BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
The Dept. of Cultural Affairs has big, bright pink plans for Jackson Avenue.
Through its Percent for Art program, the DCA commissioned public artwork from Brooklyn artist Ohad Meromi at Jackson Avenue near 43rd Avenue. As mandated by the City, Percent for Art uses roughly one percent of the budget for new construction projects to create public art – Meromi’s piece is the result of streetscaping on Jackson Avenue.
The streetscaping cost $45 million, $515,000 of which goes towards this sculpture.
While Meromi is still in the process of designing the piece, current plans call for an eight-and-a-half foot reclining figure, bronze with bright pink paint. Entitled “The Sunbather,” the permanent piece will get richer in color through years of exposure, Meromi said.
According to DCA deputy of external affairs Ryan Max, the project could be installed within 18 months.
Meromi and Percent for Art director Sara Reisman visited Community Board 2 last week to present the project, following a meeting with CB2’s Land Use Committee, where committee members were “surprised” by the color and scale of the piece, land use chair Lisa Deller said.
The full board was similarly taken aback by “The Sunbather.”
Complaints about the piece were variations on the theme that it is “too much,” as one board member put it. Some suggested scaling back the brightness and/or size of the sculpture, or installing smaller sculptures instead of one large one.
Another asked whether the statue will have visible genitalia, to which the presenters replied that it will be “gender neutral.”
Meromi said he is designing the sculpture to counterbalance the neutral colors and straight edges of the surrounding area.
“[I want to] add something that has to do with the body and form and soft lines,” Meromi explained. He also noted that he is hoping a “playful” and “kidlike” design will bring a sense of calm or contemplation to the otherwise bustling corridor.
“I think pink is bold but the site could use something bold,” he added.
Several board members expressed frustration with the design and community input process in general. District Manager Debra Kleinert attended an early panel on the commission, but limited subsequent contact with CB2 led to the Land Use Committee’s surprise with the piece, which both Conley and Deller indicated was in part an oversight on CB2’s end.
Deller acknowledged that Meromi’s piece may have sparked concern over Percent for Art procedure because it is “striking,” as she put it. She called it a “lightning rod” that sparked the board to reexamine their interaction with Percent for Art.
“People want to be more engaged in the process of public art selection,” Deller said. “[Percent for Art] did a good job of trying to catch us back a little late in the process and I thought also it became clear that we want to work together more closely in the future throughout the review process.”
The project is now under review at the Public Design Commission.
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.