May 16, 2012

The architect Frank Gehry — responding to complaints — changes his design for the Eisenhower Memorial.

The NYT reports:
Yet Mr. Gehry then went on to present changes that mainly affect the memorial’s bas-relief sculptures — changing them to three-dimensional statues – and did not alter the most controversial element. “I still believe that the sculpture of Eisenhower as a young man looking out on his future accomplishments is a powerful image,” Mr. Gehry wrote....

The image of Eisenhower as a young man is based on remarks he made in 1945 upon his return from World War II to his hometown of Abilene, Kan., where he referred to himself as having once been “a barefoot boy.” There is also a photograph at that age that Mr. Gehry said he drew upon.
From the Dwight D. Eisenhower website:
Even by the standard of the day, the Eisenhower home on southeast Fourth Street in Abilene, Kansas, was small, modest, and-with six growing boys underfoot-crowded....
From their mother, Ida, Dwight and his brothers learned to cook, clean, iron, and sew. On Sunday, the boys were responsible for family meals entirely. David, their father, worked long hours as a refrigeration engineer at nearby Belle Springs Creamery. Still, there was never money enough. Ida recycled David's old clothes for the boys. To his embarrassment, Dwight sometimes had to wear his mother's old high-top, buttoned shoes to school or go barefoot. To earn money for extras, the Eisenhower boys grew and sold vegetables, door to door. For variety, they peddled hot tamales from their mother's Texas recipe.

27 comments:

PatCA said...

Now I know where my mother got "my barefoot boy" when she talked about my brother. :)

dreams said...

From what I have read about it and given my admiration for Eisenhower, I hope they stop the whole thing and get someone else.

edutcher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
edutcher said...

Too bad we can't get a close-up so we can see the problem.

Not a big fan of Ike either as a general or POTUS (although he is light years ahead of the First Lesbian President), but the man should get his due. I think Ike talking to the 101st pathfinders is probably the best image of the man you'll find.

ricpic said...

After Eisenhower the dam burst and Washington-centric spending went wild. How do you make a monument to his greatest strength, craftiness? He waged a daily battle for 8 years against the feeders at the public trough, not just the military industrial complex but the social engineers as well. His defense against statists - though no Coolidge, he at least tried to keep spending within limits - was heroic but not the kind of heroic that monument makers laud.

Zach said...

Focusing on Eisenhower as a young man is an odd choice. Until WWII broke out, he was almost criminally underpromoted. He graduated West Point during WWI, but missed out on the fighting because he was too useful as a trainer. After the war, he was recognized as an extremely good officer, but the contraction of the Army left very little room for promotion. When WWII started, he was 50 years old, and only a lieutenant colonel. Today, a lieutenant colonel would be closer to 40.

A statue of Eisenhower as a young man makes no sense unless you're a big fan of undersized halfbacks.

Moose said...

How about another big ditch? Worked for the Viet Nam memorial and makes about the same amount of sense as this...

AJ Lynch said...

I read a good book that revolved around the football careers of Ike and Jim Thorpe. [It was called Carlisle vs. Army I think]. Ike was born around the turn of the century when Wichita was pretty much only a few years beyond having been a Wild West town. A shoeless Ike is quite believable to me and not a negative facet at all to his memory.

The book reported Ike's first college choice was the Naval Academy but he did not get accepted there!

Balfegor said...

From what I have read about it and given my admiration for Eisenhower, I hope they stop the whole thing and get someone else.

If we can't give him a proper memorial, we shouldn't bother, really. But I don't see why it has to be so hard. We gave MLKJr. a proper memorial. Yes, it was sort of a brutal modern twist on the traditional marble statue, but ours is a low, brutal age, and its wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command communicate the appropriate sense of terrible awe: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

Not saying Eisenhower should be done up like Ozymandias a la MLKJr, but that would still be better than this.

rcommal said...

On phone so no hyperlink, but you can find a picture here at Susan Esenhower's site:

http://susaneisenhower.com/2012/02/03/dont-swift-boat-critics-of-the-eisenhower-memorial-design/

Balfegor said...

I think that's an old version. Shouldn't the new one have some statues of a recognizable Eisenhower, rather than just the anonymous child without any shoes on?

But where did we go wrong? We used to have such good memorials. The Obelisk of Washington. The Temples of Jefferson and Lincoln.

Peter said...

The essntial problem with this monument design is, it's all about Gehry. And not so much about Eisenhower.

