in the Public Realm
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Previous Newsletters Vol. 2  Issue 7 - July, 2012

We have to confess that one of the guilty pleasures of living in New York City at this time of year is that the population migrates on weekends. Parking is to be had on all sides of the street; restaurant reservations at normal dining hours in trendy eateries abound; the pace of work becomes progressively more leisured out as people take serial vacations; and you could practically have a row to yourself on the subway. For most city dwellers, it wouldn't be summer without a pilgrimage to the shore. While shopping for the perfect hostess gift we discovered display racks all over the Upper East Side groaning under the weight of fish-themed tsatchkas. We wondered whether our Museum Without Walls was similarly afflicted and learned much to our delight that we too possessed a burgeoning collection of, for lack of a better word, fish art.

What is it, we asked, that inspires an artist to create a fish? Is it about adjacency to the shoreline, is it about fish as food, fishing for ideas, or the metaphor of the fishbowl? We put together a virtual exhibition of some of the more provocative pieces by Shona Kitchen, Ben Hooker, Ming Fay, and Donald Lipski, our featured artist, among others. On a larger architectural scale, it's easy to imagine that Frank Gehry was probably inspired by the seafood cuisine when he came up with his series of Fish-shaped restaurants. But we wondered what could have inspired the Brahmins of Boston 50 years ago to take a gander on seven lightly experienced architects (Cambridge Seven), and commission them to design a four story fishbowl and what inspired those young designers to rise to the occasion and transform not only the Harbor, but the City, and the whole field of aquarium design.

True, fishing is about casting your line to see what kind of food you can hook and in turn how you can cook it. But fish can also be food for thought. To us, fish can be pretty inspiring.

Abby Suckle, President
Featured Art Collection: FISH

So, what inspires fish art. Sometimes it's a no-brainer where the commission is fish or sea related. How can you not embed the 300 foot long concrete wall of the New York Aquarium that faces the Coney Island Boardwalk with fish as Artist Toshio Sasaki did? The concept obviously still has merit as the Aquarium has just announced plans to install a 1100 foot long 'Shimmer Wall' as part of its current overhaul which will 'evoke images of schooling sardines or anchovies'.

Fish are sometimes used as a metaphor such as at the Delancy Street subway platform; Ming Fay wrapped the wall in Shad swimming upstream which to him is evocative of the immigrants who settled the Lower East Side. Inspired by an interest in natural form and distant travel, Gar Waterman used the patterns of a school of fish for a sculpture hanging on a wall at the University of Florida and landlocked Albuquerque has several works works inspired by fish in their collection.

Which brings us to Shona Kitchen and Ben Hooker's tour de force at the San Jose Airport. Located on the Concourse on the other side of the Security Checkpoint is an actual aquarium where the fish swim around video monitors that play, what else, images of the passengers, the fish, and the airplanes fusing the fishbowl of flight and security with the gateway to Silicon Valley where the technology itself is being developed.
Dreaming F.I.D.S.
Photo © Daniel Brown
One of the wonderful things about our apps are that the sky is the limit in terms of what we can share including the creation and installationof the works. Here are some of photos of the video aquarium Dreaming F.I.D.S. Similarly here's the photoshop rendering, the creation of the fish and the installation crane for F.I.S.H.
F.I.S.H. 2009
Photo © of the Artist

Dreaming F.I.D.S. (2010) Shona Kitchen, Ben Hooker
San Jose Public Art Collection, Photo ©Daniel Brown

Fish Globe, Colette Hosmer (2007) Albuquerque, NM
Photo © City of Albuquerque Public Art Program

First Symphony of the Sea, Toshio Sasaki (1992)
NYC Aquarium, Photo © NYC Percent for Art

Shad Crossing (2004) Ming Fay, New York, NY
Photo © MTA Arts for Transit

Aquascapes: Miami Seaport Project, Karen Glaser (2002)
Photo © Miami-Dade County Art in Public Places

Schooling Fish (2000) Gar Waterman, Univ. of Florida
Art in State Buildings Collection, Photo © Gar Waterman

Featured Artist: DONALD LIPSKI

When public art really works is when it creates a dialogue with its setting in a way that inspires the viewers to rethink their perceptions.

We chose Donald Lipski as the artist to feature this month because he has been able to create a body of sculptures that are often simple assemblies of objects that find a resonance with their audience. Take, for example, F.I.S.H. When he initially proposed hanging a cluster of 25 - 7' long anatomically correct fiberglas long-eared sunfish native to the San Antonio river underneath an underpass to the Interstate, it was not immediately intuitive that this gesture would enliven an especially foreboding space. Not too long after it was installed, he heard that people were bringing chairs to that part of the River Walk around dusk. And, of course, he wondered why. It turns out that Texas has a lot of bats who live under the highway. Every evening they fly out around sunset. The fish are lit with LED's which are also illuminated about the same time. Then it became clear that the piece had become a work of performance art.

F.I.S.H. (2009) San Antonio, TX
Photo © Public Art San Antonio

Got Any Jacks? (2004) Miami, FL
Photo © Miami-Dade Art in Public Places

Sirshasana,(1998) New York, NY
Photo © MTA Arts for Transit

Psyche (the butterfly) (2010) Denver, CO
Photo © the State of Colorado Public Art
It wouldn't be July 4th if we didn't find ourselves at 2 o'clock in the morning standing in front of City Hall. For the next four hours we accompanied 50-odd history buffs as they meandered through Lower Manhattan. It couldn't be the 6am breakfast at Fraunces Tavern that inspires the audience to remain transfixed as they listened to James Kaplan make the people and the issues that they faced building our country come alive.

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Featured Architects:

In 1962, seven architects got together to form an architectural practice in Cambridge founded upon the idea that a collaborative effort of a group of designers would be more effective than a single individual. Calling themselves the Cambridge Seven they built a practice that merged all the design arts from graphics to urban planning from products to exhibitions. For us, Cambridge Seven highlights two very interesting aspects of architectural practice, namely creating projects that push the envelope and maintaining a practice over long periods of time.

When it was completed in 1967, the New England Aquarium was probably the most cutting edge building of its kind, both programmatically and technically. Fundamentally it is about engagement, how to engage the viewers in the museum exhibition and on a larger scale, how to engage the city in a building. There is an element of the spectacular both in the grand fish tank that tries to replicate the ocean experience and in the siting on the harborfront that came together first in this building and subsequently in aquariums that they have designed throughout the world. In a sense it was the rare cultural building that recalibrated the image of the city both to itself and to the rest of the world before Bilbao built on this and took it to another level.

The longevity of Cambridge Seven's Practice leads to another issue which affects all architectural firms, namely transitions. How do firms go from the original founding partners who gave the practice it's look and voice to a second generation? Most firms have a rocky time of it. Cambridge Seven could be a model for other offices, as the caliber of the work itself has remained consistent over the course of half a century as old partners have moved on and new ones have been promoted. At the end of the summer, the New England Aquarium will close its grand fish tank for a renovation which fittingly will be designed by none other than Cambridge Seven.

New England Aquarium (1967) Boston, MA
Photo © Steve Rosenthal
National Aquarium (1981) Baltimore, MD
Photo © Steve Rosenthal
The Scientific Center of Kuwait (2000) Salmiya, Kuwait
Photo © Cambridge Seven
Ring of Fire Aquarium (1990) Osaka, Japan
Photo © Cambridge Seven