Archive for the ‘Berlin’ Category

What is it about Obama and columns?

10/03/2008

Dr. Freud, can a column sometimes be just a column?

It started way back when


at least as far back as Harvard.

Small columns adorn the front of my house


on Chicago’s south side.

And yet, I keep dreaming about bigger ones.

I took my campaign to Berlin; guess where I ended up?


I don’t find Middle East politics particularly sexy, but

And to humbly accept my party’s nomination at the convention in Denver, I erected 


The Washington Post got close enough to see they were made of drywall and laminated plywood.  I will etch in stone that as President, I’ll be more solid and honest.  

Doc, do you think I like these things because like them I’m tall and thin?   

I figured I liked them because columns connote strength, and democracy


and exactly what I’m hoping for – victory!



Dr. Freud, is that why we have yet to have a female president?

Grow up, I’m interested in how columns project Humanism 


Like these, copied from the Erechtheum on Athens’ Acropolis. These ladies call out to me from the Museum of Science and Industry on the south side of Chicago, a major monument, just a few blocks where I live. For now.  Until

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architecture

Like Obama? Like Frank Lloyd Wright?

10/03/2008

Combine “Left” and Wright

here, with this.

I’m sure the evening will look like

By the way, what is Obama’s arts and culture policy? Or McCain’s?

More photos of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Clarence Sondern house here, (where the top two are from also.)

Yesterday I was at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ravine Bluffs development in Glencoe, Illinois; there’s bad news and there’s lots of good news.

Tomorrow morning I’ll visit Wright’s Barnsdall Residence (Hollyhock) and his Freeman Residence, both in Los Angeles. Photos will follow.
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Build me an art crusher

09/18/2008

A modest proposal. Since these

glossy, junky works by Jeff Koons will soon fill
Mies van der Rohe’s distinguished New National Gallery in Berlin

Can we ratchet down the roof on them?


A good use for an art museum. To crush bad art put inside of it.



I recently wasted an hour at the Jeff Koons exhibition in Chicago (closing September 21). It was far too much time to spend there. You can learn more about life today – and have a better time – by simply walking through the aisles of your local supermarket. Then I saw the same damn works by Jeff Koons again at BCAM in Los Angeles. Yes, they’re commodities.

Large, colorful and shiny, Koons’ stuff looks like it might have something to say, but after even a moment, boredom sets in and you’re ready to move on to the next piece of glitz in his charm bracelet of an oeuvre. Walking through a Koons exhibition is like clicking the remote on daytime TV cartoons and soap operas.

A Koons piece might be cute, but not clever. Funny, but not witty. It might be about sex, but not sexy. He offers a shallow youth-obsessed culture and status symbols to play with. Spending time with his baubles makes me feel like a sucker.


I agree with Tom Freudenheim’s estimation of Jeff Koons in the Wall Street Journal.
Tom and I spoke of Koons while walking to the Bernini show now at the Getty Center in Los Angeles (Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture – through October 26.) Once there, it was tragic to think of Jeff Koons, so we didn’t, and life improved.

The Bernini exhibition is a miracle. Drawings and bronzes and marbles (hand-made! Artists actually used to do that!) You meet the characters in Bernini’s 17th century neighborhood – the Vatican. You get to know them, their worries and their joys. Some of the heads seem to want to lean over and whisper an old joke in your ear. The sculptor showed off, in the best of all ways. With a prodigious talent and a profound curiosity about the human condition and the human drama and where our deepest emotions lead us

(That vein in the marble is more beautiful than anything in Jeff Koon’s polished plastic surgery world.)

Bernini shows how emotions and soul are displayed on our faces, our hands, the clothes we wear, in our medals and postures, in the breath in our chests that comes out through the mouths he sculpts whose lips are always in stopped motion and whose eyes tend to yearn.


In Bernini’s portraits of Popes and Cardinals and Kings wealthy businessmen and his mistress, you are pushed back as a viewer by their ambitions, seen in the ways they hold power in their bodies.


