About the Exhibition
New Yorkers and tourists alike are accustomed to seeing the occasional street performer, entertaining crowds with dance, magic or impersonation. When visitors encounter Christian Jankowski's Living Sculptures, they may at first think they are seeing three street performers, surprisingly motionless and grouped together. In actuality, the figures are bronze sculptures that reference professional street performers who pose as historical or fantastical characters for passersby. Specifically these works draw inspiration from three street performers Jankowski (b.1968, Plzen, Czech Republic) observed and selected from a public thoroughfare in Barcelona: a man who presents himself as the likeness of a Roman legionnaire, and who refers to himself as "Caesar;" a man who poses as the revolutionary leader Che Guevara; and a woman inspired by "The Anthropomorphic Cabinet Woman," an enigmatic figure created by artist Salvador Dali.
Jankowski's sculptures are, in essence, statues of people performing as statues. Representing modern day figures, both real and imagined, they are exceptionally life-like, though solid bronze in their composition. Their human scale and figurative representation beckon viewers to come close, consider whether they are real people, pose next to them for photos, and perhaps even leave a few coins in appreciation. The installation of Living Sculptures at the entrance to Central Park is especially fitting given that it is a favored spot for public sculptures as well as some of New York City's actual street performers, including a frequent impersonator of the Statue of Liberty.
In these works Jankowski fuses the tradition of monuments with popular references: Che Guevara's image circulates as a symbol of politics as much as of counterculture. This representation of someone impersonating “el Che” demonstrates a further remaking and another interpretation of this icon. Dali's "Cabinet Woman" similarly exemplifies the extent to which Dali's imagery has entered into popular consciousness, inspiring numerous adaptations. For "Caesar," the modern-day wearer has modified the ancient costume of sandals and sword. Jankowski conflates actual historical sources with the street performers' interpretations, fusing and memorializing the two in sculptures that call our attention to the way figures are personified in art and popular culture.