Thursday, July 19, 2012

Butt-Fugly Public Art of the Week-- July 19th

Object for Expression by Warren Holzman

Hawthorne Park

                     The Hawthorne neighborhood has sure come a long way in the last 15 years. Once home to the worst public housing project ever built, the neighborhood has finally seen new life after a long dormant period. Part of that renaissance was the construction of the kick-ass awesome Hawthorne Park and an actual non-Mural Arts non-Zagar-related public art piece, Object for Expression. Unfortunately, its a boring piece of horsetrash.
                    First a quick modern history of Hawthorne: In 1960, the neighborhood, full of little interstitial streets and remains of ancient diagonal highways, was torn down in favor of ugly-ass public housing tower...they called the project Hawthorne Square but renamed it Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaza in 1970. The project, like others like it, became a crime-infested zoo of scallywags and ne'er-do-wells. Less than four decades after being built, areas to the north were semi-gentrified but Hawthorne was still a piece of shit. By this point, MLK Plaza was falling apart and only half of the 500 units could be considered even slightly livable.

                 In the mid-90's, city officials and other public figures started discussing the total destruction of the project and a revitalization of the neighborhood. Despite protests by people who thought it was a good idea to have a bunch of shitty 1960 ass-towers spread crime for another 40 years, the towers were rightly blown the fuck up on October 17th, 1999. New mixed-income semi-affordable housing started going up almost immediately, though the neighborhood consisted of a sea of empty lots well into the early 2000's. The new stuff was a result of HOPE VI legislation and was developed by a partnership with Kenny Gamble's crooked-ass Universal Companies and some other developer (if Kenny cared that much about the neighborhood, he would do something with the empty lot at 13th and Bainbridge that he's been sitting on for 7 years).
                  Strangely enough, it took 70 years to figure out that affordable housing could look like regular rowhouses, and that's exactly what they built. Walking down 13th street in Hawthorne gives you an idea of what 1890's rowhouses looked like when they were new. Once the new MLK homes were nearly complete, people still found ways to complain about it. There were four main qualms: 1) The new MLK Plaza doesn't have as many units as the crappy towers had, 2) White-owned businesses did the construction (the horror!!!!!!!), 3) The new stuff took too long to build, and 4) the old PHA-owned Hawthorne Community Center and lot at 12th and Catharine, both originally planned to be revitalized, still stood vacant.
               In 2010, the PHA gave up on both spaces. The ugly-ass Community Center, considered historic because Martin Luther King made a speech to 2300 people from its steps in 1965, was knocked down and replaced with market-rate housing. The lot at 12th and Catharine was given over to the city for the purposes of building a $2.15 Million park. This new and kick-ass place called Hawthorne Park would have to satisfy its own Percent-for-Shit requirement, and a competition was held for what it should be. The winner was a crappy piece of junk by artist/blacksmith Warren Holzman called Object for Expression. Ugh, the pretentious-ass naming conventions of public art continues. 

It was included in the renderings of the park, though in a slightly different location. That ghost-person with a backpack is about to fall over.
                    The stainless steel ass-mesh is supposed to be a lectern that's supposed to "encourage impromptu performances and oration" and also honor that time Martin Luther King spoke nearby. Continuing in the tradition of horrible public art dedicated to King, the "lectern" looks more like the Hiller Hovering Platform. The new plaque dedicating King's speech is better looking than this piece of shit. There was a great opportunity for a great piece of public art here, but we're all gonna have to settle for this. What a shame. A 20-foot statue of MLK doing the Vulcan salute with both hands would have been more appropriate.
                     Hawthorne's rebirth has been an extraordinarily awesome step in the right direction for the city, even though people are still finding reasons to whine about it. I wish the neighborhood all the best...sorry the public art there has to be some of the worst.

Is it crooked? I've always loved that mural with the dude screaming in the baby's face.

1 comment:

  1. I was pretty sure this POS was going to be the first Butt-Fugly ripped to shreds in its first month of crapsistence.

    A quibble: I think we sometimes underestimate the problems caused by the post-project destruction period, when there was a lot of displacement and not enough housing. Not saying they shouldn't have been knocked down (because duh), just that more planning would have been good.