You can tell after while which of the leaders is a fraud. Which stand for good and which don’t. One or two of the powerful men in marble simply would not look at me, no matter where I stood.

These works are displayed without protective glass, in a gorgeous installation that evokes Bernini’s era and milieu. It is a true wonder to see up close, enough Berninis to follow his development, and not so many that you’re overloaded, as happens in Italy. The number of sculptures allows us to see the range of human emotions. Bernini, despite the hypocrisy of his age, retained faith in humanity.


In this day when elitism is condemned, it’s good to remember what good it can bring us. Koons and Bernini both needed patrons. That hasn’t changed. The quality of the thought and the art has. Bernini’s complexity raises questions and takes positions. You know that the thinks that Thomas Baker, the English businessman who could pay more than a king for a portrait by Bernini, is simply a buffoon. You see this in the way Bernini lays his mop of a coif’ on top of his blank eyes.



There’s not much inside. It’s all for show. Self-love is empty. Would that Jeff Koons would take such a stand!

If you’re in L.A. see Bernini. If you’re in Berlin, huff and puff and hope the roof falls.

Top two Bernini photographs courtesy of the Getty
Third and fourth Bernini photographs: Monica Almeida/The New York Times, which has a wonderful slideshow and review by Holland Cotter.

Bottom Bernini photo of Thomas Baker: Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England

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02/03/2007

Berlin Holocaust Memorial Used as Toilet

Peter Eisenman and Rem Koolhaas

12/08/2006

First this by Eisenman,


and then this by Koolhaas.

They talk. And soon you can read what they say.
pub date March ’07.
Kool-man.

Eisenman – ‘mobius strip’ – for Max Reinhardt Haus in Berlin – 1992 – unbuilt.
Koolhaas – Central Chinese Television building in Beijing – under construction.

11/30/2006

“Today the architect celebrated his victory, at the oyster bar with a glass of champagne!”

(Read to the bottom for, “The Human Rights of the Eye!”)


The architect, with his champagne, was not celebrating that the above was built, it opened last May. This is the new Central Train Station in Berlin It’s the largest in Europe.

But apparently it might have also been a more profound piece of architecture, both aesthetically and functionally.

When announced, [according to this writer]

“The prize-winning design by Gerkan, Marg and Partners with two towers looking over the curve of the station roof, promised to become Berlin’s architectural landmark of the twenty-first century.

It was to claim its place in Berlin’s long and famous tradition of artistic industrial architecture – from Peter Behrens’ AEG Turbine Factory and Josef Paul Kleihues’ workshop building for the city refuse disposal services through to Oswald Mathias Ungers’ sewage pumping station….

Inside, the architects had planned a neo-Gothic vault with great pointed arches …

(rendering as originally designed)

The arches receding into the distance on different levels would have called to mind the lightness of Arab architecture. … Europe would have gained an unparalleled underground theatre of light and motion… The designation “cathedral of transport” would not have seemed exaggerated for this ennoblement of functional architecture.”

Alas and alack, if you read this fabulous critique, you learn that before the work went up,

“130 metres were to be simply lopped off the length of the 450-metre glass roof.

…As the office towers grew, the calamity became more obvious with every passing day. The interplay between the length of the ribbon of glass and the height of the towers, originally in a charged equilibrium, now insults any sense of proportion.

One can imagine what a cinematic effect the trains would have offered, accelerating out like bullets from a gun. Now they will just chunter off into the open air.

The deformation of the interior is no less gratuitous and equally fatal….”

(as built)

But the worst is, if you believe this writer,

“… neither time nor money justified the shortening….

Culture was destroyed in the name of economics, and this will in fact weaken the economy. “

I hate when that happens.
And then the writer Horst Bredekamp heaps it on,

For generations to come, the monstrosity of Lehrter Bahnhof will remain associated with the name of its disfigurer. In Hamburg they have never forgotten how Kaiser Wilhelm II stopped the original design of their main station with a flourish of the imperial quill.

