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Last Updated: Monday, 19 May, 2003, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
Inflatable art raises smiles
By Alison Freeman
BBC News Online, London

Blockhead next to the Tate Tower
Blockhead dwarfs onlookers and is in turn dwarfed by the Tate Tower
A liquorice sweet, a bouncy castle and a balloon are just a few of the comparisons being made to the latest sculptures erected on London's South Bank.

Created by American artist Paul McCarthy, 58, Blockhead and Daddies Bighead, the two inflatable figures, are an imposing site as you walk past the Tate Modern gallery on the banks of the Thames.

The comparisons passers-by have come up with are not that far off the mark when you realise McCarthy has spent his career drawing on popular culture, including fair grounds, for inspiration.

Tate curator Frances Morris explained that although the looming 35 metre high Blockhead looks the same as a bouncy castle, its inner structure is very different.

It has been created in sections around a steel frame which sits on a concrete base.

The public can walk inside the structure to a square room where two vending machines offer thick black sticks of rock, with the word Blockhead running throughout.

The main sculpture is based on Pinocchio. It shows a character sat on a pile of books and instead of a head there is a square block with a long pointy nose, which looks like a hammer.

I think they're quite fun, they really make people smile
Sue Ormsby

Martin Whitting, 43, a project manager on his way to work said: "Today I was thinking it reminds me of my current position at work.

"It looks like a man sat at his desk being hit over the head with a hammer by his employer!"

Although the figure is overwhelming when you stand next to it, Ms Morris pointed out the sculpture is dwarfed in turn by the architecture of the Tate Modern building and the rest of London.

David Thorp, from the Henry Moore Foundation which jointly commissioned the sculptures with Tate, said: "When you look at it from St Paul's it becomes just a black blob. The artist hoped it would look like a black hole from a distance."

Joanna Jellinek, 22, from Sweden, who was visiting the gallery said: "It's amazing. It looks like a huge cartoon.

Sculpture called Daddies Bighead
McCarthy has spent his career drawing on popular culture
"I think this part of London is quite ugly, so the ugliness of the sculpture fits in!"

The second sculpture, the 16 metre tall Daddies Bighead, is based on a tomato sauce bottle.

A small sign asks visitors not to touch the sculptures but an excited group of children who were gathered nearby looked desperate to jump on them.

Many passers-by could not agree whether they thought the pieces were art or not, but they could agree that it didn't matter.

Marcel Charilou, 27, from South Africa, said: "I just think that when that much effort and all those hours go into something it's amazing."

Sue Ormsby, 46, a secretary from London said: "I think they're quite fun, they really make people smile. It's not really art though."

But whatever your opinion, the sculptures are not here to stay.

Tate deliberately chose not to site a permanent sculpture on the north terrace so it could be used as another exhibition space.

The sculptures are on show until 26 October.

Art gets blown up
19 May 03  |  Photo Gallery

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