Like celebrities, artists aren't necessarily the best judge of optics when it comes to making statements or gestures about politics or other issues roiling society—like, say, the current crisis. Of course, they're entitled to expressing their opinions and presumably mean well, but often the result can come off a little…tone-deaf.
Recently, for instance, The New York Times ran a story about an outdoor art exhibition called "Drive-By-Art (Public Art in This Moment of Social Distancing)," which transpired recently in the Hamptons. Organized by the artist Warren Neidich, it involved around 50 artists who mounted artworks on their properties within sight of passing cars. The Times described the effort as "a dose of culture amid the sterile isolation imposed by the pandemic," though it should be noted that "sterile" and "isolation" are in the eyes of the beholder: These are the Hamptons, after all, and it takes a certain wherewithal for anyone, let alone artists, to shelter in place there. Most artists live in the ass-end of Brooklyn or Queens, and aren't likely to be getting a side order of scenic greenery or beachfront views with their main course of quarantine.
Still, long before money made it the gilded cage it's become right now, many artists called the Hamptons home, including Jackson Pollock. "Drive-By-Art," quite rightly claims to draw on this tradition.
The show also suggests that cars can bridge the gaps imposed by social distancing, and it’s certainly true that exposure is minimized by cruising around in your sweet ride, especially if the windows are up. Leaving aside the wisdom of expanding your carbon footprint in this fashion, the point does illuminate (perhaps unintentionally) the salient fact that cars have played a critical role in how current cases have been distributed across the United States. It’s no accident that NYC became the country's epicenter, since it depends on the largest and most crowded transit system in the nation.
As in most suburbs, you need a car to get around the Hamptons, but let's face it, the area isn’t exactly representative of New York as a whole. However, "Drive-By-Art" is coming to L.A., and will be located across a much broader range of neighborhoods. The show will be in East Los Angeles May 23-25, and West Los Angeles May 30-31, and you can find exact locations here. The optics, along with the light, will probably be a lot better there.
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