On DUMBO Artistry


The DUMBO (acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighborhood of Brooklyn is an upscale community of high-rises, high-prices and high-living. Like other such neighborhoods in and around the city, mainly inhabited by professional types (which, today, usually means filthy rich) or career-oriented types (which, today, usually means covetous ), they’re proud of their elitist cynosure.

These are what I refer to as the Nifty Epicureans, connoisseurs of the finer things in life. Exotic herbal teas and related potions, healthy if frivolous dining, designer-labeled apparel and personalities, are just a few of the stage props which comprise their nouveau riche, dilettantish lifestyle. (Then again, this resembles my own nearby neighborhood of Park Slope.)

Somehow and sometime (how and when, I’m not sure), a block of granite was “planted” in Cadman Plaza, a park bordering on DUMBO’s green and pleasant pretentiousness. Within that oftentimes cloudy region, where art borders on artifice, this monolithic curiosity is called “art”…at least by its creator, Sam Nigro. The apparently mislaid, commonplace stone is called “The Strategic Placement of Stone” by Nigro, while the majority of mystified residents call it a mere “cement block” and, further mystified, walk away.

In my more mischievous moments (and there are many), I’m able to comprehend such new age works. Like DUMBO itself, rising out of nowhere to confound reason and sensibility, The Strategic Placement of Stone may be strategically and appropriately placed after all. But my interpretation is probably outdated, based on growing up in a state of mind when DUMBO wasn’t an acronym for an affluent and high-rising neighborhood but the name for a lovable Disney character, a cup of coffee didn’t cost ten-dollars, and a block of stone became a work of art only when it was transformed into, or aspired towards, a  “David” or a “Pieta” or something similar.

Photo: Ben Muessig,  The Brooklyn Paper

(originally posted: 07/18/08)