The Hot Dog Artist
The best art in New York is not necessarily at the Met. Chris Doyle will argue this point with anyone. For the past several years he has been experimenting with both public art projects and the video work being shown in public spaces. Tuesday night, after refuting the myth that artists do not like to talk about their work, he welcomed the Kresge crowd into his world. By focusing on the relationships between public and personal, individual and group, and finding beauty in the mundane, Doyle creates a truly unique and animated body of work.
Not only does Doyle frame his works in public spaces, he often involves the public as well. In his work Commutable, Doyle chose to transform the New York Williamsburg Bridge, a route used by hundreds of commuters everyday between Williamsburg and the Lower East Side. Focusing on the extremely abused, syringe-littered stairway to this pedestrian overpass, he and a small crew covered the staircase with 3x3" pieces of 24K gold leaf. Knowing that the bridge was located between two poor immigrant communities, he stated that the idea of "paving the streets with gold" was in his mind as he executed his plan. He hoped that the gold would slowly erode and be carried throughout the city on the soles of the commuters' feet.
Being outside the studio for ten days pushed Doyle to think about how he could continue to involve people more directly with his work. LEAP was his answer. This project took place in Columbus Circle, Manhattan, and stretched forty feet in the air. Columbus Circle is a point where eleven subway-end-points converge, giving Doyle the opportunity to meet with people from all five boroughs. He filmed 420 New Yorkers each jumping alone in front of a black back-drop and then questioned them about their dreams and aspirations. The result was a phenomenal projection of New Yorkers of every age, color, and size leaping skyward. He described this as "an anti-celebrity piece of work." By magnifying everyday people doing an ordinary movement, he found his favorite part of the work was not the complete abandon they had as they leapt, but the "Buster Keaton aspect" he didn't expect; those precious few moments as people readied themselves for the leap. Their individual reactions became a type of art all on their own.
Another way to let everyday people have their fifteen minutes of fame was to turn the University of Michigan Museum "inside out". Doyle saw the museum's collection of 18th and 19th century portraits of wealthy individuals to be an unjust representation of the people who lived at this time. Because he didn't want to see the same mistake happen twice, he mixed these portraits with video clips of members of the UM campus and projected them onto the side of the museum. The project, entitled What I See When I Look at You, was an extension of his belief in getting art out of the museum.
Aside from monumental outdoor works, Doyle experimented with stop motion; he called these projects his "back yard" projects because of his intimate relationship with them. He described stop motion as being thousands of sculptures combined to make a whole - much like Commutable. By exploring stop motion he brought things to life that to the rest of us seem dead. Something like, say, the brick and the hot dog. He found beauty in the repetition and possibilities that hide in these apparently lifeless subjects and displayed the hot dogs on 30 foot projectors and his bricks on three split screens.
Processed meat and uniform rectangles never looked so glamorous. Doyle is always interested in the social pressure to be unique, and that is one theme his "back yard" projects challenge. To him they certainly became an entity of their own. Regarding the hotdogs he stated, "It's hard for me to look at that and not feel fondly about my actors."
Whether it's food, stone, humans, or gold, Chris Doyle creates a very
personal and humanistic art that admires the masses but doesn't forget
the individual pieces that add together to make the whole possible. For
more information and to see some of the art discussed here check out: