Saturday, June 5, 2010

An Afternoon Out in the Big Windy: Public Art in Chicago

We had a chance to visit Chicago recently. After an all-week meeting in Minneapolis, Nancy and I headed southeast on the Empire Builder for Memorial Day weekend with friends Diane and Ric. The timing was perfect: the weather was glorious and the weekend fit into my crazy work travel schedule. I have to say, I was astounded by the city. After years of flying, driving, and training through it, I stopped to look around. This post is about public art, which abounds, starting with the skyline itself.

We headed to Millennium Park which is dominated by some major installations, like Frank Gehry's Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Jay was a local rich guy, started Hyatt Hotels and all sorts of other stuff. I thank him, and other rich Chicagoians for their generosity, although I'd prefer it was called the Millennium Pavilion, or something like that. And, it does take the edge off a little knowing that Jay didn't exactly tread lightly on the earth or her people.

The BP Bridge leads to the pavilion (it's in the foreground of the first picture in the post). It seemed slippery to me, maybe someone spilled some oil or something...

Cloud Gate, Chicago's bean, was next. It's a magnificent polished stainless steel installation that offers reflections of the skyline, the sun, the moon, clouds, people, birds--basically anything that happens by. I don't think many people call it Cloud Gate, named by its creator, Anish Kapoor. Everybody seems to call it the bean.

You can walk under the bean and the reflections get really cool in there. You can click on these photos to enlarge them. See if you can see Nancy and Diane. Ric is in front of them. I'm above and to the right of Nancy's left shoulder. The one with the camera.

In the center of the underside of the bean, what we plant people would call the hilum (where the seed was attached to the funiculus), the reflections get really complex and contorted. I guess it's like one is looking into the creation of the bean...

Go around the corner from the bean, and you come upon the spitting fountains. Actually, they are called the Crown Fountain (because Lester Crown, another rich guy, paid for it) by Jaume Plensa. The faces change, and after a while, they spit water out on the kids playing in the fountain.

The Painted Forest, created by Moore Landscapes and the Chicago Park District. Back in my TREGRO days, building and using simulation models of trees, we used to joke about the "forests" we created. We should have taken it this one step farther, I guess...

We wandered past the Art Institvte of Chicago Bvilding, which is gvarded by 2 big lions, and apparently proof-read by Romans. The lions have a habit of sporting hats (or chapeavs) when Chicago pro teams are in the finals of this or that playoff or series. The Blackhawks (Go Hawks!) are in the Stanley Cvp finals so the lions were sporting hockey helmets.

Moose (W-02-03) is what's left in a plaza near the Chicago Trib building. Until recently, a sculpture that was wildly popular with everyone but art critics, dominated the scene. However, God Bless America, a sculpture that recreated American Gothic, was removed. It was part of J. Seward Johnson’s “Icons Revisited” project. Which seems pretty cool to me. Anyhoo, all that's left now is the moose, which is made of old bumpers and other car parts and is pretty cool himself.

We went into the very cool Carbide and Carbon Building, a great example of Art Deco.

Finally, what's more fun than neon signs? Chicago has a ton of them.

Here are a couple near Diane and Ric's. They live just a block or two south of Andersonville, the historical Swedish immigrant neighborhood. Simon's is a Swedish bar; Philadelphia Church is not Lutheran.

And, of course, a church of baseball...

To top off the evening, we went to a poetry slam at the Green Mill, a joint that looks pretty much like it did when Scarface Capone was hanging out there. It's a good thing we left Jack and Dolly-girl back at the B&B; there coulda been Trouble...

Shake, Rattle, & Read was just down the street.

1 comment:

Karen said...

I was in Chicago for the first time last year for a conference. I also loved the city and was very impressed by their commitment to public art.