Public art roundup: Theaster Gates, new CLA mural and flower-sprouting mom jeans
On Monday, the Chicago Transit Authority board approved a contract for its largest public art project to date: works by Theaster Gates to be created for the new 95th Street Red Line terminal. The station is scheduled to undergo a $240 million reconstruction starting next year, and $1.3 million of that will fund the art initiative. Also this week, the Chicago Loop Alliance debuted its latest "public space activation": a mural of parading sea creatures installed on the southwest corner of State and Adams. As with the cows and Marilyn, these highly visible public art initiatives have us feeling a lot of feelings. Here's our take on a few recent and forthcoming works—the good, the bad and the jeans sprouting flowers.
The good: Theaster Gates Red Line project
We're not accustomed to using the words excited and CTA in the same sentence, but we're genuinely excited for the Gates CTA project. The Chicago-based international art star, once an arts planner for the CTA, is renowned for his community-focused, culturally minded revitalization efforts, most notably Dorchester Projects. So his work is perfectly fitting—way more on track than the stuff coming soon to North Side Red Line stations. (Shudder.) For the usually bustling 95th Street terminal—currently closed during a five-month reconstruction project—Gates will create two TBD artworks with student apprentices. According to a press release, these will be an "architectural feature integrated into the terminal building structure, and an independent artwork for the terminal or one of its walkways." We won't get to see these works until at least 2016, so for now, check out Gates's MCA exhibition, 13th Ballad, up through October 6. And if you're an artist interested in El-evating your own work, doors are closing: You have until tomorrow at 3:30pm to submit your qualifications for having your art installed at one of the other Red Line stations.
The bad: Cartoonish cephalopods and Chia heads
The 500-square-foot mural Float, unveiled yesteday at State and Adams, isn't actually bad. The colors—vibrant green, red and yellow—really pop against the has-seen-better-days Century Building, and we appreciate the scale at which artist Noah MacMillan depicts the inflatable aquatic animals (i.e., parade floats) hovering over Chicago buildings. But it could be so much more. Why the Chicago Loop Alliance commissioned a St. Louis–based artist to address Chicago's "relationship between people and the government," and why MacMillan addressed it with a cartoonish parade, is beyond us. Maybe it's the Loop Alliance's attempt to scale back after last year's failed Color Jam, an overly ambitious installation by local artist Jessica Stockholder. Still, if the goal is truly "enlivening and enriching the Loop experience," as stated by CLA executive director Michael Edwards, and not simply sprucing up a dingy facade, then we'd like to see public art that's more creative, immersive and daring.
Are you scratching your head about the 15 huge Chia heads installed on South Michigan Avenue? They're a project of Plant Green Ideas and the Chicago Cultural Mile Association and are designed to raise environmental awareness. A fine idea—except that all they raise in us is fear. Oh, and laughter: A CHIA HEAD WEARING SHADES AND EARBUDS! LOLZ!! That said, if you want to encourage environmental awareness in others, buy them their own Plant Green Ideas Chia noggin. The proceeds go to SGA Family and Youth Services, which is maybe the only positive thing to come of a disembodied head sporting a flower-hawk.
The jeans sprouting flowers
Talk about bad jeans. These planters outside Willis Tower are such an eyesore that we decided to put them in their own special category. Turns out what initially struck us as a terrible Pinterest idea brought to life is actually A TERRIBLE PINTEREST IDEA BROUGHT TO LIFE. "Panters," a friend-of-an-Instagram-friend dubbed this distressing denim. Just no.