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By Malcolm Miles

This e-book examines public paintings open air the conventional confines of artwork feedback and locations it inside broader contexts of public area and gender through exploring either the classy and political elements of the medium.

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William Mitchell, who uses the terms ‘public art’ and ‘monument’ almost interchangeably in Art and the Public Sphere, sees another continuity, and asks if violence is central to the concept of the monument, noting that many memorials, monuments, triumphal arches, obelisks, columns, and statues refer to a past of conquest: ‘From Ozymandias to Caesar to Napoleon to Hitler, public art has served as a kind of monumentalizing of violence’ (Mitchell, 1992:35) (see Figure 21). Lefebvre’s (and Massey’s) characterisation of Picasso’s art as violent in its distortion of the female body was noted in the previous chapter, but the task is accomplished in monumental art not through distortion but through sublimation; the dead heroes of conventional war memorials are relieved of their aggressive aspect and re-presented as a reflective and dutiful Everyman, embodying the required values of the humane state which nevertheless carries out its mission to rule.

Although they were seen as reformists, their contribution establishes the sociologist in a remote location, like de Certeau looking down from a high building but without the critique which enables de Certeau to know what he is doing. Duncan concludes: ‘Burgess’ dream of the happy unity of the natural and human sciences pushes him to transform Chicago into “the city” in ways which stretch credulity’ (Duncan, 1996:265). A relation between sociology and the discipline of urban planning was established by Louis Wirth in his essay Urbanism as a Way of Life (Wirth, 1938).

But, it is more than a question of adding women, and women’s experiences, to the urban scene; it is necessary to interrogate the way the city has been conceptualised as a foundation for a masculine public realm. The absence of women in art history reflects the patriarchal society which produced that history as a set of categorisations of masterpieces, in the same way that general history affirmed masculine constructions of greatness, goodness and heroism; Pollock refers to a ‘structural sexism’ which ‘contributes actively to the production and perpetuation of a gender hierarchy’ (Pollock, 1985:1).

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