Public sculpture is a tangible discipline which tells us of our history, our time, and spirit. Much has been written on Chicago’s rich architectural heritage but less attention has been given to the fine examples of sculpture in the city.
1. Flamingo - Calder is known for his moving sculptures or mobiles although Flamingo is stationary, given the energy of its composition it is far from inert. Our sense of physical presence in space, which often may be takin for granted and forgotten, may be revitalized by walking through the dynamic spaces generated by the forms of Flamingo
2. Chicago Picasso“What is it supposed to be?” Strictly speaking it is a three-dimensional, geometric design abstracted from the head of a woman though its interpretations haven’t been limited. It is also easy to see it purely as structure and design, as a powerful construction of arcs and curves constructed in several planes, braced by steel rods which literally pull the piece together. The sculpture was initially met with controversy.Before the Picasso sculpture, public sculptural artwork in Chicago was mainly of historical figures. Science fiction writer Algis Budrys erected a giant pickle on the proposed site.
3. Batcolumn - Oldenberg, who grew up in chicago, has long been fascinated by the changes that take place in common objects when they are enlarged to monumental proportions. A simple baseball bat, when it reaches 100 feet, becomes more than a mere enlargement of itself. it can now be seen, for example, as a 100 foot sculpture column which happens to have a bat shape. As a monument it can be seen as a commemoration of baseball as an american institution or of the steel construction industry to which Batcolumn owes its existence. Batcolumn like Oldenburg's other monuments is a combination of seriousness and whimsy.
4. Miro Chicago - is made of steel, wire mesh, concrete, bronze, and ceramic tile. The playfully poetic images of Joan Miró’s art comprise a private mythology derived from the artist’s memories of his homeland in Catalonia, Spain. Using his unique visual symbolism, Miró imbued this sculpture with the mystical presence of an earth deity, both cosmic and worldly. It faces opposite the Picasso near the Cook County Administration building.
5. Monument with Standing Beast - This is one of Dubuffet's three monumental sculpture commissions in the United States. It has been taken to represent a standing animal, a tree, a portal and an architectural form.The sculpture is based on Dubuffet's 1960 painting series Hourloupe. The sculpture and the series of figural and landscape designs it is a part of reflects his thoughts of earliest monumental commission. The sculpture is affectionately known to many Chicagoans as "Snoopy in a blender"
Potential of Public Art
In the 1990s, the clear differentiation of these new practices from previous forms of artistic presence in the public space calls for alternative definitions, some of them more specific (contextual art, relational art, participatory art, dialogic art, community-based art, activist art), other more comprehensive, such as “new genre public art”.
Curator Mary Jane Jacob of non-profit arts org Sculpture Chicago developed a show, ‘’Culture in Action’’, in summer 1993 that followed principles of new genre public art. The show intended to investigate social systems though audience participatory art, engaging especially with audiences that typically did not participate in traditional art museums.While controversial, Culture in Action introduced new models for community participation and interventionist public art that reaching beyond the “new genre”.