press release

Brooklyn, NY - Public Art Fund is proud to present a new exhibition of contemporary art at MetroTech Center. "American Idyll" continues MetroTech's commitment to supporting the work of emerging artists. Each year artists are asked to respond to the Commons, the public spaces surrounding the vibrant downtown areas of MetroTech Center and Brooklyn Polytechnic. The artists in this year's exhibition - Jon Conner, Roman de Salvo, Amy Gartrell, Dave McKenzie, and Pentti Monkkonen - have each created works that observe and playfully comment upon outdoor recreation, roadside Americana, and idyllic pastimes and pleasures.

JON CONNER Jon Conner's paintings and sculptures reflect upon everyday American recreation. His recent work investigates the irrational sentimentality rooted in memories of youth. In Perfect Day, a sculpture of a father and son holding fishing rods is perched atop an oversized Igloo cooler, a familiar two-tone icon of recreation that brings to mind beach trips, picnics, ballgames, and other daytrip escapes from business-as-usual. In placing the father-son tableaux on top of it, Conner suggests that even the most banal, utilitarian objects can live larger-than-life in our memories, tied as they are to our childhood recollections and adventures. Perfect Day will be on view in the lobby of MetroTech One.

In Disc Dogs, a second sculpture installed outside on the Commons, Conner puts a new twist on the clich├ęd relationship between "man and his best friend." Eschewing the straightforward depiction of a dog in the act of catching a frisbee, Conner transforms this commonplace scene into a canine action shot: The single dog becomes several different dogs, each suspended in a split-second moment of the catch. Suggesting the kinetic frenzy of a dog in motion, Disc Dogs elevates an everyday pastime into a deft display of sculptural simultaneity, drawing out a single moment into a timeless spiral of activity.

DAVE MCKENZIE Dave McKenzie's videos, sculptures and installations are motivated by the desire to make mundane objects and gestures relevant. Casting ordinary items into extraordinary situations, McKenzie practices a form of pop conceptualism that results in new, often witty, interpretations of the everyday world around us. Recently, McKenzie has investigated the notion of "place," focusing on how objects shape the character of a given locale. In particular, he is interested in how roadside attractions - such as a giant ball of twine or "muffler men," the oversized statues of animals and characters that beckoned passersby into gas stations along highways and roads - become hometown landmarks that inspire emotional attachment and local pride.

For his project at MetroTech Center, There's No Place Like Home, McKenzie decided to recreate an existing statue of Paul Bunyan from Rumford, Maine. Paul Bunyan, the legendary woodsman, is the heroic embodiment of the American frontier. Tall tales about his incredible feats and ingenuity - such as scooping out the Great Lakes to get water for his big blue ox, Babe - began circulating in the early 20th century. Since the 1930s, statues of Paul Bunyan have dotted the country, standing guard at the town limits or, just as frequently, at local gas stations. By inserting this iconic statue into downtown Brooklyn, McKenzie brings small town America into the heart of downtown Brooklyn, a modest attempt to bridge distances across geography and time.

AMY GARTRELL An artist with a neo-gothic sensibility, Amy Gartrell's work is inspired by nostalgic high school crushes, misfit anguish, and notebook doodles of rainbows and unicorns. Her drawings and paintings depict friends, dead rock stars, dragon slayers and other melancholy imagery in flat, paint-by-numbers style, augmented with Victorian flowers, lacy patterning, and Day-glo coloring. Her dark representation of American girlhood is at once macabre and sentimental, reflecting the complexities, confusion, and drama of adolescence.

Gartrell's towering Wishing Well, a stylistic departure from her other work, draws from the world of fairy tales, fables, and local theatrical productions. Meant to look like a misplaced stage prop, the painted well is adorned with climbing wisteria vines and is topped by a tin bucket that is almost impossible to reach. The distorted height of the well gives it a mischievous character, defying its audience to toss in their coins. Gartrell conceives of the Wishing Well as an optimistic challenge: At its most basic level, the sculpture is about how desires achieved require effort. According to Gartrell, "You can't just drop a penny and expect something to happen. The extra effort is what is required for the fulfillment of dreams or wishes."

PENTTI MONKKONEN Pentti Monkkonen's sculptures express a self-conscious attraction to humorous and playful subject matter. He has created a series of motorized duck bikes and go-carts, beguiling objects that combine functionality and sleek craftsmanship with an exuberant embrace of the absurd. The accessibility and pop appeal of Monkkonen's work disguises a formal sophistication, however, demonstrated in his flair for merging decorative and art historical forms with contemporary culture.

Monkkonen's Abstract Sculpture is a lighthearted send-up of the ubiquitous abstract metal sculptures found in courtyards and lobbies throughout the city and country. His large, painted metal sculpture serves as a perch for a flock of statuesque pigeons, lending gleeful functionality to what appears to be an example of minimalist public art of the 1960s and 1970s. This form of monumental outdoor art, once a source of civic pride, came to be criticized for its negligible relationship to site and community. Here, Monkkonen plays with aspects of amusement and illusion, making an underhanded reference to un-inspired public artwork as he creates a new work of his own.

ROMAN DE SALVO Conceptual artist Roman de Salvo infuses everyday objects and materials with elements of surprise and humor. In his sculptures and installations, de Salvo manages to be both restrained and high-spirited, blending his fascination for machines and craftsmanship with an interest in language and wordplay. His hybrid constructions are at once technically accomplished and frivolous, often encouraging viewer participation - as in Garden Guardians (1998), an installation of joy sticks that dispense a tiny exhalation of perfume into the air when a button is pressed.

Liquid Ballistic, his project at MetroTech Center, is a mahogany cannon that doubles as a seesaw and releases a gentle stream of water when activated. Manipulating the cannon's traditional function, de Salvo renders it useless as a weapon and considers alternate applications for such an outmoded relic. Calling to mind the countless cannons found on revolutionary battlegrounds along the East Coast of the United States, Liquid Ballistic's update of age-old weaponry is literally disarming. Spectators are invited to ride the cannon and enjoy themselves-not a typical response to an instrument of attack-while partaking of de Salvo's humorous and absurd work. Pressetext

only in german

American Idyll
Sechs neue Skulpturen im MetroTech Center von Jon Conner, Roman de Salvo, Amy Gartrell, Dave McKenzie, Pentti Monkkonen