Liz Larner at the AIC’s Bluhm Family Terrace

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Two sculptures by Liz Larner, X (2013) and 6 (2010-11), have been placed under the wide, open sky of the Bluhm Family Terrace at the Art Institute of Chicago. This unique placement, with one of the most beautiful skyline views in Chicago, completely transforms these two works. The two works directly interact with both the wooden platform as well as the architecture of the Art Institute’s Modern Wing, the surrounding buildings, and the sky. Larner’s intention of portraying “thing power” is thus fully realized, as these “things” all interact with one another in a more intense way than would be possible inside of a stuffy gallery space.

Upon first seeing X under the blue Chicago sky, I immediately drew a comparison between Larner’s sculpture and Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate located just behind the terrace in Millennium Park. While both works incorporate the sky, Larner’s is smaller and also not fixed to a specific location as Cloud Gate is. While Cloud Gate can hold its own on the ground level of the city, surrounded by tall and imposing buildings, Larner’s X benefits greatly from its elevated location. This way it is small, but also equal in power to the skyline located behind it.

As Larner’s first project in Chicago in over a decade, the installation of her works on the Bluhm Family Terrace is a powerful choice. Every encounter with the two works is a unique experience dependent on both the surrounding city and the weather. The optimal experience would that in sunny, warm weather, but I wonder what it would be like to encounter this open and exposed terrace in the middle of a storm. How would that change the “thing power” emanating from these works? Needless to say, this is an exhibition worth visiting. Take a walk through Millennium Park, walk over Nicohls Bridgeway and straight into the Bluhm Family Terrace on a nice and sunny day.

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