I Don't Know Much About Art, But I Know What I Like - And I Like Chickens!

Fair Use: Photograph of Hahn/Cock in situ in Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA - To discuss artwork and to illustrate the appearance of the work in its context in Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Last weekend I finally found time to make a pilgrimage to the cool new gimongo chicken sculpture that has been installed in the Twin Cities.  The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden has added sixteen new pieces as part of its recent multimillion-dollar renovation and expansion.  One of them, Hahn/Cock by German artist Katharina Fristch is a giant blue fiberglass rooster standing on a steel base – the base and rooster top out at 25 feet. 

Fristch likes to incorporate not-so-subtle ironic humor into her works, and she's best known for Rattenk├Ânig/Rat King, a group of enormous black polyester rats, shown at the 1999 Venice Biennale.  This is her second edition of Hahn/Cock.  The original was on display in Trafalgar Square in London as part of the “Fourth Plinth” project.

When you think of Trafalgar Square, giant blue chickens are not necessarily the first things to pop into your head. The square is named for the Battle of Trafalgar, an iconic British naval victory during the Napoleonic Wars with France.  Everything in the square exudes a sense of militaristic masculinity.  In the middle of the square on an immense column stands Lord Horatio Nelson, hero of the Battle of Trafalgar.  Arranged at the four corners of the square are four plinths (statue bases).  One plinth holds a large bronze statue of George IV dressed as an ancient Roman and on horseback.  Two of the others hold statues of Major General Sir Henry Havelock and General Sir Charles James Napier, both figures in the British conquest and subjugation of India.  The Fourth Plinth was supposed to hold a statue of William IV, but the project was never completed due to a money shortage.  Thus, the Fourth Plinth remained empty for 150 years until the City of London decided that something needed to go on that empty base, and that the time was ripe to do something about it.  So, it was decided that contemporary sculptors would be invited to display their work on that plinth on a temporary basis.  Katharina Fristch was asked to participate in this project.

Fristch’s task was to design a sculpture that would be on display in the midst of all of the monolithic stone buildings and statues honoring 19th century military guys.  A giant blue rooster, right?  Well, of course!  She claims that when she created the work she didn’t know, until someone told her, that the rooster is the unofficial national emblem of France.  But she appreciates the unintended irony.  “It's a nice humorous side-effect to have something French in a place that celebrates victory over Napoleon, she said. “He has come back as a cockerel!"

Even if the French connection was an accident, Fristch was very much aiming for humor from the very beginning.  “Humor is always a big thing for me,” she declared.  “It stops things from becoming too severe.”  She took note of the militaristic, male-dominated surroundings, and male statues on giant phallic columns, and decided that she would create her giant blue rooster as "a feminist sculpture, since it is I who am doing something active here – I, a woman, am depicting something male. Historically it has always been the other way around.” 

She also admitted that Hahn/Cock is a purposefully intended double entendre.  “Hahn” in German has the same two meanings as the English word “cock”.  The British Hahn/Cock, which was erected in 2013 is no longer standing.  I hope the new Minneapolis version stays up a good long while.
 
Hahn/Cock Presides Over the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Fair Use: Photograph of Hahn/Cock in situ in Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA - To discuss artwork and to illustrate the appearance of the work in its context in Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
After paying homage to the big blue roo, I crossed the street to Loring Park where the annual Loring Park Art Festival was taking place.  I didn’t visit all 140 artists there, but I did serendipitously wander into the booth of Judy Hagstrom a long-time member of the Twin Cities art community.  It was there that I spotted Judy’s watercolor “Chicken and Egg”.  I spotted it, I loved it, I purchased it, I brought it home, and I hung it on my wall – all in very short order.  I really like the way that Judy has captured the personalities and individuality of the chickens in this painting, and I really like the whimsy.  Judy told me that the word ‘whimsy” has been mentioned more than once in describing her work.  At 79, she’s only selling through festivals now, and isn’t sure how much longer she can keep doing it, since she relies on her 80-year-old husband to set up her booth.  I’m glad I’ve got this representative work hanging on my wall.


Since I’m on the theme of public art celebrating chickens, here are a few more pieces that I’ve run across over the last couple of years:

This dandy white rooster has been standing outside of a giftshop in Two Harbors, Minnesota for years.  A couple years ago, as I was passing through Two Harbors, I decided it was time to stop and pose for a picture with him.


This interestingly garbed rooster is outside of Moe’s Diner in Osseo, Wisconsin.  In fact he’s wearing a chef’s hat and bib….and this diner serves chicken….so…..Oh!  The horror!  I don’t want to think about it any more!


This glittery roo graces the deck of The Mellow Mushroom in St. Augustine Beach, Florida.


This really cool rooster mural is on a very large wall in one of the buildings on the Epic Systems campus in Verona, Wisconsin. 


And there you have it!  What's your favorite poultry-themed art?  Post a comment on my Facebook page!




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