OZYMANDIAS is a colossal monument to "Man" sinking in the Main Lawn of the DeCordova Sculpture Park. Employing the ubiquitous contemporary symbol for man in giant scale, the artist, Douglas Kornfeld questions how cultural icons can reflect and represent the societies that construct them. Inspired by the visual and literary records of 19th century Napoleonic expeditions to Egypt, Kornfeld titles the sculpture, "Ozymandias" another moniker for Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses the Great (1279-1212 BCE) known for his extensive building campaigns and for erecting colossal statues of himself all over Egypt, and as a reference to Percy Bysshe Shelley's 1818 poem of the same name. Only partially visible, the sinking symbol invokes the first several lines of Shelley's poem:
"I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies..."
Standing over 18 feet tall, Kornfeld's male monument invites references to iconic Egyptian figural monuments like the Sphinx and Ramses the Great, but also asks what the gendered pictogram means and represents to our culture today and its place within the larger context of history. A banal, mundane symbol for the men's restroom, now magnified and submerged as ruin, OZYMANDIAS stands as a satirical counter-monument, critically addressing what merits a built monument today as well as how this culturally constructed symbol will be historically catalogued and remembered.
Based in Cambridge, MA, Douglas Kornfeld is a contemporary artist and educator who is best known for his large urban public art installations that investigate and question the contemporary lexicon of symbols that instruct and order our everyday landscape. Permanent public works by the artist can be seen in Terre Haute, IN, Denver, CO, and St. Petersburg, FL.