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men2More Public Art in Chicago

As I was walking recently  to the Chicago Cultural Center from our hotel I happened on this outdoor sculpture, one I have not seen before. It was apparently officially installed about two years ago.

Living World Series, Gentlemen, bronze on cast bronze plinth, by Ju Ming (1938-) from Taiwan. He trained as a woodcarver, but went on to an international career creating works in many materials. These figures are in bronze, but do have a look of wood carvings, I think.

On the plinth are a group of square, pedantic-looking men in suits and ties, some with menhats, or with bags and briefcases, and umbrellas.

This is on the AMA Plaza, next to the IBM Building housing the Langham Hotel on the north side of the river.

It’s an unusual  sculpture, and many people who walk by stop to take pictures.

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Exhibits at Chicago’s Cultural Center

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Poster about the Wall of Respect

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Old photo of the Wall of Respect

As mentioned earlier, this year is Chicago’s Year of Public Art and the 50×50 Initiative, sparked by Chicago’s 50 wards and the 50th anniversary of 2 famous public art works in the city: Picasso’s “Untitled” (see previous post), and The Wall of Respect.

The Wall of Respect is no longer in its original position but a special exhibition on it is in the Chicago Cultural Center until July 30th. The exhibition, called Vestiges, Shards and the Legacy of Black Power, is in the Chicago Rooms, 2nd Floor North in the Cultural Center (corner of Michigan, Randolph and Washington).

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How the wall looked

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The Blues panel

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The Jazz panel

Curated by Romi Crawford, Abdul Alkalimat and Rebecca Zorach, and students in the Department of Art History, this exhibition chronicles how the Organization for Black American Culture designed and produced this first mural for, and within, Chicago’s Black South Side communities. It features 7 sections with the images of leading black icons (called heroes), ranging from Sarah Vaughan and John Coltrane to Marcus Garvey and Ossie Davis. Two of the panels are devoted to musicians—one for Blues, one for Jazz—not surprising, as Chicago has always been a hub for music, notably Blues and Jazz with many famous black artists.

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Using photographs and documents relating to the Wall of Respect and other murals, this exhibition explores the mural movement in Chicago in its historical context, investigating how race and class have intersected with the spatial politics of the city.

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Story of the Wall of Respect

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Who is your hero today?

In 1967, the Organization of Black American Culture painted this huge mural “guerrilla-style” on the wall of a decaying building on the South Side of Chicago at 43rd Street and Langley Avenue. They called it the Wall of Respect. This mural, which grew out of the Black Liberation Movement of the 1960s, was controversial from the start and only survived a few years—but in that time it inspired a community movement that went on to paint vivid colors on walls across the city and beyond. The Wall of Respect received national acclaim when it was unveiled in 1967.

Just outside the exhibit rooms, the center has strips of colored paper. They invite people today to write down the names of their heroes and make a long paper chain—a Heroes Chain. Would be a fun project for school kids, I think.

Muddymural

Muddy2Not far away on the side of a building opposite Macy’s is a huge colored mural of Muddy Waters. I couldn’t find any information on that. Any ideas, anyone?

Somewhat linked to this topic is another exhibition at the Cultural Center: that of Eugene Eda’s Doors for Malcolm X College (see future post)

 

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bannerIt’s Chicago’s Year of Public Art, so let’s get out and experience some of this creative art.

I was always aware that Chicago has a great tradition of making public art available to all, and its collection of public art is one of the defining characteristics of the city, but this special year gives another dimension to this.

2017 has been designated Year of Public Art Chicago, with a new 50×50 Neighborhood Arts Project. Managed by DCASE (Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events), the 50×50 initiative will provide up to $1 million for new public arts projects.

Chicago has a long and rich history of public art, so why now? This initiative was

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The Picasso in Daley Plaza

inspired by Chicago’s 50 wards and the 50th anniversary of 2 of Chicago’s most famous seminal public art works: The Picasso in Daley Plaza, and The Wall of Respect, which once stood at 43rd Street and Langley Avenue on Chicago’s South Side.

DCASE manages the Chicago Public Art Collection, which includes 500+ works exhibited in over 150 municipal facilities around the city, such as police stations, libraries and CTA station. DCASE also administers the City’s Percent-for-Art Ordinance, which was established in 1978 and stipulates that 1.33% of the cost of constructing or renovating public buildings will be used for public art.

