Fourth plinth battle: the heroic child takes the cake
Danish artist Michael Elmgreen, left, and Norwegian artist Ingar Dragset, right, pose by a model of their proposal entitled Powerless Structures Fig 101. Photograph: Sang Tan/AP
Luckily, there are no sport-themed proposals among the six shortlisted works for the next fourth plinth commission, one of which will be on display in time for the 2012 Olympics. Brian Griffiths's hunk of brick‑built cake is the daftest and most inert of them. This is the apotheosis of Carl Andre's at one time infamous Equivalent series of brick sculptures. Andre gave us an ankle-high rectangle of plain grey bricks, piled two deep. Griffiths gives us a sagging length of battenberg, one of the world's dreariest tea-time comestibles. However much attention to cake-like patina and squidgy form his proposed use of glazed and unglazed, new and old bricks might achieve, it remains a half-baked gag.
Katharina Fritsch's ultramarine blue cockerel has both a great sense of scale and of the absurd, in a way that Griffiths's cake doesn't. We are told that the cock refers to male-defined British society and biological determinism. To me the cock looks more Gallic than British, and the deep ultramarine colour reminds me of the works of French artist Yves Klein, who covered everything from sponges to live women in a patented ultramarine hue. In the end, it's a chicken.
Mariele Neudecker's work frequently alludes to German high Romanticism, and the idea of a mountain range set atop the plinth has a certain grandeur. That the peaks and valleys will have a footprint that corresponds to a map of Britain seems somehow superfluous. Neudecker's mountains will be cast in coloured fibreglass, and mounted on polished stainless-steel legs, like some impossible coffee-table. It looks more fussy than sublime. I like the way Allora and Calzadilla's gigantic pipe organ rises from the plinth, but the idea that it will play a sonorous chord when anyone uses the ATM machine fixed on the side of the plinth is less convincing. Once, the duo fixed a trumpet to the exhaust pipe of a moped, which blared as the bike was ridden around Puerto Rico, where the couple work. The organ looks ecclesiastical, and the relation between God and mammon is a tad obvious.
Both Hew Locke and Scandinavian artists Elmgreen & Dragset return us to the theme of the equestrian statue. Locke's looks like a kind of overdressed hippy Genghis Khan, but is based on the commemorative statue of Sir George White – hero of Britain's misbegotten 19th-century military adventure in Afghanistan – in Portland Place. The horse and rider are dragged up in colourful tat and are meant to represent a fanciful Sikandar, otherwise known as Alexander the Great. This might be a popular choice but it doesn't do much for me.
Elmgreen & Dragset's golden boy on a rocking horse is by far the best. Like Fritsch's cockerel, but unlike Locke's work, it avoids being kitsch. The simplified detail and expression feel just right. Leaning back and with one arm raised aloft, he's more than a toy boy. This is the child as hero of the battles of his imagination.
There's something poignant but unsentimental about the relationship thesculpture will have with all those sombre bronze generals on the other plinths.