Artist and provocateur Jerry Vile, known to his parents as Jerry Peterson, was born and raised in the Motor City. With news of Detroit’s bankruptcy causing a swell of concern, derision, and support from all corners of the country, Vile decided to take action. While Detroit residents buckle down for what will likely be an even tighter and less forgiving financial state from here on out, Vile rode up to a local Hart Plaza landmark, a suspended statue of Joe Louis’s clenched fist, and installed an object he believes will make Detroit’s bankruptcy filing move along more easily and less painfully.
Called “Vessel of Hope” and intended to “grease the wheels of justice” as Detroit attempt to reestablish itself as a viable economy and community, Vile’s creation keeps his public persona firmly ensconced in the kinkier side of art. Also the creator of the annual Dirty Show, a celebration of erotic art, Vile responded to city officials’ announced intention to remove the giant Crisco can by refusing to participate in said hauling away: “I should go pick it up. But it might be a trap.”
The fist, known officially as ‘Monument to Joe Louis’, may have been created by sculptor Robert Graham in honor of the power held in the former heavyweight champ’s fist, power that led to his success in the ring and his contributions to the destruction of Jim Crow laws, but now thanks to Vile’s temporary addition – it was removed mere hours after installation – it’ll forever be seen as the royal fisting given to the people of Detroit by its government and the hopefully smoother ride ahead of one of America’s great cities.