With each project, new and exciting opportunities arise. I try to have contingency plans for unpleasant surprises, but I am always caught off guard by the positive ones. I never expected that by working in Atlantic City, I would find a renewed sense of purpose and inspiration.
It seems as if the stars have aligned for "Artlantic: wonder." Local artists and groups, business leaders, government officials, the school system, and the trade unions have all done their part to make this project succeed. I imagine that they, too, see the need to transform empty lots into beautiful, living public spaces though art and architecture. I foresee many activities taking place in the Artlantic spaces, but, more important, I hope to see the emergence of a greater sense of community. Working in Atlantic City, we have met many wonderful people who see this collective action as a catalyst. There is almost a sense of euphoria when someone offers ideas or volunteers. I hope that Artlantic illustrates how great art can go beyond the gallery, museum or auction house. It must begin in the heart and remain there to truly transform people through experience.
Artlantic: wonder encourages locals and visitors to relax and gather in Atlantic City's newest public spaces. Visually stunning and exciting, the project encompasses two locations near the historic Boardwalk. The design of the larger location evokes roller coasters, past and present, on the Steel Pier and also draws inspiration from the terraced rice fields that I have visited in Indonesia. Its spiral form is mirrored by a similar spiral pattern at the second location.
I wanted to create a design that would give the participating artists private and unique spaces in which to exhibit their work. I selected four visionary artists with whom I have worked in the past. Though their philosophies and styles are quite different, I envision that the combination will achieve balance and harmony, the individual works interacting with and reinforcing each other.
The first site is formed by two grass mounds interwoven into a giant earthwork that not only expresses its own sculptural quality, but also creates a unique setting for Robert Barry's illuminated text piece. More than 20 inspiring words, including "wonder," "glorious," and "possible," engage Atlantic City's bright lights in an informal dialogue, giving a new interpretation of the Boardwalk's bold signage.
Entering the space encircled by the landform, whose two components slope down to the earth like two arms embracing the space within, visitors will find a serene natural environment, sheltered from the noise of the city. The art spaces, walled by 14-foot-high, undulating hills covered in native grasses and wildflowers, house installations designed by Ilya and Emilia Kabakov and Kiki Smith. The Kabakovs' playful pirate ship rises out of the ground. Visitors are encouraged to explore the secrets of the excavated vessel. Kiki Smith's lush garden is entirely composed of brilliant red foliage - plants covered in red flowers, red berries, or red leaves at various times of the year. This sanctuary surrounds a life-size version of Smith's charcoal-colored bronze sculpture, "Her," in which a woman tenderly cradling a doe alludes to an embrace between humanity and the natural world.
At the second Artlantic location, John Roloff's "Etude Atlantis" forms an elaborate, illusionistic space in which bold linear stripes converge into a spiral pattern. A cistern, carefully crafted from sheets of mirror-finished stainless steel, occupies the center of the spiral. Water gently cascades down the lip of the cistern, falls through the center and disappears, as though the space were alive and weeping.
Visitors to the world of Artlantic: wonder are encouraged to return to the installations as often as they wish. As with any garden, the seasons will affect the landscape, changing the space and the artworks over time and yielding new experiences with each visit.
Lance M. Fung is curator of Artlantic: wonder.