A larger-than-life bronze sculpture of a reclining nude titled “Sunbather,” set at a busy four-lane intersection in #Long Island City, may prove to be a traffic hazard. Not that there’s any anatomy to rubberneck. Far from a pinup, the figure is without gender or features of any kind, and it’s downright scrawny. That said, there’s something raw about it. Provocatively pink, the figure seems extra nude for the intensity of the bare-skin color. You feel like throwing it a robe.
There goes the neighborhood
So it’s no surprise the neighbors don’t like it.
Too vividly colored, they say and, at eight feet long in repose, it’s also too large. Comments from the public, published in the Long Island City Post, include the tag “Gumby’s grandmother”; except the kiddie cartoon character – despite its flatness and lack of features, gives the impression of a more substantial form.
Sunbathing in the street
And there’s another thing. Long Island City has long been known for an industrial air, and while redevelopment has added high-rise residences, an image of a sunbather lolling as cars and trucks whiz by seems out of place. Ohad Meromi, the sculptor, gave the press his reasons for laying his figure down. “It’s at rest, and for me that gesture of rest, of stopping, is some kind of revolt.” Against what? Against the speed of the city, he said, likely the pace of the four-lane intersection where it’s centered.
Given the surroundings, what he called “the modern, steel-framed buildings going up around it,” the figure doesn’t look like it’s at rest. Too emaciated, it just looks sick. As for the hot pink color, Meromi sees it as “a gift to the location, which is, like, gray and glass.”
Old as the Seven Hills of Rome
It should be pointed out that Meromi benefits from all that gray and glass. The cost of his project, $515,000, comes from #New York City’s public #Art law, which rules that one percent of the cost of construction funded by the city, should go to art. But as contemporary as “Sunbather” looks with its rough-hewn surface and exaggerated proportions, the theme of reclining nude dates back to Michelangelo’s white marble called “Night,” which he carved for the tomb of Giuliano de Medici. And because he used male models for his female figures, the female anatomy aside, “Night” seems as genderless as “Sunbather.”
Let me out of here
Another mutuality between these reclining nudes, although I rush to say that there’s no actual equivalency between the two: Something that Renaissance historian Giorgio Vasari said in his write-up of “Night” prompts this comparison. He spoke of the stillness of “Night,” which he saw as a sign of grief, of melancholy of someone who has lost something noble. “Sunbather” looks that way, too; except it resembles someone saying, where’s the rest of me, and what am I doing in this place?