THE DAILY PIC: The Public Art Fund has installed these "artificial clouds", by Swiss New Yorker Olaf Breuning, near the southeast entrance to Central Park. I love the way their false cheeriness seems utterly unsuited to the grit of New York, while at the same time their clumsy artifice seems perfectly Broadway. There’s also a lovely sense that these flat clouds have been painted on top of the cityscape, which meshes with the feeling one often has of New York as a picture of itself.
And one last, peculiar observation: In Western art, a forest of uprights with nailed-on crosspieces always evokes old paintings of Christ and the two thieves crucified on Golgotha. I don’t know what to do with that evocation, except to note that suffering has been replaced by cheery weather. (Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures; photo by Liz Ligon, Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY)
Your mug shot. Your profile picture. Your breakfast table. Is anything safe from appropriation artists?
On Saturday Julie Saul opens a show of work by Arne Svenson, an artist with a telephoto lens, a formalist’s eye, and a somewhat unsettling obsession with his neighbors in the glass-walled apartment building across the street.
You can meet them, too, in the color pictures in “The Neighbors.”
Obscured yet often recognizable, the figures lounge around as one does at home when no one is looking, half awake or half dressed. Yet aided by curtains and window frames, they resolve themselves into ordered compositions, their mysterious narratives coalescing where Vermeer meets Rear Window via the Pictures Generation.
According to the artist, the neighbors are fair game because they’re making public art: “performing behind a transparent scrim on a stage of their own creation with the curtain raised high,” as his statement puts it.
Assuming that the Neighbors really are neighbors—and not conjured in the studio, or the computer—the work falls into one of those gray areas of Fair Use, the legal doctrine that allows artists to use images of or by others under certain circumstances. Even if this is legal, is it ethical? Isn’t any place safe from prying cameras? Are there times when Fair Use just isn’t fair?