Discarded Toys of Youth with Cory Oberndorfer
By Katelyn Wood, Arlington Arts Center’s Curatorial & Exhibitions Intern
“Driving through a neighborhood, you can usually tell where children live. It’s the house with a wiffle ball stuck in the gutter, a small bike thrown carelessly aside, or maybe a stray shoe sitting on the porch. One second these objects are the center of their attention, the next they are old news.”
– Cory Oberndorfer
Reminiscent of AAC’s schoolhouse past, Cory Oberndorfer’s monumental sculptures are strewn across the grounds much like the discarded toys of our youth. Developed with and supported by Arlington Public Art, Oberndorfer’s installation in PLAY: Tinker, Tech, & Toy invites viewers to immerse themselves in nostalgia.
The Lawn Dart robustly impales the front lawn, capturing onlookers’ attention from all corners of Wilson Boulevard and North Monroe. Like a bright red beacon for AAC, the sculpture can easily be mistook for a Google marker by those who are unfamiliar with this retro toy.
Oberndorfer’s lawn dart reflects the efforts of the classic game where darts where tossed underhand at a horizontal ground target and each successful hit was rewarded with a point. Although the original game was banned from the market in 1988, the monumentality and saturated color of Lawn Dart pay tribute to the lighthearted competitions we all took part in while growing up.
Adjacent to the dart is a sculpture that perches between two tree branches, a surprising yet well-suited space for a contemporary art installation.
Cory’s Kite flutters about from its tree branch confines, stirring up memories of the boundless battle between kite flyers and pesky tree limbs. With a vibrant yellow hue, the kite appeals to the playful struggle that comes with such childhood pastimes.
Tossed upon the portico roof is Oberndorfer’s third sculpture, Frisbee. This six foot, blue frisbee is propped up on the roof of AAC, effortlessly leaning against the building as if a titan’s game of ultimate frisbee went awry.
Cory employs whimsy and nostalgic themes throughout his practice including in the installation Bitter/Sweet at Katzen Arts Center earlier this year, and last year’s solo exhibition titled Pop: Everlasting at Blackrock Center for the Arts. Like his work in PLAY: Tinker, Tech, & Toy, these exhibitions exude an appreciation for playfulness in the contemporary art sphere.
Through primary colors and their colossal size, these sculptures present themselves as pleasant reminders of uninhibited play. Cory states, “These are signs of youth and play, but also exist as objects that have been abandoned in favor of other endeavors. As our own childhood becomes idealized over time, the toys will be exaggerated memories and exist larger than life.”