OWS Arts & Culture Committee Sends Open Letter to Artist Behind 'Red Structure'

joie de vivre.jpg
wallyg/Flickr
Possibly the most recognizable landmark at Zuccotti Park is the "red structure," as occupiers call it. The sculpture's name is actually "Joie de Vivre" and it's by Mark di Suvero, an American abstract expressionist sculptor. "Joie de Vivre" was formerly located at the Holland Tunnel rotary before moving to its current locale.

In recent days it's been put behind barricades, after a protester tried to climb it. The Occupy Wall Street Arts & Culture committee has now sent the 78-year-old di Suvero an open letter asking him to make a statement about the barricades. It reads in part:

Your sculpture, "Joie De Vivre," at Liberty Plaza ("Zuccotti Park") has served as a visual backdrop for the movement in New York. The area underneath and around the sculpture has hosted meetings, rendezvous points, teach-ins and concerts. We are conscious of your role in the creation of the Peace Tower (1966 and 2006), and your public opposition to the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. Your work is an integral part of our collective history, and the tradition of artists who exercise their responsibility as public citizens.

Recently, after one individual climbed the sculpture, city authorities placed barricades around "Joie De Vivre", cutting off access and separating it from the politically activated space of Liberty Plaza. Some of the barricades carry Metropolitan Museum of Art signage as well as NYPD stickers (see attached photos). This was an unnecessary overreaction in light of OWS' track record as a peaceful, proactive movement, generating conversation and fostering community and engagement. Recently, Community Board 1, which consists of the neighborhood's residents, voted to request the city to remove unnecessary barricades from the area, especially in light of the OWS's stated commitment to nonviolence.

We believe that cordoning off your gift to the people of New York goes against your intentions for the work, as well as the very spirit of public art. "Joie de Vivre" is especially poignant as this movement actively fights to empower people of marginalized economic status. Indeed, that struggle is the joy of life.

OWS is now in Day 52. This movement will only continue to grow and evolve. It is our wish, and we believe yours as well, that the sculpture be integrated spatially with the activities taking place at Liberty Plaza. Therefore, we ask you to make a public statement urging city authorities to keep all barricades away from this and other public sculptures in the area, allowing free access to the area under and around public sculptures.

The protesters also ask di Suvero to come give a teach-in at the park. To our knowledge, he hasn't responded yet.

In other red structure news: Hrag Vartanian at Hyperallergic noticed that the barricades have a Metropolitan Museum sign on them, curiously. He checked with the Met and got this response:

It's accurate to say that the Metropolitan Museum was unaware that the barricade labeled with the Met's name was being used there. After checking around, it seems that the barricade must have been picked up accidentally from outside the museum with other, unlabeled barricades after a City event (perhaps a parade) and then transferred to the park.

[rgray@villagevoice.com] [@_rosiegray]

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