I have been infatuated with rubber duckies ever since I was a child. In fact, a collection of them resides in my shower, greeting me upon every ablution with a smile.
Upon searching the web for more rubber duckies, I fell smack dab into the work of Florentijn Hofman. Apparently Mr. Hofman is an extremely well known artist in his native Holland as well as throughout the rest of Europe, and he created this grand ducky for ‘Loire Estuary 2007,’ an outdoor contemporary art exhibition taking place in France. Of course, I immediately started searching voraciously for information on more of his works. Piece after piece is simply astounding!
The below piece, “Signpost 5” was created to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Schiermonnikoog International Chamber Music Festival in 2006. Like beached whales or shipwrecked cargo, these grand pianos totally change the context of this peaceful beach and appear to either float or have been washed up on shore depending on the tides and time of day. I always think about how hard it is to make an impact with a sculptural work outdoors. The world and sky are so, so BIG that it is difficult to penetrate on that gargantuan scale. These pieces seem to do so with such aplomb while also providing a comfy seat (or two) for birds and people alike.
“Beukelsblue” is a stunner too! By dousing an entire city block in Rotterdam with electric, candy blue paint, Hofman changes the context of this neighborhood and turns a derelict building into a sculpture. Why not?!?
Hofman’s work reminds me of one of the first art lessons I learned as a freshman at RISD, a lesson that I think about all of the time.
On a crisp Monday in October, our professor Alfred DeCredico took us all to the First Baptist Church in America, an iconic, New England clapboard church with a steeple. When inside, Al handed us some rope and said, “As a group, and with only this rope, change the context of this Church.” Then he left and didn’t come back for five hours.
My classmates and I spent the day stumped. This lesson was as much about “context” as it was about the difficulties of group collaboration. When he finally returned, we had nothing to show for our afternoon of push and pull, and with the grandiosity he was known for, he created an elegant, snake-like coil, put it on the floor directly in front of the altar and walked out triumphantly.
Al’s “piece” was not impressive for its mind-blowing transformation of the Church in the way that painting a whole city block blue is. Rather, I was blown away by the simplicity of the gesture and the grand concept of “changing a context.” They didn’t talk about things like that in suburban New Jersey!
Today, every single project I touch or consider makes me think of that day at the First Baptist Church of America.
Thank you, Al. Thank you RISD for the gifts you gave me.