? of the Day: Tell Us About Your Favorite Public Art in NEO

Submitted by Evelyn Kiefer on Wed, 03/08/2006 - 01:08.


What is your favorite piece of public art? Clevelanders are very fortunate to have world class art all around them; abstract metal sculptures, naturalistic bronzes, witty pop art, neon and lights on buildings and bridges, murals and mosaics. Public art is an important part of any city. Art can create a gathering place or a sanctuary or inspire and transform the energy of a space. Take time today to notice the art around you. Post your thoughts. Make others aware of what works inspire and interest you.

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Free Stamp... who is an expert on this

The Free Stamp is one of my favorite contemporary sculptures anywhere. Interesting history, too - commissioned by SOHIO, which was sold to BP before completed - intended from in front of the BP building on Public Square, BP didn't want it. Not sure of the other details how it got to the current location... if anyone can fill in. Also, I believe it was supposed to stand upright, so you couldn't read the word free on the stamp... who's an expert on this?

Free stamp info

Here is a great link on the history of the Cleveland Free Stamp.

[Click here


Any other companies have great art for Cleveland?

Thanks - excellent - nice to see useful info on the city site! And that's a massive gift... Thanks BP. Any other companies have Olderburgs they don't want... send to Cleveland! Seriously, how do we increase the flow of such donations here? Are there models here and elsewhere to increase the flow?

Art Using Wind Power: George Rickey Sculpture

It is a large abstract metal kinetic sculpture located on the north west corner of the intersection of E. 9th and Euclid, across from the City Club of Cleveland. Rickey was influenced by Alexander Calder's mobiles. Rickey never used mechanical devices in his kinetic sculptures they were designed to move with the natural air currents of their environments. Have you seen it?

headless woman

i really enjoy the view of the headless woman on top on the entryway to the new federal courthouse building.  the view is best coming from the west across the detroit-superior bridge.  she really makes a statement.  just not quite sure what it is yet.

this may not be my favorite, but it's pretty high on the list. 

The Jim Dine is a good choice

The headless woman is by Jim Dine. I forget the title. Its one of my favorites too. The size and technique is very impressive. I can't imagine making a sculpture that big.


  Not only is Rodin's Thinker a great sculpture, in a stunning and fitting setting, but the contemporary social reinterpretation (blowing it up) of the classic work transformed it into one of the most fascinating sculptural statements in history - a Sphynx - it is fantastic in its original form (and there are others), but it is even more beautiful with the base blown apart - and what a statement - and what a historical context - and all right here. This is one of the most important sculptures in the world.

I Agree -- and So Would Rodin!

Rodin was the greatest sculpture of the human figure since Michelangelo (I know some people might want to debate me on this). But this particular work -- there are several castings of the Thinker -- is also important for what it says about the CMA and America. The Weather Underground, the group that tried to blow it up during the Vietnam War era did so because the Museum represented "The Man." I think the Museum has come a long way in trying to reach out to all aspects of the community, but The Thinker, with his feet blown apart should alway be a reminder, of the consequences of being an "Ivory Tower"

The Thinker of the Gates of Hell

I was watching a PBS public education show on sculpture and especially Rodin and of course it explored The Thinker. I was surprised to learn this was conceived as part of a larger work which was core to his focus at the later stage of Rodin's career, being The Gates of Hell, a commission inspired by The Divine Comedy of Dante, which Rodin never completed. He took many elements from the Gates of Hell into development as individual sculptures. Beyond all else of interest about this work, I find it fascinating that a core element of The Gates of Hell peers over our community.

More from the Musee Rodin website about the Thinker

Disrupt IT

Well... the labyrinth at Hodge...


There's a labyrinth at the Hodge school - a very special place - that draws people in the community to come in each day and walk the path. It is nearly invisible in the sand and dirt - just a spiral of donated bricks - but if you are looking for special things it is easy to see. Go to the parking lot at the Hodge School - park - walk to the end (left) past the dumpster and you'll see a vacant lot area and bricks and old chairs and such, and before you is the work of a remarkable artist,Rafala Green. More about all this at http://realneo.us/Preview-of-Hodge-School-Arts-Open-House and to come.

2 works by Tony Smith

Tony Smith was an interesting sculptor; he started out as an architect, became a painter and then a sculptor. His work has been catagorized with abstract expressionism and minimalism, but his work did not quite fit in with either style. His works are huge, abstract and geometric, but somehow they escape being impersonal. They seem the opposite -- warm and friendly, engaging and humourous.

This is SPITBALL, ca. 1970, on CASE campus


This is LAST, 1979 located near The Ohio State Office Building at the corner of Huron Rd. and Superior


How Public Art Works

I think researching other cities's models for obtaining donations of public art is a great idea. I am the curator of the Putnam Sculpture Collection, an important collection of regional sculpture located in University Circle, and I can tell you that the process of funding, installing and maintaining public art in Cleveland is very complicated and not well organized. It may take a while, but I will find out how other cities do it.

So Evelyn, how does public art work best?

You promised to find out how public art works best in other cities and we need to know. I suggest you start by talking to Agnes Gund about her experiences here and elsewhere - I believe she was largely responsible for PS1 in NYNY and the recent Christo and Jeanne-Claude success in Central Park, and others of their installations, so she will know... I'll set that up. Where else should we look... this is an area where NEO needs improvement, beyond Cleveland Public Art and Sparx responsible for much of this today.

the Turning Point sculpture

My favorite is the turning point sculpture -- I love walking through it on my way between PBL and Kelvin Smith.



