Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Remembering a Big Public Art Event in Gowanus' Public Place

Carroll Gardens blogger Katia Kelly takes a ride in the time machine back to an art show that took place in 1982 at the site that it now called Public Place in Gowanus. It is the former site of a manufactured gas plant that left behind one of the most toxic parcels in Brooklyn. Bids are being submitted to redevelop it with housing. In any case, an art show called Monumental Redefined took place there in the early 1980s. Ms. Kelly writes:
Imagine an open air gallery, a sculpture garden where artists can show monumental works of art. Imagine such a thing on the polluted Smith Street and 5th Street Public Site. You are laughing, I know. But long ago, artist/sculptor Frank Shifreen did just that. For just a moment in the Gowanus' history, he transformed the giant lot into the biggest open air art gallery in New York City...He asked 150 artists to contribute works, gave each a lot of 20 by 20 foot and turned the 5 acre abandoned lot into the coolest art space. His purpose was to encourage artists to push the limits of public art, to communicate socially and to engage the public...For many months, the works of art could be seen from the F train as it came out of the ground at the Carroll Street Station en route to Park Slope.
The artist emailed us to say:
Trucks would come at night almost every night and dump barrels of toxic waste with all kinds liquids, turned over and opened up. We had a deal wth Sanitation to pick up the trash on the sidewalk and they often would not take the stuff but call some kind of chemical specialists. I am not certain who was responsible but it was a wise-guy area and they are the carting industry. the toxic soup goes deep. I thought it was a superfund site. How can they certify it without independent testing.
There's a lot of great detail in Ms. Kelly's post, including some of the New York Times review of the show.



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