Well get this, today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung [via] reports

“Yesterday the Berlin District Court ruled in favour of the architect Meinhard von Gerkan, who sued the German rail company Deutsche Bahn for building a bastardised version of his designs for the subterranean level of Berlin’s new main train station, the Hauptbahnhof, which opened on May 28 this year.

“It will now have to be rebuilt according to von Gerkan’s plans, at an estimated cost of 40 million euros.”

The FAZ continues,

“It would be mistaken to see Meinhard von Gerkan as some star architect diva, intent on nursing his artist’s ego no matter what the cost.”

and here comes my favorite part,

“The thousands of rail travellers who pass through Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof every day value architectural aesthetics as much as the price of train tickets, something Deutsche Bahn chairman Hartmut Mehdorn and his colleagues blithely ignored.

Meinhard von Gerkhan and the Berlin Federal Court have decided for the human rights of the eye.”

– Dieter Bartetzko in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE EYE!

Can you imagine what von Gerkan would think if he tried to build a train station in America? lol and see next post!

-Edvard von Lifson

interior photos by GMP-Architects. © GMP

11/30/2006

“Today the architect celebrated his victory, at the oyster bar with a glass of champagne!”

(Read to the bottom for, “The Human Rights of the Eye!”)


The architect, with his champagne, was not celebrating that the above was built, it opened last May. This is the new Central Train Station in Berlin It’s the largest in Europe.

But apparently it might have also been a more profound piece of architecture, both aesthetically and functionally.

When announced, [according to this writer]

“The prize-winning design by Gerkan, Marg and Partners with two towers looking over the curve of the station roof, promised to become Berlin’s architectural landmark of the twenty-first century.

It was to claim its place in Berlin’s long and famous tradition of artistic industrial architecture – from Peter Behrens’ AEG Turbine Factory and Josef Paul Kleihues’ workshop building for the city refuse disposal services through to Oswald Mathias Ungers’ sewage pumping station….

Inside, the architects had planned a neo-Gothic vault with great pointed arches …

(rendering as originally designed)

The arches receding into the distance on different levels would have called to mind the lightness of Arab architecture. … Europe would have gained an unparalleled underground theatre of light and motion… The designation “cathedral of transport” would not have seemed exaggerated for this ennoblement of functional architecture.”

Alas and alack, if you read this fabulous critique, you learn that before the work went up,

“130 metres were to be simply lopped off the length of the 450-metre glass roof.

…As the office towers grew, the calamity became more obvious with every passing day. The interplay between the length of the ribbon of glass and the height of the towers, originally in a charged equilibrium, now insults any sense of proportion.

One can imagine what a cinematic effect the trains would have offered, accelerating out like bullets from a gun. Now they will just chunter off into the open air.

The deformation of the interior is no less gratuitous and equally fatal….”

(as built)

But the worst is, if you believe this writer,

“… neither time nor money justified the shortening….

Culture was destroyed in the name of economics, and this will in fact weaken the economy. “

I hate when that happens.
And then the writer Horst Bredekamp heaps it on,

For generations to come, the monstrosity of Lehrter Bahnhof will remain associated with the name of its disfigurer. In Hamburg they have never forgotten how Kaiser Wilhelm II stopped the original design of their main station with a flourish of the imperial quill.

Well get this, today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung [via] reports

“Yesterday the Berlin District Court ruled in favour of the architect Meinhard von Gerkan, who sued the German rail company Deutsche Bahn for building a bastardised version of his designs for the subterranean level of Berlin’s new main train station, the Hauptbahnhof, which opened on May 28 this year.

“It will now have to be rebuilt according to von Gerkan’s plans, at an estimated cost of 40 million euros.”

The FAZ continues,

“It would be mistaken to see Meinhard von Gerkan as some star architect diva, intent on nursing his artist’s ego no matter what the cost.”

and here comes my favorite part,

“The thousands of rail travellers who pass through Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof every day value architectural aesthetics as much as the price of train tickets, something Deutsche Bahn chairman Hartmut Mehdorn and his colleagues blithely ignored.

Meinhard von Gerkhan and the Berlin Federal Court have decided for the human rights of the eye.”

