Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Butt-Fugly Public Art of the Week-- August 30th

Phoenix Rising  by Emlen Etting

Dilworth Plaza Trench

Oh, that's where I left my booger-filled metal handkerchief!
                   Goddamn, this thing is a piece of shit. Why this? This is a metal sculpture that uglies-up the already nasty Dilworth Plaza. Not even really the plaza, the shitty trench that opens up to the underground homeless catacomb that surrounds it. It looks like butt all the time but it really looks like ass when seen from the side or from street level.

The BNY Mellon Center is back there looking down upon Phoenix Rising in shame.
                      Hey, I like public art and I usually like the artist, Emlen Etting, but this is one big and public fucking mistake. What's worse is that some people love this fucking thing. There's a blog dedicated to it here. Needless to say, there will definitely be some folks who think I'm an asshole for not loving this paper airplane plane crash. Emlen Etting was a Philaphile and actually quite a badass painter. He should have just stayed out of the sculpture business, I guess.

...and he was so prolific, even I have one of his paintings!
                   It all started when Mayor Richardson Dilworth died in 1974.  The public park/concrete tomb of bumshit being assembled next to City Hall was in process and City Council thought it would be appropriate to name the place after Dilworth. Frank Rizzo was mayor at the time and wasn't a Dilworth fan. When the dedication rolled around in 1977, Rizzo didn't even bother to show up and invitations were not sent to Dilworth's friends or family.
                  Joseph Stratos, a friend of Dilworth's, was pissed at the shitty job the Rizzo administration did of memorializing the former mayor. He spent five years putting together the appropriate ceremony, creating the Richardson Dilworth Memorial Committee and raising the $40,000 (!!!!!!!!!) necessary to construct Phoenix Rising. The memorial finally took place in 1982 and the unveiling of this aluminum kleenex was the centerpiece. Ever since then, this piece of shit has been collecting bird poop and other generalized nasty for the last 29 years.
                It's ironic that this sculpture is supposed to represent Philadelphia as a phoenix rising from urban decay. This thing is literally surrounded with the worst kind of urban decay... a smelly dirty crumbling partially submerged cement castle surrounded by deafening noises that was designed to be a serene public space. It even has plants growing out of the bottom of the pedestal, attempting to pull down the structure despite the trash strewn throughout.

Go plants go!
                      When Dilworth Plaza is destroyed and rebuilt in the coming year(or nine), Phoenix Rising will be moved to a new unknown location. I think they should keep it in the new Dilworth Plaza but with a small add-on to symbolize Dilworth rising up to introduce the city to the his new memorial. Here's my design for it:

Dilworth Plaza in 2020.
                       This sculpture pays tribute to the original by using the art of a great painter that isn't a sculptor to execute the plan. This time, the message of Philadelphia rising out of urban decay is much more clear. It would be called Phoenix Rising and Then Turning Into the Guy on the Cover of Manowar Albums
                     Joseph Stratos was right. Dilworth should have an appropriate memorial. A fucked up cement plaza and a crappy metal handkerchief is not it... many modern Philadelphians have no idea who the fuck Dilworth is and how he successfully spun Philadelphia into the city that most take for granted today. A giant depiction of him bursting out of his plaza with a sword and a hammer in each hand with lightning bolts and shit would make people pay attention and appreciate who Dilworth was.     


  1. That's a nice portrait of Matthew Broderick you have there.

  2. And of course, this part of Dilworth Plaza is exactly precisely where Broad Street Station used to be.

  3. Well, the location is now known. Unsurprising the SHill NIMBY's didn't object to this: they only object to good things moving into their neighborhood.