It’s really an embarrassment of riches: Botero, Chihuly, and Lichtenstein, all at the Fairchild at once? Good thing they had 83 acres to play with.
Play is the operative word. The Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden packs some serious beauty and quietude (and, it must be said, a serious price tag at $20 for non-members). But with the works of Fernando Botero, Dale Chihuly, and, especially, Roy Lichtenstein at every turn, there’s widespread whimsy. So much so, it’s almost hard to imagine the place without all these vibrant, otherworldly creations. But they’ll be gone at the end of May.
The glass work of Chihuly resembles plants and flowers boosted by alien DNA (or, as my three-year-old son once put it, “Look at the monsters!”), while Botero’s languorously bulbous sculptures of people and horses seem pridefully overfed.
But to my pop eye, it’s Lichtenstein who steals the show.
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Having been weaned on comic books, I’ve always been fond of Lichtenstein, who died in 1997. I’ve seen Drowning Girl at MoMA, lingered over it, smiled. But these outdoor sculptures, teeming with primary colors against the garden’s lush green backdrop, full of motion, the sweetest of eye candy, are truly captivating.
Rounding one corner, you can practically hear the pop! of Coup de Chapeau II, which depicts Dagwood Bumstead’s hat bursting into mid-air. Similarly, in Airplane, a WWII-era propellor plane is caught in the midst of an aerial dog fight. (Lichtenstein served in the war, from 1943 to 1946.) Guns blaze red and orange against its thick black and white outline, but what really gives it momentum is the fact that it’s perpendicular to the ground.
Brushstroke Nude and Galatea, when you consider they’re nothing more than abstract lines, colors, and curves, are ridiculously sexy. Modern Head looms 31 feet tall at the garden's Overlook, a piece of Art Deco majesty.
Then there’s House II. As you walk by, just try to think the inviting little cream-colored abode isn’t following you. It won’t work. It’s really a shame Lichtenstein has to go home. --Frank Houston