What an amazing concept. Go Chicago!

perilsThere will be many special exhibits and tours, but I was only in Chicago for 3 days this April, so could only track down a few of these special art works at this time.

Turns out that many of these famous public art works have an interesting story and history, starting with the Picasso. To co-incide with this Year of Public Art, the Chicago Cultural Center has a small exhibit called The Fame and Perils of Chicago’s Public Art. The introductory board tells us that, “Planning and creating public art can be a risky venture. Depending on how or what you count, the placement of art in Chicago’s public spaces has a 200-year long history. Sometimes the art is loved. Sometimes it is hated. To further complicate matters, times change—and so do the tastes of people.”

So…to start with Picasso’s “Untitled”.

frontcloserUntitled” by Pablo Picasso, on the Richard J Daley Civic Center Plaza, 50 W. Washington Street. In 1967 Pablo Picasso’s monumental sculpture was unveiled in Chicago’s Civic Center (now called the Richard J. Daley CivicCenter).

In 1963, imagining a work for the new Chicago Civic Plaza, architect William Hartmann of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill turned to Pablo Picasso. Using an introduction from English artist Roland Penrose, Hartmann contacted Picasso describing a “site for the most important piece of sculpture in the United States.” Picasso accepted and worked on plans for the largest work of his career, mostly with his vision of an abstract female figure, which he gave as a gift to the city.

This abstract design was not originally popular when the monument was erected in

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Newspaper picture with Banks superimposed

1967. In fact, as I learned from the small exhibit in the Chicago Cultural Center, many Chicagoans thought it was a giant portrait of the artist’s Afghan hound. An alderman from the City Council proposed replacing the Picasso with a giant statue of Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks, and a local paper ran a story with a photo of Banks superimposed on that of the Picasso.

At the time of the opening of the Picasso, Mayor Richard J. Daley insightfully dedicated it with these words, “what is strange to us today will be familiar tomorrow.” That has proved true, and 50 years later it’s an iconic part of the city’s landscape, and much loved by locals and visitors. So much so, that Northwestern grad and vocal art advocate, Patricia Stratton, has written a book dedicated to the sculpture called “The Chicago Picasso: A Point of Departure”.

sideI find this work of Picasso’s very interesting: I can definitely see the Afghan hound in there, but also a female figure. What do you think?

Picasso’s work was Chicago’s first major pubic art work in the modern style, rather than historical effigies and memorials that had been traditional before. It inspired much private and public investment in art for the city center, including Marc Chagall’s mosaic “The Four Seasons” in 1974, which then inspired his “America Windows”. Other commissions included monuments by Joan Miro (1963), Jean Dubuffet (1969) and Alexander Calder (1974), among many others. And so a tradition was born.

 

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Urbana

Horse “parading” in a garden in Urbana, IL

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Cows on Parade, Chicago 1999

Animals on Parade

Many cities have, over the years, put up an outdoor exhibition of “Animals on Parade”. The city chooses a special animal—horse, cow, pig, buffalo—and many of these animals are made in fiber glass. Different companies, businesses, shops, institutions adopt an animal and paint it any way they want—usually somehow reflecting their business—and it is placed outside. Some are bright and cheerful, some very whimsical, some symbolic, some rather strange. After some months, there is usually an auction and the animals are sold to benefit a charity. Sometimes the business will keep its own animal, but sometimes it goes to a new home.

We have also seen city benches in Chicago as a theme, and St Louis recently has its 250

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Cows on Parade, Chicago 1999

years celebration with 250 fiber-glass cakes dotted around the city. Same great concept.

We’ve seen a number of these collections on our travels and it’s a lot of fun, especially if there’s a list and you can try to track down all of them. Visitors and locals all love these, and it obviously benefits the city to have this extra interest in a temporary exhibition of wonderful outdoor sculptures.

The first “parade” that we came across was the “Cows on Parade” in Chicago in summer 1999 and I wrote about that then. See here http://www.viviennemackie.com/Illinois/Chic-cow-go.html .

 

In summer of 2002 we saw the “Buffaloes on Parade” in Salt Lake City and nearby Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake.