– Dieter Bartetzko in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE EYE!

Can you imagine what von Gerkan would think if he tried to build a train station in America? lol and see next post!

-Edvard von Lifson

interior photos by GMP-Architects. © GMP

11/30/2006

“Today the architect celebrated his victory, at the oyster bar with a glass of champagne!”

(Read to the bottom for, “The Human Rights of the Eye!”)


The architect, with his champagne, was not celebrating that the above was built, it opened last May. This is the new Central Train Station in Berlin It’s the largest in Europe.

But apparently it might have also been a more profound piece of architecture, both aesthetically and functionally.

When announced, [according to this writer]

“The prize-winning design by Gerkan, Marg and Partners with two towers looking over the curve of the station roof, promised to become Berlin’s architectural landmark of the twenty-first century.

It was to claim its place in Berlin’s long and famous tradition of artistic industrial architecture – from Peter Behrens’ AEG Turbine Factory and Josef Paul Kleihues’ workshop building for the city refuse disposal services through to Oswald Mathias Ungers’ sewage pumping station….

Inside, the architects had planned a neo-Gothic vault with great pointed arches …

(rendering as originally designed)

The arches receding into the distance on different levels would have called to mind the lightness of Arab architecture. … Europe would have gained an unparalleled underground theatre of light and motion… The designation “cathedral of transport” would not have seemed exaggerated for this ennoblement of functional architecture.”

Alas and alack, if you read this fabulous critique, you learn that before the work went up,

“130 metres were to be simply lopped off the length of the 450-metre glass roof.

…As the office towers grew, the calamity became more obvious with every passing day. The interplay between the length of the ribbon of glass and the height of the towers, originally in a charged equilibrium, now insults any sense of proportion.

One can imagine what a cinematic effect the trains would have offered, accelerating out like bullets from a gun. Now they will just chunter off into the open air.

The deformation of the interior is no less gratuitous and equally fatal….”

(as built)

But the worst is, if you believe this writer,

“… neither time nor money justified the shortening….

Culture was destroyed in the name of economics, and this will in fact weaken the economy. “

I hate when that happens.
And then the writer Horst Bredekamp heaps it on,

For generations to come, the monstrosity of Lehrter Bahnhof will remain associated with the name of its disfigurer. In Hamburg they have never forgotten how Kaiser Wilhelm II stopped the original design of their main station with a flourish of the imperial quill.

Well get this, today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung [via] reports

“Yesterday the Berlin District Court ruled in favour of the architect Meinhard von Gerkan, who sued the German rail company Deutsche Bahn for building a bastardised version of his designs for the subterranean level of Berlin’s new main train station, the Hauptbahnhof, which opened on May 28 this year.

“It will now have to be rebuilt according to von Gerkan’s plans, at an estimated cost of 40 million euros.”

The FAZ continues,

“It would be mistaken to see Meinhard von Gerkan as some star architect diva, intent on nursing his artist’s ego no matter what the cost.”

and here comes my favorite part,

“The thousands of rail travellers who pass through Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof every day value architectural aesthetics as much as the price of train tickets, something Deutsche Bahn chairman Hartmut Mehdorn and his colleagues blithely ignored.

Meinhard von Gerkhan and the Berlin Federal Court have decided for the human rights of the eye.”

– Dieter Bartetzko in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE EYE!

Can you imagine what von Gerkan would think if he tried to build a train station in America? lol and see next post!

-Edvard von Lifson

interior photos by GMP-Architects. © GMP

11/18/2006

Now Playing in Chicago! “Agora.” By Magdalena Abakanowicz.

A cold day. A day of Warsaw weather. Windy and blustery. She arrived early.

Talking to all who would listen. When Channel 7 asked her what title they should put on the graphic she said, “Listen, I am artist. I am choreographer. I make textiles. I draw. I do everything. I don’t like titles.”

And she would pose gracefully, for all who wanted to photograph her.

I asked her about the concrete plinth. If she liked the way it turned out.

