Public art has always been subjected to intense public scrutiny and criticism, a peril of its very placement in the world. Some may remember the storm of controversy surrounding installation of San Francisco’s Vaillancourt Fountain, adopted by radicals, spray painted by rock stars, and the object of perhaps one of the most excoriating public flayings of all time from critic Allan Temko, who commented on the installation’s “technological excrescences” that, to him, appeared to have been been “deposited by a giant concrete dog with square intestines.”
Public art is meant to inspire and provoke, to prod the public consciousness and make its observers think as they pass or lunch in its shadow. Some installations do that better than others, and the impact a work can have on those who lay eyes on it are subjective.
The latest work of this type has been titled “Resolve,” creator David Mudgett saying he hoped the arrangement of eight, stacked steel dodecahedrons reflected Lafayette’s love affair with geometry and learning as well as “resolution to the traffic issue and the resolve that the community had to address it.”
Whether those underlying sentiments come to mind as drivers circle our latest roundabout – and it’s central art fixture – at Pleasant Hill Road and Olympic Boulevard remains to be seen. Our recent pass through the roundabout came with a glimpse of the plinth we presume will be used to support the skyward dodecahedrons and a temporary “doubling cube” (all we could come up with), which we again presume is being used for preliminary measurements and to help determine scale.
Resolve is coming and should be installed by the end of the year. When it is in place, it’s pierced and open cubes will soar about 19 feet into the air and ground lighting will show it off at night. It cost $125,000, and will be defended from errant drivers short-cutting the roundabout by strategically-placed boulders at its base.
The Lafayette City Council voted four to one for “Resolve,” with Council Member Ivor Sampson holding out for more trees at the roundabout. We’ll just have to see how the public, perhaps the most discerning and unforgiving critics of all, take to the sculpture in the months and years to come.