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Don’t Diss The Kiss

Sarasota, Florida has finally embraced the 26-foot-high, painted fiberglass sculpture “Unconditional Surrender,” which depicts a sailor enthusiastically planting a smoocherooni (as they called it in liberated villages) on the lips of a loose-limbed nurse on V-J Day in Times Square. After a combative public hearing, city commissioners decided to accept a donation of the $500,000 massive clutching couple and agreed to exhibit it for at least ten years on the bay front.

Unconditional Surrender, San Diego.
Unconditional Surrender, San Diego.
“Unconditional Surrender” engendered heated controversy, pitting patriotic liplock-loving photo-opportunists against high-minded aesthetes who were offended by its gaudy oversized zeal. Opponents also claimed that it was a traffic hazard.

(The statue exists in multiple versions, including one “temporarily installed” for years in G Street Mole Park in San Diego, which also induces occasional kitsch-induced trauma among the art critic set.)

The gigantic public art pairing—created by J. Seward Johnson, a scion of the Johnson & Johnson baby powder fortune — has also garnered criticism for  being a copyright infringement of Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photograph “V-J Day at Times Square”. In response, Johnson claims that he based the sculpture on a different photograph by Alfred Jorgensen. Take a look. Who’s he kidding?

Johnson — who we like to think of as the love child of Duane Hanson and Norman Rockwell — first came to questionable prominence with his life-sized bronzes of businessmen on benches. But in recent years he’s moved on to pay homage (i.e. “rip off”) famous works of art.

His towering “God Bless America” (Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” with suitcases) graces an office building plaza in Chicago. His Corcoran Gallery show “Beyond The Frame” featured his own sculpted versions of various Impressionist paintings. Many of them are on view these days at Grounds For Sculpture (formerly a part of The New Jersey State Fairgrounds) in Hamilton, New Jersey.

Well, at least he has a sense of humor: his installation “Copyright Violation!” consists of a 3-D statue of Claude Monet, posed painting a J. Seward Johnson sculpture that is in turn based upon a Monet Painting. It may not be tall…but that’s deep!

Sections: Attraction News, Rants 1 Comment »

One Response to “Don’t Diss The Kiss”

  1. Rich Braham Says:
    September 21st, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    This is great news. Maybe the best in a while on this blog. I’m glad to see Sarasota do the right thing and make sure it stays for a long time. The ones against this awesome piece of work are exactly the problem these days. If the people who made or support this great sculpture are all that’s left in the future, they will screw this world up, not global warming, Congress, CERN in France, an approaching asteroid, or the false president with the unpronounceable name in Iran. They (unless the asteroid is big enough) only wish they could do the damage the fools who criticize this statue I wish I lived near are trying hard to do.

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