D Magazine portrays Oak Cliff sculpture as ‘bad’ public art

Oak Cliff-based artist Art Garcia’s sculpture “Seventh” is pictured in D Magazine this month. Unfortunately, the Bishop Arts District sculpture is next to an insulting headline: “DESIGN FLAW Dallas has plenty of public art. Why isn’t any of it good?”

The article, by Peter Simek, contends that Dallas considers public art an afterthought. The city is more concerned with quantity than quality when it comes to public art. And, he notes, we don’t have anything like The Bean in Chicago.

In criticizing the city’s public art, Simek is criticizing Dallas artists. While The Bean creator Anish Kapoor is Brittish and has no real connection to Illinois, most of the public art in our city was designed and created by artists who live here, in Dallas.

We asked Garcia what he thought of D’s perspective, and whether he was offended to have his work used as the poster for “bad” art. He said he considers it a “badge of honor”:

“I think it was nice gesture to select ‘Seventh’ … a nice iconographic image. It will only attract people to the Bishop Arts District, and thats the value of public art. The article speaks from the ‘real art’ stand point that wants to dictate its values on the public. Is everyone going to like it? Of course not. That’s the chance an artist takes when we’re willing to display our artwork on such a broad stage. Otherwise, we’d display in a safe art venue whose audience tends to be much more narrow.”

Simek suggests the city’s call-for-entries process should be altered. There should be less bureaucracy and more artist involvement. And art should be a consideration from the very beginning of a project instead of something squeezed in at the end. I doubt many Dallas artists would disagree with those contentions. We just wish D had pointed to “bad” art in some other part of town.


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  • David Spence, Good Space Inc.

    Having served on the ad hoc committee that selected Art Garcia’s proposal, I can tell you that “Seventh” was head-and-shoulders above the other contenders, who, in fairness, were all willing to work within a meager budget and with a dysfunctional city bureaucracy (which has yet to come through on its job of supplying an identifying plaque).  As one of the “buyers,” I think Garcia delivered what he sold:  a thoughtful, durable, eye-pleasing piece that is relevant to its setting but doesn’t pander to current politics.  Whatever the shortcoming of the total experience of “Seventh,” Art Garcia is not the one responsible.

    I just regret that Garcia’s piece has to suffer the indignity of its setting.  That “pocket park” was designed and installed as part of the original upgrades to Bishop Arts’ rights-of-way in 2000 — the one failure in an otherwise well-executed project.  The space belongs to nothing around it; its materials invite vandalism, neglect and breakage.  I suspect the design and choice of materials were delegated to some young landscape architect who knew little about Bishop Arts and even less about what causes public amenities to survive or decay in an urban setting.  The merchants association’s inability to keep up with maintenance of a space like that were totally predictable.

    I haven’t read Simek’s article yet, but in minor settings like Bishop Arts, without the benefit of a private party really being in control of the environment (like in City Place, for example), it’s hard for me to imagine City Hall producing a better product.  So I suppose my conclusion would be that City Hall doesn’t belong in that business.  Within sight of the “Seventh” piece, there are a number of public spaces where dollars spent on the pocket park could have been better spent on less artistic projects like curbs, sidewalks, crosswalks, and streetlights.

  • Gimmeabreak

    I love how we keep telling our kids they really need to focus on getting an education…and then when they get one, we tell them that they have been ‘misguided’.

  • bam520

    I love Seventh.  Simek is misguided.

  • Gimmeabreak

    Garcia’s attitude is typical of the neophyte self-absorbed artist. “The article wants to speak from the ‘real art’ standpoint that wants to dictate its values on the public.” Puh-leeze.

    No, Garcia wants to push HIS poorly executed and not-well-thought out art on educated people and then, when they dont fall all over him in awe of it, do what most self-absorbed GenXers do and say the critic really doesnt know what he is talking about.

    I’d respect Garcia a lot more if the guy had said, “You know, Simek’s probably right. It’s not the greatest art, but I had fun doing it and I think it adds some fun to Bishop Arts.” Instead, he digs his ego in and argues against the well-educated expert on the topic, showing to all of us just how immature and provincial he himself is.

    Community theater is a much “broader stage” for theatrical works than Brodaway is, but dude, it doesn’t mean it’s good theater.