Male/Female (Borofsky)

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Male/Female
ArtistJonathan Borofsky
Year2004 (2004)
MediumStainless steel
SubjectMale and female human figures
Dimensions15.5 m cm (51 ft.[1] in)
Weight20,000–28,000 lb (9,100–12,700 kg) (approx.)[2][1]
LocationBaltimore, Maryland
Coordinates39°18′26″N 76°36′57″W / 39.3071°N 76.6159°W / 39.3071; -76.6159Coordinates: 39°18′26″N 76°36′57″W / 39.3071°N 76.6159°W / 39.3071; -76.6159
OwnerCity of Baltimore

Male/Female is a 15.5-meter (51 ft) tall hollow stainless steel sculpture by Jonathan Borofsky standing at the entrance to Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore, Maryland. It depicts intersecting colossal male and female forms with pulsing light-emitting diode light.[2]

History[edit]

Male/Female is a work of public art commissioned by the Municipal Art Society of Baltimore City, a private non-profit organization founded in 1899 "to provide sculptural and pictoral [sic] decoration and ornaments for the public buildings, streets and open spaces in the City of Baltimore, and to help generally beautify the City." (from the original charter) Male/Female was created by artist Jonathan Borofksy as the centerpiece of a re-designed plaza in front of Penn Station. The project celebrated the Municipal Art Society's centennial and was completed in 2004. The sculpture was given to the City as a gift.

Critical reception[edit]

Male/Female in front of Pennsylvania Station, Baltimore

Male/Female has generated considerable controversy ever since its installation. Its defenders cite the contemporary imagery and artistic expression as complementing an urban landscape, while opponents criticize what they decry as a clash with Penn Station's Beaux-Arts architecture, detracting from its classic lines.

It has been named both Baltimore's kinkiest piece of public art, "The Invasion of the 50-Foot She-Male" that "bends genders and may very well affirm life",[3] and one of the city's best "bizarre" statues.[4][5]

As The Baltimore Sun editorialized,[6]

Could this explain why defenders of "Male/Female", the sculpture in front of Penn Station, get so irritable? That large piece of quadrupedal artwork is out there all on its own, unclothed of commemorative armor that might deflect public criticism – unless you want to think of it as a memorial to the war between the sexes, but that's an issue that people tend to have a lot of different and strongly held opinions about anyway. No, "Male/Female" gets a lot of attention strictly on its artistic merits, and much of it isn't very positive, especially concerning its setting in front of the Beaux–Arts railroad station. This drives its proponents up the wall."

Three years later, Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks ridiculed the artwork, writing on August 26, 2007, "Patrons of art here paid $750,000 for a 51-foot sculpture ... that looks like Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still. I look at it and want to say: 'Klaatu barada nikto!' It's the first thing visitors see when they walk out of the train station."[7] Another Sun reporter, commenting in July 2008 on what she described as the "stormy relationship" between Baltimore and public art, said "People's hate for Penn Station's behemoth Male/Female sculpture has burned for years."[8]

The statue has been featured a few times in the Zippy comic strip, beginning with the August 26, 2004 installment. Its cartoonist, Bill Griffith, opined that "the sculpture as I look at it is both intriguing and compelling but also a little kitschy, and I like that. It's a nice place to be – high art and low art at the same time." He was also attracted to its message that people are full of contradictions and its provocativeness, stating that "you can't not react to it."[9][10]

Other locations[edit]

Smaller versions of the sculpture exist in Kagoshima, Japan (24 feet (7.3 m) tall) and Bielefeld, Germany (30 feet (9.1 m) tall).[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Edward Gunts (November 14, 2001), "Female, male, monumental: Art society offers the city a 51-foot gender-bending artwork to stand in front of Penn Station", Baltimore Sun
  2. ^ a b c Kelly 2011, p. 119.
  3. ^ Edward Gunts (November 18, 2001), "A man, a woman, a heart", Baltimore Sun
  4. ^ Michael Farley, "The much-hated 'Male/Female' statue at Penn Station is in fact Baltimore's kinkiest artwork", Baltimore City Paper
  5. ^ Best Bizarre Statues Or Public Art In Baltimore, CBS Baltimore, October 1, 2012
  6. ^ "Art Scrape". The Baltimore Sun. August 28, 2006.
  7. ^ Rodricks, Dan (August 26, 2007). "Bawlmer Bizarre–What a Relief". The Baltimore Sun. p. 3B. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  8. ^ Rosen, Jill (July 17, 2008). "Fake Forest Hides in Plain Sight". The Baltimore Sun. p. 1C. Retrieved July 17, 2008.
  9. ^ Gunts, Edward (August 27, 2004). "Male/Female' Statue Latest Stop on 'Zippy' Trip". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved August 27, 2004.
  10. ^ Warner, Tom (March 21, 2008). "Baltimore Art Crimes: A Charm City Atrocity Exhibit". Accelerated Decrepitude (blog). Retrieved March 21, 2008.

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