The piece of public art I have chosen is the Red Cube by Isamu Noguchi, which was installed in 1968. It is a bright red steel sculpture located in front of 140 Broadway, between Liberty and Cedar Streets, New York. The sculpture’s color is in contrast with the colours of the buildings and sidewalk surrounding it, which are black, brown and white. Having a cylindrical hole going through it, it stands on one corner, with the opposite corner pointed towards the sky.
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I interviewed 7 people by asking them questions about the Red Cube. The audiences represented by the interviewees were day, night, weekend and weekday. Three of those interviewed were quite familiar with the area and had seen the artwork several times before. Among these two were New York residents and one was a business lady who visited New York on business several times a year. The remaining four interviewees consisted of tourists and first-time visitors to New York, who come from other states. They were not familiar with the area, but had noticed the artwork.
When asked their opinion about the artwork, the interviewees had different views, with some being more knowledgeable about the artwork compared to others. Three of the interviewees identified the artwork as being an aesthetic addition to the street corner. One was also captivated with the sculpture and interested in knowing more about it, e.g. finding our the name of the artist who made it. The positioning of the Cube also interested them, as it seemed precarious compared to the solid base of the surrounding buildings.
Another observation that all the interviewees made was about the shape of the sculpture. They noted that its length exceeds its width, especially from the corner on the ground, thus making it less of a cube, even though its name suggested the opposite. The tourist noticed the contrast between the buildings, the sidewalk and the Red Cube. The New York residents said the street corner would not be the same without the piece of public art. According to them, the presence of the Red Cube caused the buildings to have more of an upward pull. All the interviewees appreciated the aesthetic quality the sculpture lends to the place. They all liked the artwork.
The interviewees had varied responses to the relationship between the artwork and the surrounding environment. One interviewer, the tourist, noted the contrast in the materials used for the Red Cube, the buildings and the sidewalk. The steel material used for the Red Cube contrasted with the smooth metal and glass material the buildings are made of. According to him, this further accentuates the difference in color between the structures, thus making the sculpture more striking. The two New York residents and one non-resident believed that the relation of the Red Cube to the open space in front of the buildings made it even more arresting. They also noted the difference in colors between the Cube, the buildings and the sidewalk.
The business lady, who was interviewed during daytime hours on a weekday, noted the scale of the Red Cube in relation to the buildings. As mentioned earlier, tts shape and positioning contributed to making the buildings look longer, as well as drew the eye towards the top of the buildings. The two other interviewees made reference to the fact that the Cube was standing on one corner. In addition, the solidness of the buildings emphasized the fact and made the piece look more interesting. The sharp edges of the Red Cube also contrasted with the buildings, thus making it stand out even more.
All the interviewees believed that the absence of the Red Cube on the street would be very noticeable, thus causing it to be missed. The business lady said that she identified the Red Cube specifically with New York, as she did business in other cities within the United States. First-time visitors to the city thought it made a big difference to the street corner and could actually be used to help them get their bearings. The addition to the aesthetic quality brought about by the contrast of different colors was also important, and they thought the street corner would be too plain if the Red Cube was removed.
Opinions about whether public funds should be spent on artworks, such as the Red Cube, were more or less the same among all the interviewees. The New York residents thought it was acceptable if public money was spent on such artworks, as long as it was within reasonable limits. They were all of the opinion that the public artwork, such as the Red Cube, enhanced the aesthetic quality of the places where they were located, with some even having specific meanings. Accountability was seen important so that residents do not feel that public money may have been misused. The business lady also thought it was important to do some kind of a survey to seek people’s opinion before putting up a public artwork.
Opinions about works of public art in general were positive. They made different parts of the streets easier to recognize and remember, especially for strangers in the city. They could also serve as good meeting points, as people are usually aware of them, especially the residents and frequent visitors. The first-time visitors said they would definitely use it a place to meet with their friends, as cab drivers did not need any directions to take them there. Some of the reasons given for the importance of public artwork include promoting aesthetic quality and conveying a certain meaning, such as commemorating an event or a person. Public artworks are usually different in different cities, and this will enable one to recognize a particular city, whenever one sees a specific artwork located there.
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