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Antony Gormley's Event Horizon
This spring I have been musing about another sculpture installation in (and this time also around) Madison Square Park, a work by Antony Gormley titled “Event Horizon.” It is composed of a series of identical life casts of himself standing stark naked and without any suggestion of movement, in seemingly “at ease” positions. They are placed on the sidewalks and precariously on the top edges of buildings. Paradoxically, they appear both motionless and suggestive of people who might be about to jump. They make me nervous.
The art historian in me compares them to the other sculptures in the park, especially the Saint-Gaudens Farragut Monument and the statue of William Seward created by the artist Randolph Rogers. Both of these works rely on the later classical tradition of implied movement in their composition. The statue of Farragut is particularly lauded for its life like evocation. In the 19th-century tradition these works are essentially and comfortably self-contained.
Gormely’s sculpture is not about life-like figures with overt gestures. Like so much modern design, it is really about arrangement. In fact, since his figures are life casts of himself, one could argue they are not sculpture at all. However, his figures have been beautifully rendered so they are at least artistic, if not art. Surely their arrangement is art.
The decorator in me always considers how works of art are presented. Much attention was paid to sculpture bases up to the mid-twentieth century, and theses bases, often with nuanced subtlety, are worthy of study. For example, Stanford White designed the base of the Farragut monument and the statue of Seward sits on a fantastic marble base. Gormely’s sculptures have no pedestals, reinforcing the import of their placement. The city is literally his base.
Amusingly visitors are often posed much like Gormely’s figures—tall, square and gestureless—with the Flatiron building in the background. Perhaps notably the figure closest to this iconic building faces it with its back turned to the tourists. I am not allowing the art historian in me to go on any further, save to say that you have got to see it yourself.