Bronze monuments are one of the oldest and most traditional forms of public art. It is the most popular metal for cast metal sculptures because it expands just before it sets, filling in every detail of molds. Then, when it cools, it shrinks slightly—which allows it to more easily be separated from the mold. It is strong and does not become brittle over time like ceramic or stone. In short, it is an ideal material, the first large-scale statues created by the Ancient Greeks. It is for those reasons that we still use bronze statues today.
And there’s a brand new bronze statue display up in Central Park by Thomas Schütte that’s worth perusing. It’s called United Enemies, and was first created by Schütte using modeling clay about twenty years ago. He came up with the idea while living in Italy during a time of political unrest. Politicians were corrupt and several had already been arrested. His pieces, though abstract and mythical in nature, reflect those times.
Paired figures are swaddled together in robes, which are knotted tightly about their waists. Their limbs are completely covered and only their faces are visible. Those faces are strange and aged, and their features are soft and, at times, indistinguishable. In them, we feel the weakening of power not unlike that which patriarchs would have felt as they lost power over Italy.
Perhaps what makes this exhibition so poignant and powerful is the fact that these figures appear to be powerless and pained. This contrasts sharply with the common pride-filled pose many statues hold—a hero, a leader, or a revolutionary. They are unable to exist separate or independent from their paired partner, and that resonates in every one of us in some way.
The exhibition is on display at the Doris C Freedman Plaza in Central Park until August 25th, so be sure to stop by if you get a chance.