“…you can take pictures out here right?…”
“I don’t get it.”
The one thing about site-specific installations and public art is that you don’t necessarily have to get it, and heck yeah—you can take pictures by it, it’s all but implied. Public and site-specific art is standard in most metropolitan cities and Chicago’s event and tourist spot Grant Park is, of course, no exception. Think the head-and-armless walking men, Agora, sculptures by Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz that sit at the park’s south end. Visitors are more than invited to walk among them, as doing so is what activates them as public objects.
The same can be said of more familiar pieces as you near the park’s tourist hub, Millennium Park. It’s easy to note the site’s importance to the piece it houses. Take for instance the much-visited Crown Fountain by Catalan artist Jaume Plensa, or the British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate for instance. Taken altogether, one can see the combined effects of ethnic diversity and changing times converging into the specificities of the site.
It’s a proper backdrop to the Art Institute’s Modern Wing addition and it’s limb-like stretch to that of the park. The Nichols Bridgeway, as it’s called, designed by Renzo Piano who also designed the Modern Wing, provides through curving steel and observed “springiness” an affecting transition between the outdoor buzz of the park and the somewhat hushed Terzo Piano and Bluhm Family Terrace.
With views of the skyline and park distanced as so one is able to take in recent sculpture installation pieces by American artist and sculptor Liz Larner with some repose. (It’s a good moment to take a picture, really, it is.) The pieces, X (2013), and 6 (2010-11), play off each other and surrounding spaces, including the Modern Wing itself, by easy association. They’re most effective in the space by suggestion, meaning that by way of the space provided, a raised wooden platform underlying large but nonthreatening steel forms, with soft angles and sloping contours, you’re invited to move about and at times within revealing multiple views of the city. X’s cool, thin mirror-polished steel is softened more so by its long prostration and incompleteness. 6, on the other hand, is more playful to X’s cool in that it twists, spins, and bends it’s “monkey bars” assimilating sharp architectural angles and X’s cool in the background.
On leaving however, whether one takes the brideway or not, what may come to mind is not just that the sculptures and their angles are soft, diverging, or appealing; but rather that art, architecture and public spaces are always in a state of flux.
The Modern Wing – Art Institute of Chicago
111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603