In many states, counties, and other such areas, five percent or so of the cost of any public facility is dedicated to the funding of art installations. This is part of an effort, no doubt, to ensure that modern public facilities do not become vast, sterile, ultra-utilitarian expanses of concrete, plaster, and cheap plastic EXIT signs. A good example of an art in public places program at work is Miami-Dade Transit's Art En Route installations.
Many such public art projects wind up being massively nifty once installed. Some of them, however, really force the viewer to ask the philosophical question, "What is art, and why did we, the public, pay for this if it isn't?"
One piece of sculpture that was pointed out to me on the FIU University Park campus really made me
ponder this point.
This piece, "Steel Pole and Plate", by Richard Serra, consists of... just that. It's a large plate of (Cor-ten?) steel, exactly what you would find covering up a bottomless gash left in a South Florida road by a construction crew, propped to the wall with a steel pole welded to the side. And... that's it. Please forgive the low resolution of the image I have provided here; you do not need any higher resolution, for there are no interesting features to it that have been lost in the compression.
When I first saw the piece, I figured it had been installed there by a construction crew to block a hole in the side of the building, and immediately wondered what lay behind. (I guess I'm getting a bit obsessed with urban exploration lately...) Only after a bit of closer inspection did I figure out that the thing was supposed to be a sculpture. Honestly, I can see that you had your great artistic vision of creating this insanely simple object, but I was really expecting something that a bit more creativity and effort had been placed into.
Any teachers out there in the field of sculpture? What grade would you have given your student for this project? I think I'd be looking at a C if I turned the same thing in (using a heavy winch and pickup truck?).
Meanwhile, anyone who constructs such an art project incorporating the form of a spork gets an official Shiny Thing of Coolness in my book.
Please, put down that cutting torch. Now...