Columbia Waterfront

Brooklyn sculptor brings ‘Picasso’ to Columbia Street Waterfront District

May 21, 2018 By Raanan Geberer Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Elliott Arkin works on the initial stages of “The Spanish Gardener,” depicting artist Pablo Picasso mowing a lawn. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Greenway Initiative

Brooklyn artist Elliott Arkin has exhibited all over the world, but his latest exhibit will be in his own neighborhood, the Columbia Street Waterfront District.

“The Spanish Gardener,” a 10-foot mixed-media sculpture showing famed Spanish artist Pablo Picasso mowing a lawn, will be on view at the corner of DeGraw and Columbia streets from June 1 to July 15.

The Spanish Gardener, Arkin’s largest work to date, is a continuation in his series “The Peaceable Kingdom,” depicting famous artists as gardening lawn gnomes.

For example, “Fountain,” depicts Andy Warhol standing on a Brillo box and aiming a water hose at a miniature plastic pool, while “Seed-Sower” depicts Vincent Van Gogh carrying a sack full of seeds.

They were originally created for a sculpture garden in Texas in 2004, then exhibited in a solo show at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art’s (MAMAC) rooftop garden in Nice, France in 2013. Of the Picasso figure, he said, “I decided on Picasso because he is kind of the quintessential artist to the public.”

Like many artists, Arkin has another job — he doubles as a real estate salesperson at Brooklyn Heights Real Estate on Montague Street. “I’ve been in Brooklyn since 1983, when I graduated from Amherst College,” he said. “Originally, I lived above the Queen restaurant [on Court Street in Downtown Brooklyn]. Now, I own a little building at Hicks and Union streets, the one that has La Petite Crevette on the ground floor.” He lives in the building as well.

When Arkin first came to New York, he began his art career by designing windows for Tiffany & Co. In 1993, he began drawing 3-D cartoons for Artnet News, and many of them were later turned into sculptures.

Many of his works for the publication are “insider’s jokes” about figures in the art world that wouldn’t be known by the general public.

For example, a figure of a man posed like a baseball pitcher at the mound, showing a man winding up like a baseball pitcher preparing to throw a ball, is titled, [art critic] Robert Storr throwing out the first passionate erudite criticism for the fall art season.” Another, showing a woman contorting her hands in a claw-like manner is titled “[Art dealer] Mary Boone throwing the first hissy fit for the fall art season.”

One arresting cartoon Arkin drew shows Santa Claus with his hand on his exposed member. Arkin explained to the Eagle that the drawing is a satire on artist Paul McCarthy’s style. Sure enough, McCarthy’s website shows groups of sculpted figures who have their hands around their nether regions.

Arkin’s waterfront installation is sponsored by Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, which seeks to develop a Greenway, or walking and biking path surrounded by greenery, from Greenpoint to Bay Ridge. Asked how he got involved with the group, he said, “I knew Ben Goggins from the Carroll Gardens Association, and I said to him, `It might be great to keep it [the artwork] around here.” The two groups are both sponsors of the exhibition.