Tue, Feb 22, 2005 - Page 16 News List

The anti-Christo cometh

Geoff Hargadon has spoofed Christo and Jean-Claude's massive installation in New York's Central Park with a Web-site installation titled `The Somerville Gates'

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , Cambridge, Massachusetts

You've seen Christo's Gates in Central Park. But what about Hargo's Gates in Somerville, Massachusetts? Sure, Hargo is unabashedly riding on the coattails of Christo and Jeanne-Claude. But it did take him some time to make his gates: 0.002 years, he estimates. That's a good chunk of a day. You may as well take a look: www.not-rocket-science.com/gates.htm.

Just who is Hargo? Is he some kind of genius wrapper?

His name is Geoff Hargadon, he is 50 and in a telephone interview he would only say, enigmatically, "Art is not my profession."

His last installation was a studio full of discarded ATM receipts. The show was called Balance. It was about "people, privacy and money," he said, adding: "You want to know how much people have? Here it is."

Like Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Hargo used recyclable materials for The Somerville Gates. Unlike them, he accepts donations to defray the cost of his installation, which was US$3.50. The mayor of Somerville did not come to the unveiling on Valentine's Day.

Does Hargo have a Jeanne-Claude at his side? His cat, Edie, is a redhead, like Jeanne-Claude, he said on the telephone. But his partner in art is his wife, Patricia La Valley. Together they installed The Somerville Gates at their home last Monday night, while watching the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on television. They took pictures, posted them on a Web site and sent the link to 30 friends by e-mail. Within 24 hours, the site had 99,000 hits.

The Somerville Gates has now become, Hargadon said, "the anti-Christo."

Each saffron-colored gate that makes up The Somerville Gates is a 10cm-high structure made of wooden dowels, cut-up roof shingles and clear corrugated plastic, all painted with orange tempera. (Hargo made 16 individual gates and moved them from room to room, following Edie's footsteps.)

On the Web site, the installation begins with the Door Gates, then moves on to the Poopatorium Gates, the Fridge Gates, the Table Gates, the Feeding Gates, the Tub Gates, the Fluffy Rug Gates, the Desk Gates, the Media Gates and finally the Stairway Gates.

There are some obscure parts to the installation, at least as it appears on the Web. You can't really see where you are when you approach the Poopatorium Gates. The sinuous path of the orange flags seems to run alongside a bed, or perhaps it is a hallway. What is that black thing looming in the distance? Where is the kitty litter?

A few passages of The Somerville Gates sound as if they're going to be repetitive. Did Hargo really need to have Fridge Gates, Feeding Gates and Table Gates? But if you spend some time on the site, you will see that each passage has its own aura. The Fridge Gates have an airy feel while the Feeding Gates have a finality to them, dead-ending at a blue bowl and a hungry cat. The Table Gates passage is ominous, with dark table and chair legs dwarfing the little orange structures.

For pure beauty and rhythm, you can't beat the Stairway Gates. But the Media Gates are the most suspenseful and loaded with meaning. At the tip of a V-shaped arrangement of orange gates sits a television screen. On the screen is a baleful-looking dog. (He was one of the contestants in the Westminster dog show.) You can see Edie the cat looking over the gates and staring down the dog. The situation cries out for a mouse to run the gates' gauntlet.

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