Urban Jungle depicts the sightings of an urban society through various forms of art. The reason why I named it Urban Jungle is because these works of art are connected by the environmental cues of skyscrapers, various forms of transportations and the people that live in them. Although Jungles have various forms of animals, I metaphorically wanted to convey that concept of differing species in the form of individuation, and how the vast individual’s economic power affect one another’s character.
As I was shuffling through various artworks, only one specific artwork gave me the immediate idea of a theme title and what the theme would be about. That specific work of art is in the form of an installation and is titled Skyline – Landscapes of Seoul (2010) by Chung, Seung Un. The medium of this piece is stainless steel pipe, and granite, which measures 11,900 centimeters in width, 7,900 centimeters in height, and 20,800 centimeters in depth. Although the artist intended for this piece to be a sculptural drawing in floatation, the fact that it stems from an urban landscape, and the point of view from which the photograph is taken of this piece, causes the installation to look like the trees of a jungle: interweaving in and out of itself and around the environment like Organic shapes. Only difference is that the environment incasing these organic shapes (installation and trees) are concrete buildings from which, in contrast, are obviously inorganic.
As for the other pieces of art, I chose to use them in a means to portray and support the idea of urban jungle that was influenced by Chung. For instance, the work titled Skyscrapers by Gjon Mili, is a photograph in which looks upwards into the sky. Just how in a jungle (if you look up towards the sky) you would see nothing but leaves from the trees and their vertical rising barks absorbing the vertical space of this urban “ecosystem”.
Another piece that was perfectly form fitting to this theme of Urban Jungle is called Bridge, Blackwell’s island (1909) by George Wesley Bellows. There were many reasons why I chose this piece. Thematically, the oil on painting portrayed the liveliness, excitement, and energetic qualities of urban life with bold colors, and broad brushstrokes with thick dabs of pigment. Also the fact that the river being depicted as ferocious with a bold tugboat fighting the current, and a massive bridge going into the suburbs of New York City, symbolizes the strength this urban society has and the constant human drive to tame nature. This piece further elaborates the unnatural qualities of an Urban Jungle. I also personally chose this piece because it is the Queensboro Bridge (54th St. Bridge) overlooking the borough of Queens, which the entrance to that bridge (on the Queens side) is a few blocks shy from my old neighborhood growing up. So seeing a bridge from my childhood and an artist’s perspective of it from over a century before my lifetime is quite fascinating.
The fourth piece in this gallery is a painting titled Wedding (2006) by Suh, Yongson and the main reason why I chose this piece is because it portrays all the square/rectangular shapes found within the subway systems of cities. As shown in the painting, the tiles on the walls, ceilings and floors strongly portray the unnatural characteristics of a subway other than the person within it.
As for my fifth piece of art in my Urban Jungle Gallery, it is a painting by Suh, Yongson also named The Center of a City (1999), but to my interpretation, it fits perfectly to the behavioral aspect of a jungle by people traveling in their differing vehicles and in “herds” like animals do guided by pathways paved by the people overseeing them. The “M” of the McDonald’s sign is present on one of the buildings near-center, adding to the thought of the people in the vehicles being overseen by the taller people in a manner a farmer oversees it’s herd.
My sixth piece is a photograph title Apr 1950 by Michael Rougier, and is a photograph of capitalist Benjamin F. Fairless at a Senate hearing, with a stoical facial expression defending his steel company from Monopoly charges. I chose this piece for the fact that one, it is a person that can be metaphorically be symbolized as king of the jungle by the fact that he is an executive of a company that was vastly rich in economic power and resources at the time; two, the fact that he is being charged for Monopoly charges in this photograph shows how humans of an “Urban Jungle” fight for “territorial” economic resources. Just how animals fight each other for resources like water, food, and mating, Fairless in this photograph is captured in a moment where he fights for his respective form of resources; and lastly three, I chose this photograph for the fact that it captured a moment in time that can represent how the elite or alpha males of an “Urban Jungle” continue to rule their territory within the ecosystem.
The seventh piece I selected is titled Frozen Assets (1931) and was painted by Diego Rivera. I chose this piece because it would be a perfect example in response to Rougier’s photograph of Benjamin Fairless. In the Urban environment, the workers keep the society alive, but on the polar opposite, and dark-side of an “Urban Jungle”, there are homeless people living within this “Urban Jungle”. In contrast to the piece before, it is very ironic for many reasons also which made this piece a great choice. One, it further shows the unnatural qualities of the term homeless within a proclaimed “jungle”. In a natural jungle, every animal has a home because they build upon the resources within their territory. But in an Urban Jungle, the animals living within this environment (humans), cannot self sustain themselves without money. As you can see in the painting, the top layer of the mural is a vast skyline with workers traveling like mules, as portrayed with them packed inside the subway train running along the city. Sadly, and ironic to successes of Fairless, the situation is in fact fair less because these people have no home and are sleeping on the ground (looking more like dead corpses) of a warehouse being watched by a guard. The fact that the artist portrayed these homeless like a bunch of dead corpses on the ground to me symbolizes the poverty and the struggle to just get by and survive with their life. On the other hand, Fairless, in his photograph is trying to get by staying rich; which is portrayed on the bottom of the painting by how the seemingly same guard is guarding the riches of elites like Fairless.
My eighth work of art that I selected for my theme, Urban Jungle, is a painting titled Alameda Gran Torino and it is a painting by Robert Chetle that accurately depicts a hatchback station wagon parked in the driveway of a house. This car was very common at the time amongst middle class families in American Urban societies. The reason I chose this painting is because it portrays the comfort to live in an Urban Society and the resources one is capable of providing for our families within an “Urban Jungle”.
The ninth piece I chose is titled New Christ (1980) and was painted by Pablo Baens Santos. Although this piece is controversial by the way the artist drew an American flag background and a person bounded, carrying a dollar sign the same way Jesus carried the cross leading up to his crucifixion. The reason I chose this painting is because the artist portrayed the person is sacrificing himself in the name of Capitalism and further shows the power of capitalism. This painting is very fitting to my theme “Urban Jungle” because capitalistic ideals are the way how these Urban Societies run.
To finish my Gallery themed Urban Jungle, I chose a piece titled Subway Preacher (1984) and it is a sculpture created by Alison Saar. I chose this piece because it is very spiritual in the way that even though the homeless man depicted in the sculpture is dirty and is indicative of his material poverty, his chest and heart are enshrined like a holy relic. Bricks with the writing 3 on it indicating his surrounding being a subway station surround the sculpture. This piece really portrays how although a person from an Urban Jungle may be home less and poor, they may also be rich in character and life through other means, therefore depicting how happiness within these societies is relative to how it is perceived.