Standing on the College subway platform, I smiled at artist Charles Pachter‘s effort to mark the station as the one closest to Maple Leaf Gardens. The hockey shrine is a supermarket now.
In 1985, it was unimaginable that the revered Gardens would be abandoned in favour of the Air Canada Centre.
Pachter’s enamel-on-metal drawings have proved durable enough to survive public service. They’ve even outlasted their purpose. The comic book look took some critical hits when the panels were first installed, but 30 years ago, graphic novels were not viewed as art the way they are now, either.
Pachter chose to focus on the teams. I prefer Michael Snow‘s more surprising approach, when he turned his eye away from the players and looked at The Audience , for his 1989 pro sports commission on the side of Toronto’s dome.
It’s a funny, unflattering tribute to baseball fans, howling from the stands. I like it for not being pompous or reverential.
I see a sly acknowledgement that pro sports have become today’s popular religion. Placing figures in boxes this way has a long history in church art. Bernini‘s 1651 Ecstasy of Saint Teresa is probably the most famous example.
Art patrons are forever changing their strategies for shaping public values. From ancient Roman bread and circuses, through pious Bible stories and, perhaps, back again.
Public art, even when it stinks (or especially when it stinks) reveals a lot about the society that accepts it and about the people, committees, corporations or institutions that commission it.
“We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.” — Pablo Picasso