Best place to say, `Yes, but it is art?'|
According to the Web site of the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse, the giant artworks adorning its walls are "intended to evoke an emotional response." The response they evoke in us is a big fat Huh? Created by American abstract artist Ellsworth Kelly, the 21 monochromatic panels that hang in various spots around the courthouse seem more an exercise in interior decorating than fine art. Nine of the panels -- 11 feet high and 13.75 feet wide -- hang in a tic-tac-toe grid inside the five-story rotunda; the rest are placed at the ends of the building's corridors. There are blue panels and red panels, green panels and yellow panels and orange panels. They're like something you'd find in a preschool -- albeit on an absurdly large scale. And maybe that's the point. The courthouse's Web site claims that the "spare and elegant geometry" of Ellsworth's panels "serves as a foil to the more complicated forms of the Boston skyline," which is visible beyond the building's massive conoid glass wall. Yet if art is supposed to say something, you get the sense that these works say more about the rambling, futuristic structure in which they're hung. After all, even if you discount the courthouse's inhuman scale, there's always going to be something a little daunting about entering a building given over to matters of the law. Maybe people need a "Yay!" as they head for courtroom number 127, a "Tee-hee" as they pass through the metal detectors and are swallowed up by the vast municipality of it all. That works for us -- better, anyway, than the stuff about a "particular visual language which connects abstraction with nature, extrapolating form and color." Like we said, Huh?
John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse, 1 Courthouse Way, Boston, (617) 748-4199.