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Buffaloes on Parade, Salt Lake City 2002

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Buffalo parading on Antelope Island, 2002

And the following year we found many of the “Lipizzaners on Parade” in Vienna, Austria. All gorgeous.

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Lipizzaners on Parade, Vienna 2003

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Lipizzaner parading in Vienna, 2003

In 2014 we went on a serious “Cake Hunt” for the St Louis birthday “Cakes” (which I documented in a special blog: https://mackie250stl.wordpress.com ). And in Chicago we had fun finding some different horses. These were for the Police Memorial Foundation and were called “Horses of Honor.”

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Vera M with  Horse of Honor, Chicago 2014

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Horse of honor, Chicago 2014

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A gorgeous Horse of Honor, Chicago 2014

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A lovely horse in an Urbana garden

So….walking around my own neighborhood in Urbanathe other day I was intrigued to find a painted fiber-glass horse in someone’s garden. It’s very pretty with a black and white pattern, but its stance didn’t match any of the “parades” that I’ve seen.

I’m very curious—-where did they get it, what does it represent? I don’t know these people at all, so I may never know.

But, I’ll be sure to walk that way again.

Urbana3

 

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Three of Plensa's Heads. From R to L: Ines, Laura, Paula

Three of Plensa’s Heads. From R to L: Ines, Laura, Paula

Crown Fountain early evening. One of 1000 Chicagoan faces

Crown Fountain early evening. One of 1000 Chicagoan faces

In celebration of its 10th anniversary (opened 2004), Millennium Park in Chicago presents an exhibition of sculpture by Jaume Plensa. On display through December 2015.

Born 1955 in Catalonia, Spain, the artist and sculptor Jaume Plensa lives and works in Barcelona. He has presented more than 35 projects and solo exhibitions around the world, in cities such as Calgary, Dubai, London, Liverpool, New York, Nice, Seattle and Tokyo, among others. And even in Des Moines, Iowa, where we were fascinated by his Nomade! https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/symbolic-head-sculpture-with-multiple-meanings/

Because we’d seen Nomade recently we were happy to find more works by this talented artist.

Chicagoans are already familiar with Plensa as he designed and made the Crown Fountain at Millennium Park, one of the park’s most prominent and popular attractions. The fountain, which opened in July 2004, is composed of a black granite reflecting pool placed between a pair of glass brick towers. The towers are 50 feet (15 m) tall and they use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to display digital videos on the faces that appear and disappear.

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Paula

Paula

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking into my Dreams, Awilda

Looking into my Dreams, Awilda

Now, he has another installation in Millennium Park—4 huge heads, called 1004 Portraits, on display through December 2015. This new exhibition of outdoor art features four monumental portraits of young girls complementing the story of the 1000 LED portraits of Chicago residents that illuminate the Crown Fountain.

The first sculpture is called Looking Into My Dreams, Awilda. It’s made of resin and marble dust and stands 39 feet tall at the entrance to the Park on Michigan Ave and Madison Street. The aim is that the sculpture’s surreal and majestic presence will bridge the energy and distractions of city life with the tranquility of the Park, and encourage visitors to stop and contemplate.

The other 3 sculptures are in the South Boeing Gallery, overlooking the fountains. They are cast iron and stand 20 feet tall—Paula (north), Laura (middle) and Ines (south). They are very solid-looking but also have a hologram-like quality. These serene, dreamlike portraits offer a counterbalance to the children’s noisy play in the fountains below (in the warmer weather).

This exhibition is on loan from the artist and Richard Gray Gallery and is sponsored and funded by multiple sources.

Rod M stands in front of Ines

Rod M stands in front of Ines

 

 

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First encounter with Velib, Paris, July 2007

First encounter with Velib, Paris, July 2007

A Velib sign---how to sign up with your transport card

A Velib sign—how to sign up with your transport card

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first real encounter with a bike share program was in Paris in 2007 at the start of the Velib’ Program there. We lived in Paris until early 2008 and were really interested to be “on the ground” as it were and see the program take off. We’ve followed its ups and downs with interest. Each year we return I am happy to see it still so active and well-used—it’s been has been hugely successful in terms of rider usage, even though a large percentage of the bikes were stolen, destroyed or taken to other countries. The city considered scrapping the program but did not, and its success continues.

