84" x 94" x 84"
Commissioned by the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, New York, Ken Landauer’s King is exactly what it appears to be: a king size bed, complete with white Pratesi linens, encased in Plexiglas and aluminum. Interior lighting illuminates this curious contemporary relic and a ventilation system ensures the bedding, turned down at the request of the artist, remains pristine.
By staging the bed in this way, Landauer makes room for interpretations of fantasy that go far beyond the literal, the romantic, or dreams of a good night’s sleep. Alluding to the famed fairy tale slumbers of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, the sculpture encourages reflection on notions of eternal rest, mortality, intimacy, personal privacy, and transparency, while presenting strong visual associations to glass window reliquaries used to display the recently deceased.
Landauer’s sculptures fuse the familiar with the unexpected; recreating by hand the forms of mundane, everyday things–often exaggerating their scale and repositioning them in novel settings. Though connected thematically, King is a far cry from Robert Rauschenberg’s iconic Bed (1955) in which the artist combined and framed a pillow, sheet, and quilt that he had splattered with paint in a most expressionistic manner. Instead, King seems to share the sterility of Jeff Koons’ 1980s display cases (filled with vacuum cleaners and other home appliances as part of a commentary on mass-commercialism), while evoking decidedly twenty-first century concerns.
With King, the artist takes a familiar domestic object normally relegated to an interior bedroom and places it within a very public space. In doing so, he breaks down traditional boundaries between public/private, outside/inside, natural/man-made in ways that mirror society’s blurring of the personal and communal in the age of online social networking. Similarly, the sculpture speaks to deCordova’s own efforts to dissolve the divisions between the gallery space and the Park space.
Sited within the context of deCordova’s Sculpture Park, King also subtly references the unique history of this museum–established by the New England industrialist Julian deCordova, who bequeathed his summer estate to the town of Lincoln with the stipulation that it become a place for the public’s enrichment through the arts. As a public space that was once private, deCordova is a most fitting setting for King and the multiple interpretations about personal transparency that can result.
Ken Landauer received a BA from Colgate University, an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design and participated in the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. His work has been commissioned by The Public Art Fund, Socrates Sculpture Park, the Kansas City Municipal Arts Fund, the Providence Parks Department, and the State of Rhode Island.