Having this sculpture in the park ls somewhat in keeping with the surrounding architecture so I do not object to it as a piece of art. The second and more important issue is the design and function of the park and the placement of this sculpture. Aesthetically it looks good on the green field. However this park was designed as a showplace and a way to look pretty so that the condos nearby will sell for a high price. I guess that may have been accomplished but this park is not meant to be used and appreciated by the residents nearby. It is not and was not designed as user friendly. There is very inadequate seating for groups, The only area possible for seating is the field where the sculpture now sits.In that area seating is prohibited and vision for film and shows will be impaired by the sculpture. The park is designed to look pretty and not to be used by many people. People older than 20 cannot sit on the grass and the children’s playground had elements that burned the children until that became a major issue and was since repaired. Why aren’t the needs of the community taken into account in the design of the park instead of just the needs of the developers?

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    “Karl, what makes you react so strongly to the Sol Lewitt piece. You call it a “bad joke”, why. Could it be it symbolizes something you believe you don’t understand thus makes you feel frustrated?”

    That must be it My limited intellect frustrates me daily and especially when it comes to interpreting abstract impressionistic art.

    This reminds me of a lecture I went to at the New School and the class was discussing some of Mark diSuvero’s sculptures at Govenors Island and many in the audience were arguing that his art evoked a Freudian interpretation. Yea, you got it. The verticle V shape was argued that it represented a vagina. (Sorry if I offended someone). This is very common. How many times have we noted the horizontal form being phallic? I don’t buy it. But then again, maybe I didn’t understand it due to my limited intellect.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/13189502@N02/ Eddyenergizer

    Karl, don’t be so hard on yourself. It is pointless to knock your brains out trying to “interpret abstract impressionistic art” as there as many “meanings” as people who experience it. The artist may indeed have had a certain thought/feeling they wanted to convey when they created a work and some people may even “get it’ to a degree, however, it does not mean those who feel or think something completely different are wrong. If art speaks to you on any level you “get it”.
    Look at the effect the Sol Lewitt piece had, it inspired you to make a video questioning its validity and post a comment about it; that in turn inspired me to think about the affect of art and those who feel intimidated by it. Perhaps, it will lead to a realization that just because you don’t think you “get it” does not mean you are dummy. All from a pile of cement blocks, pretty cool aye?

  • Master Of Middagh

    I have heard the argument before that art is successful if it creates ANY reaction at all, but I don’t agree with that. You could put a water fountain where a sculpture stands and people will still have a reaction to it- does that make the water fountain a successful work of art? Only in an abstract sense…

    It may be that a work of art (sculpture in this case) is successful if it accomplishes its task. But what is the task of this sculpture? Is it to inspire negative thoughts or confusion? I doubt it. We’re talking about a public park here- the aim should be for beauty, harmony and inspiration. You don’t go to the park to be bummed out, alarmed or offended.

    The sculpture is called “Yoga”, so I imagine its intent is to depict a person in a yoga pose reduced to weathered industrial materials… However, that very weathered industrial look makes the sculpture not beautiful and disharmonious with the green environment. It is tranquil, but not inspiring or meaningful. It is an unattractive depiction of someone doing yoga in a place where you’re not really permitted to practice yoga. It doesn’t make sense.

    While this sculpture might be appropriate in some other setting- here, it fails in its function. You can’t be tasked with making a film for children, give them a bunch or blood and horror and call it “art” because it had an effect on the children…

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/13189502@N02/ Eddyenergizer

    Ballerina, “People older than 20 cannot sit on the grass” Really, since when?


    This is to agree heartily with most of critical comments.
    Of course this thing doesn’t fit in. So why is it here? No doubt because the artist’s very effective commercial sales machinery promoted it. What a great showcase and for free!
    If you are looking for anything truly original or relevant to its surroundings from di Suvero, forget it. He’s been making an extremely good living for many years selling his bent and welded metal stuff literally hundreds of times to municipalities and others for decades. Over and over. With a new name attached.
    As far as giving this one a name, how about one of these: twaddle, drivel, buncombe, flapdoodle, claptrap, and my favorite, purely personal piffle?

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/13189502@N02/ Eddyenergizer

    Master of Middagh, You are entitled to have your own opinion on what you consider to be art. You also are have the right to like or dislike any particular piece of art. However, I think you argument about the water fountain is erroneous. I never said, if anything causes a reaction it is art. I said, if a piece of art causes a reaction it is successful. Furthermore, “successful” does not mean everyone who experiences it must like it, nor does necessarily mean it was created to make people “feel good”.
    In the case of “Yoga” you are probably right, I doubt the artist and the park planners intend people to feel “bummed out, alarmed or offended” by the piece and I doubt most park visitors will have that reaction. Beauty is subjective. Just because you don’t like it or find it inspiring does not make it universally bad or out of place. Clearly, some people like it or it wouldn’t be there.

  • http://www.BrooklynHeightsFolkDancers.org Ballerina

    To Eddyenergizer what I meant is that sitting on the grass and not on a chair of some kind is difficult for 4 plus hours which is needed for a movie etc. chairs are not permitted on the grass and it is almost impossible to see a concert or movie from the road where only about 10 chairs are permitted. Try sitting on the grass for that long, all the more power to you for being able to do it. Many people I know, over 30, who live in the Heights have given up going to movies etc in the park which previously they enjoyed.

  • Master Of Middagh

    I disagree with the premise that art is successful just for creating a reaction because art can have a specific purpose for which it fails. For instance, you can use any art for the purpose of art therapy, but only certain kinds have proven successful.

    I don’t think my negative reaction to the sculpture is the minority view here, as you might suggest. You seem to like it, and that’s fine, but you appear to have a more sophisticated view of art than the average park goer and I suspect that this understanding allows you to appreciate it where most others would not.

    The generally accepted purpose of a park is “human recreation and enjoyment”. So I think the aim for any sculpture placed in the park is that it should appeal to and speak to the greatest number of people in a positive way. And I really don’t see any way in which “Yoga” accomplishes this.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/13189502@N02/ Eddyenergizer

    Yes but what is fails on one level can succeed on another.

    I never suggested your opinion of the sculpture is the “minority view”, I merely said “Some people clearly liked it”.
    I think the piece is Okay, not great, However, I don’t think it at all detracts from the park.

    My original post was trying to help people have a better appreciation for art by helping them realize they shouldn’t feel intimidated by it. Art interpretation does not require a university degree.

    Oh one more thing, you said “It is an unattractive depiction of someone doing yoga in a place where you’re not really permitted to practice yoga”? Why can’t someone practice yoga there? There are no rules against it.