Magazine article Sculpture

Artlantic: Wonder in Atlantic City

Magazine article Sculpture

Artlantic: Wonder in Atlantic City

Article excerpt

Now entering the third year of a planned five-year run in Atlantic City, Artlantic is a high-profile, $10 million public art program that must support the weight of great-and divergent-stakeholder expectations. Above all, the project is integral to the tourism district's Master Plan for urban regeneration. Initiated to "revitalize and rebuild Atlantic City's reputation" by the nonprofit Atlantic City Alliance (ACA), a marketing body funded and overseen by the area's casinos, Artlantic must drive tourism by creating "a new generation of Atlantic City spectaculars" through interactive installations that reconfirm the resort as an entertainment destination.* Rising to the challenge is independent curator Lance Fung of Fung Col lab oratives, who has his own ambitious aims: to make "high" art accessible to mainstream audiences while changing art world perceptions about practice in the public domain.

So far, Fung, in collaboration with artists and landscape architects, as well as his team, has reimagined two privately owned vacant lots lent by real estate developers. A third site will be unveiled later this year. Perhaps the most incredible part of these projects is that they are not permanent: they will survive as long as the empty lots remain empty; once developers are ready to build, the installations will disappear. "Wonder" (2012), the first- and largest-of Fung's art parks in the vicinity of the boardwalk, has radically redeveloped the seven-acre site of the former Sands Casino Hotel, which was sold and demolished in 2007 to make room for a never-realized $1.5 billion "mega-casino." (In November 2013, the site was sold again, so the days of "Wonder" may be limited.) ACA's idea to install eyecatching marvels is in keeping with the site's glitzy past- and, most likely, its future. On the other hand, local residents, whose opinions Fung sought at special mixer events, simply desired a "clean, safe, quiet, enclosed space." While the project's funding allocation is for public art, Fung's goal is to provide useful and beautiful common areas that serve the community. Distinguishing between an outdoor art exhibition and Artlantic, he notes, "We're creating much-needed public space that is aesthetic." The resulting park-a fusion of earthwork, outdoor gallery, and public sculpture-contains and holds in tension the high aspirations and inev - itable compromises typical of multi-partner, public art ventures.

Visitors approach "Wonder" from the beach via a winding path made from crushed white seashells and rose-brown pebbles, passing through sandy scrubland, dune grass, and rows of dusty, young evergreens. An undulating, terraced earthwork curves through the lot in a sweeping figure eight, or infinity sign as Fung sees it. Its 14- foot-high turf walls screen the park interior from nearby gaming areas, while gently recalling the drama and motion of an Atlantic City rollercoaster. Makeshiftpost-and-tape fences trace a route around and eventually inside the spaces encircled by the mounds. From almost any point within the earthwork, it is as if the nearemptiness expands to erase busy streets and silence the visual noise of surrounding buildings. Conceived by Fung and realized by landscape architects Balmori Associates, this sculpted environment is also an effective placemaker for the three primary artistic interventions featured in "Won - der"-works by Robert Barry, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, and Kiki Smith. One grassy ridge encloses a contemplative sculpture by Smith; its twin, at the park's other end (furthest from the ocean front), contains the Kabakovs' large-scale contribution to Artlantic. Barry's untitled, colored channel letters (2012) weave haphazardly along the terraces, as if washed up by a storm. Illuminated daily from dusk until dawn, each configuration projects a word- "believe," "look," "inspire"- that both describes and nurtures the calm, inquiring states of mind that "Wonder" seeks to engender.

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov's partially submerged pirate ship Devil's Rage (2012), complete with flag pole and watch tower, is the most ambitious and striking Artlantic work to date. …

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