University of Illinois at Chicago
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Occupy Plop Art: Public Sculpture as Site of Antagonism

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posted on 2013-06-28, 00:00 authored by Samantha L. Alfrey
In large cities today, prominent buildings are almost expected to have a sculpture in the middle of the plaza in front of it. While public sculpture has noble, community-oriented goals – to bring art to a wider audience, without an admission cost of a museum – criticism of the modernist sculpture in a plaza shows the heated nature of such works in urban centers. The term plop art, coined by artist/architect James Wines and used by many, including art historian Miwon Kwon, suggests that these modernist, abstract sculptures are important because as an example of what not to create for a public space. Most people, be they academics, critics, curators, politicians, etc, seem to agree that these sculptures primarily provide no engagement with the public that they are meant to serve. While plop art has been mostly understood to be an eyesore, this project looks at instances in which plop art has been used by citizens for effective ends, in artistic and political ways. Here I aim to articulate how the sculpture can become a symbol for an entity with which citizens want to converse. These conversations with and within sculptures offer an alternative view of plop, as it shows examples of how the “unengaging” sculptures have engaged. By examining these instances, I suggest that we can redefine plop art in terms of the types of engagements that it creates. This can provide a different scale of how to measure the success or failure of plop: the sculpture that engages is fundamentally more successful than sculptures that fail to engage their publics.



Archias, Elise


Art History

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Masters

Committee Member

Higgins, Hannah Quinn, Therese

Submitted date



  • en

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