Saturday, November 18, 2006

Sculpture of Grant Park

Buckingham Fountain

In response to a recent inquiry -- no, I don't want Grant Park -- or any park -- to be just "flowers and butterflies" --- I want figure sculpture and plenty of it -- but it doesn't have to be ugly-confrontational-depressing-alientated (like the army of 9-foot zombies now being installed by Magdalena Abakanowicz)

If I had my way -- a premier-center-showplace park (like Grant Park in Chicago) would be full of the playful fancies like those by Marcel Francois Loyau installed in Buckingham fountain. (ironically enough -- for all the books of French sculpture I've looked at -- I'd never heard of that fellow -- and all these years I assumed the pieces were done Carl Milles)

Fountain of the Great Lakes

Continuing on that playful theme -- we have this Lorado Taft fountain installed against the notorious Ferguson Wing of the Art Institute (notorious -- because that administative wing was built with funds that were endowed specifically to commission and maintain public sculpture)

Here's one of the surrounding putti --- and I wish there were many more.

Lincoln, Head of State

But Grant Park has also been site of sculpture of a more somber note -- like this St. Gaudens masterpiece -- and that's O.K. too -- because power and dignity provide their own delightful pleasure.

I'm less enthusiastic about the Mestrovic "Spearman" and "Bowman" who guard the entrance at Michigan and Congress -- I don't feel they escape being over-sized toys. But at least their silhouettes promise a place of high-spirited fun -- like park might be.

Theodore Thomas Memorial

I'm also not enthusiastic about Albin Polasek's memorial to the first conductor of the Chicago Symphony -- maybe because this seems to be the muse of Bruckner instead of Mozart.

But I enjoy these detail reliefs around the base -- with a whimsical vision of a native Orpheus making music to buffalo, bear, and elk.

Overall -- there's not really that much sculpture in Grant Park.

There's a few innocuous small-fountain figures --- a tedious monument to Christopher Columbus -- and some other wretched contemporary stuff (that I'm hoping is just temporary)

But Magdalena Abakanowicz has become a big, international name in the contemporary artworld -- so I fear that her dreary, rusting hulks will be with us for a long time to come.

I understand why she was chosen: Chicago is the second largest Polish city in the world and Contemporary Art defines status in the world of Chicago's billionaire civic leaders.

But the problem is ----- we all have to look at it.


Anonymous Regolo Ricci said...

The older Grant Park sculptures fit in nicely with the surroundings. The Abakanowicz , on the other hand, demand to be noticed. What are they doing in a park anyway? I suppose our idea of what a park should be has changed. Even in a park you have to be told the world is a dreadful place to live in. There is no place left where you can forget the present. Interesting that you mention putti, after all what more fitting symbols of the past way of thinking/feeling? Contrast them with your army of zombies.

November 18, 2006  
Blogger Robert said...

The problem with Abakanowicz is becoming clearer. It is not an uncommon one across the world but my feeling is that things are changing and I wonder if you are right about having to have her work there for years to come. I hope not.

November 19, 2006  
Blogger Cobalt Blue said...

Her work will dis-grace Grant Park for years to come. It is appalling. Who chose it? Who is paying for it?

One understands why the 20th century radical project included emptying art of skill and content. For without skill and content, art makes the perfect vehicle for politics: an assertion of power, nothing more.

This sculpture will stand in Grant Park as a reminder to us from our superiors, who thereby let it be known that they can make it stand in Grant Park whether we like it or not.

November 21, 2006  
Anonymous corydalus said...

By all means remove Agora. And Dessa Kirk's Daphne.

Any art that doesn't please everyone - or at least me - does not deserve to exist.

April 05, 2008  
Blogger chris miller said...

I don't mind if this stuff exists -- freedom of expression, and all that -- I just don't want to have to look at it whenever I'm in the park.

April 05, 2008  

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