NEW YORK, NY.- Through April 2009, visitors to Central Park's Doris C. Freedman Plaza will come across three sculptures by Christian Jankowski that may require a second look from passersby. New Yorkers and tourists alike are accustomed to seeing the occasional performer on the streets of our city, entertaining crowds with dance, magic or impersonation. When visitors encounter Jankowski's Living Sculptures, they may at first think they are seeing three street performers, surprisingly motionless and grouped together. In actuality, the figures are bronze sculptures that reference the tradition of professional street performers who strike poses as historical or fantastical characters for passersby. Specifically these works draw inspiration from three street performers Jankowski observed and selected from a public thoroughfare in Barcelona that regularly present themselves as the likenesses of a Roman legionnaire who refers to himself as "Caesar", the revolutionary leader Che Guevara, and an enigmatic woman inspired by a figure known as "The Anthropomorphic Cabinet Woman" created by artist Salvador Dali.
Jankowski's sculptures are, in essence, statues of people performing as statues. Representing modern day figures, both real and imagined, they are exceptionally life-like, though solid bronze in their composition. Their human scale and figurative representation beckon viewers to come close, consider whether they are real people, pose next to them for photos, and perhaps even leave a few coins in appreciation. The installation of Living Sculptures at the entrance to Central Park is especially fitting given that it is a favored and prominent spot for public sculptures as well as some of the New York's actual street performers, including a frequent impersonator of the Statue of Liberty.
In these works Jankowski fuses the tradition of monuments with popular references: Che Guevara's image circulates as a symbol of politics as much as of counterculture. This representation of an impersonator of El Che demonstrates a further remaking and another interpretation of this icon. Dali's "Cabinet Woman" similarly exemplifies the extent to which Dali's imagery has entered into popular consciousness and has inspired numerous adaptations; the familiar has been reinterpreted expressively by the street performer standing with a decorative umbrella and an unused crutch. "Caesar" similarly displays a creative adaptation; here, the traditional costume of sandals and sword has been modified by the modern day wearer. Jankowski conflates the real, historical sources with the street performers' interpretations, fusing and memorializing the two in sculptures that call our attention to the way figures are personified in art and popular culture.
Working in a variety of media including video, installation, performance and photography, Jankowski often confounds reality and fiction, while typically engaging the subjects of his works in the creative process. Throughout his career, he has collaborated with fortune tellers, border guards, professional magicians and children all of whom have appeared in his work. In this case, three Barcelona street performers modeled for the casts of sculptures; each of them conceived their impersonations of the characters they represent, as well as designed and produced their costumes and make up. The three figures that compose Living Sculptures have been presented publicly in Barcelona, London and Berlin in 2007.
Christian Jankowski was born in 1968 in Göttingen, Germany and lives and works in Berlin and New York. He has shown extensively in the United States and abroad and has had recent solo exhibitions at: Kunstmuseum, Stuttgart (through January 2009); Galerie Martin Klosterfelde, Berlin (2008); Maccarone, New York (2007); and Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2007). Jankowski has also participated in group exhibitions at: ICA, Philadelphia (2008); Villa Manin Center for Contemporary Art, Codroipo, Italy (2008); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (2008); Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati (2008), and the List Center for the Arts, MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts (2007), among others.