arts

Ugly Art in Chicago?

Stevie Riks as Keith RichardsReuters has selected the top 10 places with bad public art.

Two of the pieces of public art on the aforementioned list are situated right here in Chicago. One is temporary; the other is apermanent blot on the landscape.

The temporary piece is the Marilyn sculpture on North Michigan Avenue, in Pioneer Court, just south of the Tribune Tower.

My readers are likely to remember the inspiration for this statue, namely, Marilyn's performance, opposite rodent-faced Tom Ewell, in the Billy Wilder comedy, The Seven Year Itch.

This statue was put on display quite recently and has been controversial from the start. A few days back, your crusty correspondent decided to wander over to the North Bridge area to see for himself what all the fuss was about. (It's a healthy walk from the Undisclosed Location, but I will bear anyburden for the sake of a possible post.)

Stevie Riks as Keith RichardsHaving now seen for myself, I can truthfully report that the statue rather creeps me out. As Tribune columnist Mary Schmich wrote in a July 15 column, "The original image is coy. Marilyn on the Mag Mile is crude."

It is all a matter of scale. In the movie, Tom Ewellcan almost see what he should not; in the posters, we see only a glimpse. But when Marilyn is 26 feet tall, we get this sort of thing:

Marilyn will be on display -- and I do mean on display -- until some time next year.

Our other nominee for most ugly piece of public art is not going away any time soon. It is called "Monument with Standing Beast," something I never knew before the Reuters article (and something I am likely to forget shortly after I publish this post), even though I walk past this thing almost every day.

This piece is located on the plaza outside the State of Illinois Building, 100 W. Randolph, kitty corner from the Daley Stevie Riks as Keith RichardsCenter, at the northwest corner of Clark and Randolph.

I can't say I share the strongly negative views reported in the Reuters article ("This ten-tonne behemoth is said to represent an animal, a portal, a tree, and an architectural form, but to some it just represents bad taste"). But I would believe it if you told me that this piece arose from a misunderstanding. I can just see Helmut Jahn, the architect of the State of Illinois building, displaying a three dimensional model of the building he had yet to build. I can see him crumpling up a piece of paper, putting it on the southeast corner of his model and saying, yes, we should have a work of public art there -- and, somehow, that crumpled piece of paper was mistaken for the design of the piece to be placed there. You be the judge.

Curmudgeon is a self-described dinosaur -- an Ozzie and Harriet person living in an Ozzy and Sharon world. And sometimes it confuses the heck out of him. He writes a very amusing blog at Second Effort.

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