Chicago Design

The Terra Foundation initiative Art Design Chicago has made 2018 an absolutely tremendous year to see, experience, appreciate, and learn about the rich, impactful, complicated histories of art and design in Chicago. November is shaping up to be quite a month for design history in particular. Three exhibitions will shed new insight into significant aspects of Chicago design history: Chicago Cycles: 150 Years of Bicycle Design and Innovation at … Continue reading Chicago Design

Learning About Edgar Miller

Have you heard of Edgar Miller? I have been hard-pressed, even amongst Chicago (art) history aficionados, to find many people who answer in the affirmative. Born in 1899 in Idaho and spending a part of his childhood in Australia, Miller moved in Chicago in 1917 to attend the Art Institute of Chicago. Over the next fifty years, he produced an extraordinary body of work that … Continue reading Learning About Edgar Miller

Public Sculpture is Having a Moment in the Midwest

On August 8, my beloved, complex, imperfect city of Chicago did the civic/art version of an historical battlefield reenactment…sort of. The event marked the fiftieth anniversary of the public unveiling on August 15, 1967 of Picasso’s untitled metal behemoth, now known simply as “The Picasso” (see Google Maps) or in its updated 2017 social media parlance, #EveryonesPicasso. So once again the mayor (Rahm Emanuel filling … Continue reading Public Sculpture is Having a Moment in the Midwest

Photography as (Public) Sculpture: Amanda Ross-Ho at MCA Chicago

IMG_0848As far as public sculpture goes, the notion of an opening date seems a little odd. Unless done under total secrecy or very quickly, such large scale projects reveal themselves over time, after periods of long installation, and yet one day they are fully realized, completed and ready for public consumption. This past Tuesday, 23 July, marked such a day for The Character and Shape of Illuminated Things.

IMG_0857The third commissioned work in the Plaza Project series at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the occasion was marked with an outdoor talk with the Chicago-born, Los Angeles-based artist Amanda Ross-Ho and MCA curator Julie Rodrigues Widholm; speaking at the height of rush hour, on a beautiful, if blustery Chicago summer afternoon, the receding sunlight streaming through the skyscrapers surrounding the MCA. I mention the artist talk, not only because the idea was both insane (honking cabs! emergency sirens! random tourists wandering around!) and a perfect, surprisingly successful venue for discussion of a work that by its placement alone is meant to engage and implicate the public, but also because it threw into sharp focus some of the stronger formal and conceptual aspects of the work on view. Continue reading “Photography as (Public) Sculpture: Amanda Ross-Ho at MCA Chicago”

That Richard Serra in Grant Park…

Richard Serra, Reading Cones, 1988, Cor-Ten Steel, City of Chicago. Photo taken by author, 2013
Richard Serra, Reading Cones, 1988, Cor-Ten Steel,           City of Chicago. Photo taken by author, 2013

A “Richard Serra” has come to designate a very particular type of sculptural thing – almost always a hulking, mass of Cor-Ten steel plates of various curvature, carefully and complexly engineered, installed, and viewed. This is sculpture that can (and has) kill a person and depending on your disposition and/or feelings about Serra, can read as impressive, oppressive, or some combination of the two. Whether seen positively or negatively, however, Serra’s sculptures undeniably makes a statement. They commandeer and define Frank Gehry-designed gallery spaces, required the Museum of Modern Art to preemptively fortify the floors of their newest building, and stand up to – and harmonize with – large swaths of majestic natural landscapes.

IMG_0696This brings me to  Reading Cones, or as its known to Chicagoans, ‘oh, that Richard Serra in Grant Park…’ (or perhaps more aptly, ‘oh that – ugly/weird/adjective of choice – hunk of steel with all that graffiti on in it Grant Park that smells like pee’). I cannot recall how many times I have driven, biked, or walked by it and barely given it a second thought – and this from an avowed Serra apologist, bona-fide admirer even. The thing is, the sculpture is small. A funny statement perhaps to make about a 17 ft. tall, 32 ton metal object, but in terms of scale and its relationship to its site – a massive park surrounded by the city and its distinctive buildings – the work seems, at best out of sync, and at worst, a bit dinky, to use a proper art historical descriptor. Continue reading “That Richard Serra in Grant Park…”