The solution is not a tweek here and a tweek there. The solution is to fire the starchitect and open the design to a new competition.

Palladian said...

It's a fiberglass sculpture?

That'll look great in 100 years...

PatCA said...

Gehry has a hard time understanding each project is not, in the main, about him.

Craig Howard said...

fire the starchitect

Yes. That is the issue here, isn't it. The "starchitect"'s reputation seems to outweigh the subject's.

Larry J said...

Peter said...
The essntial problem with this monument design is, it's all about Gehry. And not so much about Eisenhower.


Gehry is coming across as the Obama of memorial designers (I, Me, ME!) and that isn't meant as a compliment.

Bill said...

It's unfortunate Gehry gave into the complaints, and has introduced additional full-relief statues. The piece, as a whole, has become less coherent. The original conception had a wonderful elegance, by pitting the mid-American values of a young Eisenhower as the unifying feature of his leadership in both war and peace.
We should not recreate the Zeusish temples of yesteryear, and Eisenhower himself wouldn't feel right with acanthus leaves (or its symbolic equivalent) on top his head.
Now, though, the unity is lost in a jumble of sculptures. Ike was good at staff work. Gehry, at least here, is not.

EMD said...

Remember when we just use to make regular statues of people?

Why not that? Maybe Ike in his trademark military jacket?

LYNNDH said...

When I was about 12 my Dad mentioned that he was sent home from school. I asked why and he replied that he wasn't wearing shoes. Again I ask why, and he said "Because he didn't have any". This was during the Depression and in San Antonio, Texas. That made quite an impression on a 12 yr old boy. Dad passed in 2007, miss him still. He retired from the Navy, having seen WWII up close and personal, starting at Pearl Harbor. He taught me a lot, including humility.

David said...

Ike had no shoes but he spit polished his feet. What a man.

XRay said...

I can't get a good read/look at the memorial from the links. It appears an overly ambitious theme for such a simple barefoot boy. I mean, really, all that dispersion of figures? Is that a time-line? If so it looks ridiculous.

Ike, once into WWII, was a stressed out sonuvabitchch. Rightly so.

But he done good. Excellent in fact.

Fire Gehry is a good choice at a better memorial.

Read "Brothers, Rivals, Victors" It seems well sourced, and a fair summation of the pressures on Ike's shoulder's.

Rich Rostrom said...

The comment about the straitened circumstances of Ike's family leads me to recall that not only was Ike a General and President, his brother Milton was president of three major universities. Another brother, Edgar, was a successful attorney in Washington state. A fourth, Earl, was a successful electrical engineer and served a term in the Illinois legislature.

That's pretty good for a family that couldn't afford new shoes.

rcommal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rcommal said...

Gehry is more interested in possibility than in accomplishment. That's his oevre. Now, it is also true that his own accomplishment has to do with his interest in possibility. All that said and aside, he really is not all that interested in the accomplishments of others, and never has he ever been all that interested, particularly or otherwise, in a possibility or possibilities that didn't dovetail with his own (IMO, limited) vision. Just sayin'.

Jon Burack said...

Bill,

You say the piece has become less coherent and its too bad Gehry gave in to pressure. You then say "The original conception had a wonderful elegance, by pitting the mid-American values of a young Eisenhower as the unifying feature of his leadership in both war and peace." I am sorry but this statement of yours is what is not coherent. You do not "pit" something "as" something else. You "pit" something AGAINST something else. I suspect you were on to something about Gehry but then pulled back from admitting it. What is it he pitted the early Ike and his values against? Could it be Gehry doesn't really like what Ike later did? Or is it that he does not like Ike's early American values? I really don't know, but the whole memorial sounded idiotic to me.

Mitch H. said...

Given Eisenhower's cultural significance to the Fifties and the willingness of his coterie to be taken advantage of by cultural con-men, I'd say that a Gehry-designed memorial for him is almost overdetermined. But I wouldn't *enjoy* it, or bother with it. It would be just another worthless bit of public art.

As it is, this ascends almost to the status of Fifties corporatist reenactment. All they need is a minor, ambitious, and empty-headed scion of the Rockefeller family helming the oversight committee on the project, and it's a perfect replica of the era.

Joe said...

We have too many monuments and too many seem to be more about the ego of the designer than honoring the actual person. Still, this worship of the dead (and how we prepare our dead for burial) seems rather Egyptian.