Conversation Pieces: Pedestrians
Illustration by Brian McLachlan/Torontoist.
Toronto is home to a cornucopia of public art. Some of the pieces acknowledge an individual’s greatness; others are installed when developers want to exceed standard density or circumvent other zoning regulations—the public art is a trade-off for being allowed a variance from the rules.
Often, we don’t pay this art nearly enough attention. Some pieces are out of the way, situated way up high or way down low, and some are so subdued—or so familiar—that they blend into the cityscape. In each installment of Conversation Pieces we’ll look at several artworks devoted to the same theme, and talk about what makes public art succeed or fail.
Today: public art about people walking.
Photo by Brian McLachlan/Torontoist.
ARTIST: Kirk Newman (Dallas, Texas)
Manulife Financial commissioned this incredibly animated statue, Community, which was completed in 2001. Its title seems a misnomer. Presumably Manulife wanted to show that it was connected to the community around it. Instead it shows a bunch of people rushing by without really engaging each other. Most of them are upbeat business people. Sure, that’s who walks there on Bloor, but nearby on Sherbourne is a No Frills rather than Whole Foods. And if you want to jump up and pose with the characters that are almost begging to be interacted with, you will find surly security ushering you away from the one bit of their property not surrounded by high iron fences. Community indeed. Luckily, Newman describes his work as “satirical” and may be taking the piss with this piece. His work often shows a more cartoony silhouette of running figures, but even without the exaggerated forms he does an amazing job of capturing motion here.
NAME: People Walking 2006
ARTIST: Julian Opie (London, England)
Kitty-corner from Newman’s sculpture it is a piece of art that acknowledges it’s more about commuters than community. People Walking 2006 is Toronto’s first pixelboard art—which makes sense for Rogers, a company that’s all about technology. Rather than capturing motion like Newman does, Julian Opie takes advantage of the technology to demonstrate it more directly. The calming pace of the animated restroom logos is a nice reminder to resist the rat race. There are plenty of other pixelboards around Toronto, but they instead opt to display advertising and ruin nighttime driving experiences. Opie owns the format, taking it from egregious to artful.