PRINT January 1999

Focus Preview

Andrea Zittel

Perhaps the purest token of leisure time is contemplative observation. When the subject comes up I always scroll back to Georges Seurat’s Bathing at Asnières from 1883-84. Even the rust-colored dog in the lower left of the canvas is under the dreamy spell of evaporating time. Of course, Seurat maims this paradise with the lightly rendered but puffing smokestack deep in the background, a faint reminder of what’s really going on. Hearing about Andrea Zittel’s upcoming project at the southeast entrance to New York’s CENTRAL PARK, I can’t help but think of Seurat’s painting, or for that matter Renoir’s La Grenouillère from ’69. All offer a sociological vivisection of modern leisure: in Zittel’s case, a few dwarf faux mountains designed for citizens to crawl up in order to contemplate the urban and natural attractions that converge at Fifth and Sixtieth. Titled Point of Interest, the perch is calculated as an outcropping of Olmsted and Vaux’s famous outcroppings of rock. Of course, the contemplative folks atop the petite tetons will themselves be contemplated as representations of leisure by an unending stream of pedestrians. Like Seurat’s idyll, Zittel’s paradise will surely be wounded by the incursions of real life—but incursions of a kind that could only have appeared incredible as Seurat’s century became the twentieth. On second thought, then, as we approach our own fin de siècle, this stark collision of urban bombast and simulation hushed landscape may remind us more of the bone-bashing ape scene in 2001 than the lapping water and quaint frogs of La Grenouillère.

Ronald Jones