Before Paris Velib’, many cities tried with varying success to implement a bike-sharing program and it’s believed that the current resurgence of this concept is due to the launch of the Velib program in Paris in 2007.

The colorful Velib logo (for Velo libre)

The colorful Velib logo
(for Velo libre)

New Chicago bike-share stand, with famous Trump Tower as background

New Chicago bike-share stand, with famous Trump Tower as background

How to work the Divvy bikes in Chicago----only $7 for a 24-hour period

How to work the Divvy bikes in Chicago—-only $7 for a 24-hour period

The Divvy truck shows its logo as 'Divide and share'

The Divvy truck shows its logo as ‘Divide and share’

Now, when we travel I always try to take note of a city’s bike share scheme—I didn’t always take photos, but intend to make an album now. But, here are a few pictures of  bikes in some places.  Amazingly, this year in June, Chicago also started a program, called Divvy, and in early September we saw quite a few of the bikes (painted with blue) in action. If people can ride in the Paris traffic, then I reckon they can ride anywhere!

Chicago Divvy bikes

Chicago Divvy bikes

Bit of Background and History

Bike sharing systems or schemes make bicycles available for share use to individuals for short-term use. Such schemes or programs are not new, but seem to be proliferating all over the world these days. Perhaps as people become more aware of pollution, of saving energy etc. According to Wikipedia, in May 2011 there were around 375 programs, with a total of 236,000 bikes. By April 2013, there were around 535 programs, with an estimated 517,000 bikes.

Wuhan (90,000 bikes) and Hangzhou (60,000 bikes, and 2,400 bike stations) Public Bicycle programs in China are the biggest in the world. The Velib’ in Paris, France  (20,000 bikes and 1,450 stations) is the largest bike sharing system outside of China.

Dijon's bike share program is called Velodi, with a cute mascot of the famous Dijon owl

Dijon’s bike share program is called Velodi, with a cute mascot of the famous Dijon owl

One type of program is a Community Bike program, probably organized by a local community group or non-profit organization, which lends bikes for free. The other, more common, type of program, is a “Smart Bike Program” organized by governmental agencies, sometimes in a public-private partnership, in which people pay for the use of the bikes.

There have been many problems with these systems: bikes get stolen, vandalized, abandoned, for example, so there are various ways to try and get round these problems, like having to insert a credit card as a guarantee or security deposit.

It seems that the first program was in Europe in Amsterdam, with the White (free) Bike Scheme in 1965, but this didn’t last more than a few months.

Then came La Rochelle in France with their Yellow Bike Scheme (free) and the free Green Bike Program in Cambridge UK in 1993. But so many of these bikes were stolen or abandoned, that authorities began to use a “smart technology’ (for a fee, with some tracing of the renter).

Nowadays, many cities in all the inhabited continents have some kind of bike sharing scheme or program. If you are curious, for a list go to Wikipedia here

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_sharing_system

A rack of bikes in Dijon, France

A rack of bikes in Dijon, France

Bikes in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Bikes in Ljubljana, Slovenia

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Seen in Chicago, Illinois, and Dijon, France

In Dijon in August we were fascinated by the huge sculpted green metal head in Place Rude (named after Francois Rude, born in Dijon 1784). It’s a central place in the city, surrounded by lovely old buildings, with a fountain and statue of a grape picker in the process of stomping some grapes underfoot in the center, an old carrousel and many cafes and bars.

Outdoor art: green metal head in Place Rude, Dijon

Outdoor art: green metal head in Place Rude, Dijon

So, a few weeks later in Chicago it was interesting to find the head theme there too—in a whimsical fashion.  Every year the city of Chicago does a wonderful job of making the city really pretty  with beds of gorgeous flowering plants in all the parks and down the center of Michigan Avenue, plus colorful flower planters suspended from lamp posts or along the sidewalk. This year, along parts of Michigan Avenue, some of the planters are in the shape of enormous heads, spouting an array of bright flowering “hair”.

Very lovely, according to all the comments we heard.

Many giggles as these kids 'hugged' the statue

Many giggles as these kids ‘hugged’ the statue

This beauty is advertising Mars bar and other chocolate bars

This beauty is advertising Mars bar and other chocolate bars

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Another pretty ‘hairstyle’

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