Monday, February 02, 2009

Guerilla art blossoming on Monument Ave.

When art is eye-catching, when it invites the mind to engage, we inevitably search for meaning. When the art is out in the public way it is constantly asking for our opinions. It must stand for our questions.


As I walk about in my neighborhood, along with the displays people put out on their front porches and such, I see the bronze statues of Confederate States of America heroes up on marble pedestals on Monument Avenue every day.

What did those statues mean when they were installed? What might they mean to people looking at them now. Yes, I think about those things sometimes. And, why not?

While, what was intended by the creators of art and what the public will make of it later are two different things, both things matter. With public art the reaction is usually all that matters, regardless of what the artist may have intended. In the art gallery world the artist's statement, which sometimes includes their intentions, carries some weight. Not so much on the street.

As you read this -- until they come down, for whatever reasons -- there is an unfolding statement that's being made by someone here in Richmond. Displays are up at the Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis monuments.

My photo of the piece at Allen Avenue (Lee monument) is above the second paragraph. It was taken on Monday morning. Below are two shots of the piece at Davis and Monument.


I took the photos of the Davis monument display on Saturday afternoon. The box you see in the photo above can be seen in the one below, too. It's in the shadow on the base. Don't know if this is still there, or not.


The boxes don't seem to be damaging the monuments, unless one chooses to take umbrage that they are there at all. Over the years I can remember, 50 or so, the monuments on Monument Avenue have rarely been harmed. Which may surprise some people.

But there have been other displays. Once Jeff Davis had female clothes, including a bra, fashioned about him. Some said it referred to the legend that he escaped Richmond at the end of the Civil War by dressing up in drag.

To read a piece I wrote about displays of another sort on Monument Avenue, but nonetheless, as political as art can get, click here for The Price of Free Speech.

Note: I wanted to get all this up right away. No doubt, these objects won't stay where you see them but for so long. More news to come...

Update: Apparently Jason Roop just revealed the guerilla art maker's name in his comment on a similar story at the Fan District Hub. According to Roop he is "Keith Mendak".

In his comment Roop seems to tie the objects left on Monument Avenue to an art show opening on Friday and an article to appear in tomorrow's STYLE Weekly. But perhaps the timing of this is coincidental.


Jason Roop said...

Your post especially caught my attention because coincidentally, the theme of Style Weekly's annual Midseason Arts Issue, which publishes Wednesday, is art of the everyday -- ways we curate our lives outside of galleries (and on Monument Avenue, or on our bodies, or online). And come on out to our exhibit at First Fridays this week at Ghostprint Gallery. Artists have taken 10 of our old, beat-up outboxes and transformed them into public art. We're putting them back on the street as-is.

F.T. Rea said...

Jason, it seems to me Throttle had a few artfully doctored boxes at some point. I remember one of them had feet with some sort of shoes. Maybe it was Punchline?

Obviously, if you make them too cool, they might grow legs ... but that could be cool, too.

F.T. Rea said...

Jason Roop just outed the artist in his comment on a similar story ( at the Fan District Hub -- "Keith Mendak".

So, I gather this art happening/campaign has been part of an off-beat promotion to call attention to an art show opening on Friday and an article to appear in tomorrow's STYLE Weekly.

Jason Roop said...

Ha, no not that coordinated. We just reported on Keith's work in the arts issue.

Mim said...

I'm so sorry that my dog walking route doesn't take me past the monument. I'll now head in that direction. Who knows, the guerrilla art might still be there. My route takes me past the shelf though, which I've been documenting for almost 2 years on my blog. I wish there was more of this, like the little paintings that appear on the sign posts. Such a treat to come upon art in the nieghborhood.