In Central Park, the only part of the Whitney Biennial I saw includes a very nice sculpture by Keith Edmier. Located on 60th Street, on a site usually programmed by The Public Art Fund (which collaborated in the Biennial’s Central Park presence), the sculpture consists of two 3/4-life size bronze statues of WWII soldiers in dress uniforms, standing on granite bases. They look for all the world like any public war memorial/monument. The names and information on the bases both help and don’t help; you’d guess they could have been worthy of a public monument, but you sure as heck don’t recognize their names. No news there. The figures turn out to be Edmier’s grandfathers, both of whom fought in WWII. One died an old man, and the other committed suicide while on active duty in the war. Personal history–and painful personal history at that–cross paths with public memory and commemoration. [Interestingly, WWII, Korea, and ANZAC/WWI rank 1,2,3 in that Google search.]
The parallels are quite enticing between Edmier’s work and my documentary on my own grandfather’s lives that kicked off this weblog. Not that there are any specific similarities between his grandfathers and mine; just that the subject, or the medium, if you will– grandfathers– is the same. When, in the course of talking about the movie, I’m asked, “Oh, and who are your grandfathers?” it’s basically the same question Edmier forefronts: who are these two men that they should have a bronze statue in Central Park? [I touched on this a little before.]
Thanks to my tablemate last night at MoMA’s annual Party in the Garden [generic link, sorry. MoMA’s a lot of things, but strong on the web isn’t one of them.] for the heads up on Edmier’s piece, which had previously only been shown in Europe (AFAIK). George Hamilton just walked by outside my window. He’s quite tan.