Kay Rosen creates public art for the Chicago Loop Alliance
United Way teams up with the CLA for Art Loop 2011
On May 24, a six-story mural appeared on the north wall of 17 North State Street, joining matching banners along State and panels along the State/Lake El platform, ordering viewers to gooooooo. Or, is it gdgooood?
“There are only three letters and they all look sort of the same, especially in this font,” Kay Rosen says of her new Art Loop project GO DO GOOD (pictured). “It looks kind of like an abstract painting when you first see it. And of course it messes with reading, because you want to read linearly.”
Rosen, who taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for 18 years, is the second artist to create a public installation for the Chicago Loop Alliance, which launched the Art Loop series in 2010 with Tony Tasset’s huge Eye sculpture in Pritzker Park. This year, the CLA broadened the project’s scope. It teamed up with the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, urging Chicagoans to do 100,000 “good deeds” this summer. They will fill two plexiglas sculptures, placed on State Street between Madison and Washington Streets, with foam slabs symbolizing the number of deeds accomplished.
When I spoke with Rosen at the unveiling of her mural, her description of her process made the whole enterprise seem a little less…Maoist. “I always deal with language,” the native Texan explains. “In this case, the [vertical] site definitely determined what the message would be. It couldn’t be long and horizontal. I had about 1,000 bad ideas that I rejected.” Rosen ultimately presented three proposals to the CLA, which “saw the potential” for interactivity in GO DO GOOD, she recalls. During the unveiling, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago CEO Laura Thrall told the audience she hoped the project would focus attention on children and education: Loop businesses and institutions including theWit Hotel and the Gene Siskel Film Center will provide opportunities for do-gooders to donate books in June, canned goods in July and school supplies in August.
The banners and El panels remain on view through September 10; the mural, which was executed by Chicago’s Thomas Melvin Painting Studio, will stay up until May 2012. The installation’s distinctive colors link it to Rosen’s previous work. “Yellow and black are very good public colors because of the contrast,” the artist tells me, “and I’ve been doing a series of large-scale yellow-and-black works like this. Other colors have connotations you have to beware of: Red means certain things; blue’s awfully cool.” She has used the signage’s confusing, obsolete Commodore font in smaller paintings and drawings for more than ten years. “It’s really architectural,” she says. “I like the straight edges, the wonkiness of it.”
For more information, visit godogoodchicago.com.