Thursday, March 15, 2012

Butt-Fugly Public Art of the Week-- March 15th

Covenant by Alexander Liberman

Corner of 39th Street and Locust Walk

Get the fuck out of here. Pic from
                     Oh look, its the Lipstick Arch. 25 tons of steel that have ruined the UPenn campus for 37 years. This pile of dogshit wouldn't bother me nearly as much if it was just called what it looked like: Ass. Instead, they had to give it all kinds of lofty/stupid meaning and call it Covenant.
                    A covenant is defined as "an agreement, usually formal, between two or more persons to do or not do something specified." What the fuck agreement is this thing making? The agreement to look like shit? Mission accomplished. Like most trash, this fuckbag arch is from the 1970's, a terrible decade for art and design of all types.
                    In 1974, Penn needed to satisfy the good old Percent-for-Art requirement. Penn put together a group called the Committee for the Visual Environment that would determine what public art would be installed on campus to meet the need. The members of the committee included Architecture Professor Holmes Perkins, Art History Professor John McCoubrey, Dean of the Fine Arts School Peter Shepheard, former director of The Institute for Contemporary Art Samuel Adams Greene, chairman of the Institute of Contemporary Art H. Gates Lloyd, an unnamed Penn student, and the Grand Imp of Philadelphia Boxitecture, Vincent Kling.
                   Apparently, all these people were blind, drunk, or took their Pretentiousness Pills before every meeting, because this little group chose some pretty horrendous shit. Among them was this 40-foot-tall Steel Arch of Guttertrash. The same group was responsible for the stupendously awful We Lost as well. The garbage was assembled in 1974 and was installed on the Penn campus in the summer of 1975. Final cost: 100,000 smackers, 20,000 of which went just to the installation. Oh, and 40,000 of your tax dollars came to it through the NEA.
                  As usual, a bunch of bullshit "deep" meanings and lofty-ass nonsense was used to describe this ugly motherfucker. It was described as having "the impact of a temple or cathedral" and  "one of several sculptures that reflect Liberman's fascination with industrial America." The artist himself  said it creates a "feeling of bonding together for a higher purpose" and that it "convey[s] a sense of unity and spiritual participation". Unity? Bonding? Spiritual participation? Higher purpose? Get the fuck outta here. 
                 Both Penn's students and professors immediately thought it was a pile of crap. Newspaper articles from the period quote many of each talking about what a horrible piece of art it was. By the November after it was installed, an event was organized by WXPN to attempt to knock it over with soundwaves. Sadly, it failed, and the sculpture was officially dedicated one year later.
                  In November of 1979, Joan Mondale, Vice-President Walter Mondale's wife, toured Philadelphia's public art. Her first stop? THIS. She pretended to like it, but we all know the truth... nobody likes it. This is yet another time where the Percent-for-Fart program brought us some terrible-ass work that will continue standing for at least another four decades. Thanks a lot, assholes.
Its COVE-enant!
                   Addendum: I've come to find out that this shitbird of a sculpture is commonly known as "Deuling Tampons" on the UPenn campus. It's also the name of a website and twitter feed, which uses COVE-enant as its logo. Wow! Its even more well-known for being horrible than I thought. Thanks to everyone who e-mailed, commented, and tweeted (ugh) to let me know.

                                          -GroJLart, King of Philadelphia and France


  1. Eh. I kind of like it. Covenant is a stupid ass name, though.

  2. My friends and I have always referred to it as the dueling tampons...

  3. In fact, it has it's own Twitter feed:!/duelingtampons

    1. Holy shit I had no idea about that!! Thanks!

  4. Dear God that is ugly. Just imagine the amount of prospective Penn students who have visited the campus and decided to instead go to Harvard or Yale based on seeing that piece of shit. "We know best" artsy-pretentiousness has its costs.

  5. As a Penn grad, I can attest to its tampon nickname. I also studied this piece while studying art history there. One thing that was emphasized was that, like many minimalist works of art in the 60's and 70's, its physical properties (particularly size and color) make it something that's unavoidable. The result is that, like or not, people are *forced* into experiencing it. One might call it "art rape." Don't know if that's interesting to you or not, but it's something...

    1. I know what you mean... its the same idea Louis Kahn had about his City Tower plan... if you make it big and ostentatious enough, people would just have to get used to it. If there was a sculpture of a giant sphincter next to your house, you would describe the directions to your house as "next to the sphincter".