May this be a Turning Point, in many ways

   I love Turning Point too, for many reasons I posted at the passing of the artist, the Cleveland born architect Phillip Johnson - read more at http://realneo.us/dear-peter/.... and where directed there

Noguchi "Portal", a great gift of Gund to NEO

Actually, Isamu Noguchi's "Portal", which Agnes Gund and the Gund Foundation gave the people of Cleveland to punctuate the new Police HQ and Justice Center, is probably my favorite sculpture in NEO, for many reasons. First, it is a perfect Noguchi, and Noguchi is peerless. The form, line and proportion are perfect - the execution is perfect - the scale in the setting are perfect - the statement in context is perfect. And the generosity of Agnes Gund and the Gund Foundation for art in the community of NEO and for the people of Cleveland is perfect. By far, in my lifetime, the creation of this work of art in NEO has been the most perfect statement about the arts in NEO, as your community was largely ungrateful. I remember when the Justice Center opened, my grandmother took me down for a public tour and she explained how Aggie had given the city "Portal" and there was a big, ignorant, ungrateful uproar - community leaders complained about the GIFT - I remember Aggie being shocked the community didn't appreciate a $100,000 masterpiece (which is now probably worth $10 million, if it were sale) - hey, there's an idea for funding and relocating the Hullets... sell "Portal" to an arts-appreciative city and use the money to put a rusty old Hullet in front of the Justice Center. Are the people and leaders of NEO any more sophisticated and appreciative today than in the 1970, and 1980s, or worse? For those appreciative, here are some photos of "Portal" and an interesting historical perspective from James Neff, who wrote for the PD back in the 1980's (since he got out of art criticism and the PD has written books about Sam Sheppard and the Mafia), which helps us understand why NEO is such a cultural backwater today... the people here have been programmed by the media to be lame...

Must Be Profound
James Neff
The Plain Dealer
December 3, 1984

Gracing our city are many profound examples of modern art. I know they must be profound because I do not understand them.

Take, for example, Isamu Noguchi's sculpture "Portal" at the Justice Center. "Portal" still befuddles some citizens. It looks like a piece of a giant pretzel. The modern sculpture weighs 15 tons, stands 36 feet high and cost $100,000.

Art experts such as Sherman Lee called it "one of the best monumental sculptures produced in the world since World War II."

To the untrained eyes of those who pass "Portal" each workday, it seems useless, just a giant pretzel. They might feel differently if they could snack on it.

Most of the modern art around here, however, is displayed indoors. That way, it won't scare the horses.

At the Cleveland State University Art Gallery at E. 23rd ST. and Chester Ave., 172 area artists are displaying 335 creations, probably the largest such exhibit outside of the May show.

One such work certainly must be the most unusual work of so-called art to be put on display in our town.

The CSU gallery is full of paintings and sculptures you might enjoy. Abstract paintings full of interesting colors and shapes. A beautiful clear glass bowl. An oil portrait of a pretty woman in a pastel dress.

One sculpture is a chessboard; instead of the usual black and white pieces, the artist made them into Browns and Steelers football players.

Right when you come in, about 15 feet down on the left wall, is a work called "American Ego." It is a collage of 12 snapshots, some of them splattered with tiny drops of paint.

The day I visited the gallery and witnessed "American Ego," a group of CSU students in a beginning design class were checking the local artworks as a class exercise.

The class was mostly made up of women in their late teens, along with several young men.

When the students happened upon "American Ego," many of them made comments. They did not remark about its composition, balance, vibrancy or classical execution. No, here is what they said.

"Gross," said a young woman.

"That is embarrassing," said another.

"Oh my God, it's disgusting," said a student named Janel Leurienzo. Then she added with sarcasm and a smile, "But, hey, it's art."

The 12 snapshots were arranged in a four-by-three grid. They were taken by Steven Smith. They were nude photos of himself.

This being an art gallery and all, you probably expect the photos to be the sort of classical pieces we associate with Greek art.

Oh no, this artist doesn't mess around. The snapshots were of the real thing: close-ups of the guy's, uh, groin area.

There were some different poses, to be sure. One was the guy's private zone draped with a plastic fish.

Another was of a view of his bare buttocks. In this snapshot, rising up and proudly flying from between his upper thighs was one of those little American flags on a stick that you get at political rallies.

One photo treated us to a view of the artist's personal part wrapped in Old Glory. The 12 photos were sewn onto what looked like those small, thin, square pillows you toss on your couch.

So there it was, an expression of modern art, hanging on a wall at a university for our appreciation.

The male student looked at "American Ego" from about three feet away and moved on. Many of the females looked much closer, maybe a foot away. Then moved on. Later, some of them drifted back alone for another, more private peek.

In their design class, the students discussed what they had just viewed. They liked most of it. Not surprisingly, they had a lot to say about "American Ego."

A student named Tracy said, "It was different. They usually just show women."

A young man named James said, "I thought it was funny."

"I don't think it was art at all," Christie Gungl said.

Their teacher, Mary Stokrocki, an associate professor said after class, "I took it as pornographic. I think the university shouldn't hang something pornographic. If I was curator for this show, I wouldn't let people get away with that. There are certain things that are not art."

The creator of the controversial piece, Steven Smith, was given a call. By day, he is a computer programmer out in the suburbs. By night, he lives in a warehouse downtown and makes things that hang in galleries.

"How did you get the idea for "American Ego," he was asked.

"I was taking Polaroids of myself to get something going."

"How often do you do this?"

"There's very little nudity in what I do," Smith said. "I think I've only had four pieces."

"But what is 'American Ego' supposed to mean?"

"It suggests the impotence of American foreign policy," Smith said. "The false manhood, the macho thing, like in Grenada. Since we are all impotent in one sense, we try to overcome it. I don't think we are living up to the American spirit when we tell people how to live."

"Do people think you're strange?" he was asked.

"Yes they do. I don't fit in anywhere. Some artists in Cleveland are some of the nicest people I've met yet."

Profound too. I know they must be profound because I do not understand them.