Update: City Trashes Crisco Can Artist Installed At Fist To 'Ease Bankruptcy Pain'

July 29, 2013, 9:38 PM by  Bill McGraw

Update, Monday, Aug. 4: BuzzFeed names the Crsisco can among the best street art for 2013.

In what he said was a gesture of sympathy to a bankrupt city, a Detroit artist jumped out of his pickup truck early Tuesday at Woodward and Jefferson and deposited an oversized replica of a Crisco can at the base of the Joe Louis fist.

The takeaway early Tuesday afternoon. [Photo by TJ Samuels]

That is art in an Andy Warhol sort of way, even though most of the commuters roaring past at 7:15 a.m. did not appear to be aware that they had witnessed a real live installation, even if it was off-the-wall to the point of obscurity. And it's also uncertain if other passersby will get the humor and irony behind the can, whose top bore a striking resemblance to the wavy, white, greasy substance in a real Crisco container.

Update, 1:47 p.m.: City officials say they plan to remove the Crisco can because they see it as "abandoned property." It was gone by 2 p.m.

A spokesman for Mayor Dave Bing told Deadline Detroit: "After consulting with Detroit Institute of Arts officials, the City's General Services Department has decided to remove the item left at the Fist sculpture today as abandoned property. If the artist is there when the removal takes place and wishes to claim it, he can do so as long as he removes it from city property."

The creator, who asked to be identified as Jerry Vile, is a longtime artist provocateur in metro Detroit and the organizer of the annual Dirty Show, one of the nation's largest exhibitions of erotic art. He was assisted by Rick Manore, a veteran of the local art scene.

Told about the city's plans to remove it, Vile said: "I should go pick it. But it might be a trap."

As he installed it Tuesday morning, Vile said his artwork is an attempt to ease the pain of Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

"Things are going to hurt," he said. "We're just trying to grease the wheels of justice. Now, instead of selling something from the DIA, this is being given to the city of Detroit. They can sell this." 

What's it worth?

"Whatever somebody will pay," he said. "That's what all art is worth."

Not everyone appeared to be on board with Vile's objet d'art.

One commentator on Deadline Detroit's Facebook page said: "Disgusting... I know the city doesn't have a great track record when it comes to cleaning up garbage, but this should be removed post-haste."

Another said: "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

Fox 2 posted the Deadline Detroit photo on its Facebook page and asked:  "Can anyone explain what this means???"

One person commented: "Very inappropriate."

The fist, a gift to the city from Sports Illustrated in 1986, is by the Mexican-American sculptor Robert Graham. While a monument to Louis, the famous heavyweight champ who grew up in Detroit, the 24-foot-long arm with a fisted hand also has been widely seen as a tribute to black power.

Vile has been a participant in the metro Detroit culture scene since the 1970s, when he published White Noise, a journal devoted to local punk circles, and performed in a musical group called the Boners.

He achieved a certain amount of infamy one night when, dressed as a nun, he swung from a hoist above the crowd at the old Bookies club singing "Dominique," the novelty hit of the early 1960s about St. Dominic that was sung in French by the so-called Singing Nun.

Vile was also the creator of Fun Magazine and Orbit, the monthly entertainment  and culture paper of the 1990s that was heavy on sarcasm. Director Quentin Tarantino, playing a character named Jimmie Dimmick, wore an Orbit T-shirt in "Pulp Fiction," his critically acclaimed 1994 movie. 

The Dirty Show, now in its 14th year, features hundreds of artworks and 10,000 paying customers. The headliner of last February's show was an installation called "Equus Maximus," by New York artist Gregory de la Haba, that depicted life-size stuffed horses -- wearing Las Vegas showgirl accoutrements -- appearing to be ready to have sex.

The Crisco replica seems tame by comparison.

Tongue firmly in cheek, Vile said he has big ambitions for the can, which fits snugly over the base of the fist.

"Hopefully it will be like the big tire," he said. "The big Crisco."

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