“Yes,” she said, “we worked very hard to make sure it was not ‘popular grey.'” I asked if she’d rather have them walk on the earth. “It’s not necessary,” said Abakanowicz.

I later learned she had worked hard to get the concrete that color. She had had the workers put booties on each of the figures, then spray the concrete with color. Then she didn’t like that, so she had them take it off. Then she had them put the booties back on, and had it sprayed again. Then it was brushed by hand to get it a certain color.

I asked her why she gave this four to ten million dollar sculpture as a gift to the people of Chicago. She said, “For the people I am friendly with, money is not power. Generosity is power. Friendship is power.” And she said, “This is not the first time I am in Chicago. I was here in 1982. There was a big show of my work. On all the streets it said, “Abakanowicz. Abakanowicz.” She never forgot that her first comprehensive retrospective in America was here. Poland was still under communism then. And she was a mid-career artist.

Mayor Daley showed up to help dedicate this new work.

That’s him in the fedora on the right.

He started with, ‘thank you Magda. Your work in the south side of Grant Park complements the peristyle in the north side of Grant Park.’

He’s right. Those columns march, and frame space. Then the Mayor paused. And then he launched into an unscripted speech worthy of Nelson Algren. He started with, ‘Magda, you honor the immigrant tradition. And immigrants built Chicago.’ He said, ‘last week we dedicated a park to the Muslims. Now this.’ He looked east for a moment. A Metra train rolled by. He honored that. ‘You know, it was the trains that built this city. They roll right through our downtown, trains, and the Metra are what we’re all about.’ He stepped back for a second, to add to his list. The new construction caught the Mayor’s eye. ‘We’re a city that’s always building, always on the move. Our skyline, people come from all over to view our skyline. And we’re building our skyline, and we’re proud of it. We’re a city of many kinds of people. And we have the Picasso sculpture, and we’re proud of it, and we’re so proud today.’
That’s a paraphrase of his fine imitation of Nelson Algren’s poem “City on the Make.”

Abakanowicz started to speak to the crowd but after just a couple of minutes she choked up and couldn’t continue.

I remembered that years ago, when Marc Chagall came to town to dedicate his mosaic, he gave Mayor Richard J. Daley a big kiss. You didn’t do that then. Magda gave Richie a peck, we all applauded, and the Poles in the audience sang ‘Sto lat’ “Good luck, good cheer, may you live 100 years!’

We all followed our King/Mayor and Magda to walk through “Agora.”

The crowd swelled behind Mayor Daley, trying just to get close to him. It must be his power, right? When he veered left, we all behind him veered left. When he leaned right, we all leaned right. When he paused, people jostled to get close to his raw power. Is that what her sculpture portrays? 106 figures in search of a leader? And to what end will they follow that fellow?

A detail reminded me of communist times in Poland. I’d been there when authorities were visiting a down-and-out village. Somehow it would all get painted and spruced up before their arrival.

Here, I’d watched city crews in the morning frantically sod this just-completed construction zone so it would look good for the Mayor.

So what do I think of ‘Agora?’ It’s impressive. It creates an impression. You can not walk through it and not feel something. As you can at another work that grew in some way out of the horrors of World War Two, Eisenman’s ‘Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe’ in Berlin.

There you feel nothing. Not because it’s abstract. But because the stones have a coating on them, and are mainly a design. On a grid.

Abakanowicz’ group faces all different directions and that creates an energy, a movement, a group mentality, relationships, life for the work.

And there’s texture,

You feel a lot. You feel the march of time, as you do at Loredo Taft’s ‘Fountain of Time’ in Hyde Park.

That they’re headless and armless makes you feel the passage of time also. They are ruins in a way, the way we see many sculptures from antiquity today.

You feel the weight of history. It’s just a short step from the Roman precedent to what she’s doing.


And I love the red in these works, cast in Poznan, Poland. That the backs are empty, scooped out, makes them lighter. And we join our own bodies to theirs.

I love that the groupings open up and get more dense as you walk through them. As life does, and history does, and cities do.

I love that these will look nice from the windows in the residential skyscrapers around them. (Send me a photo please!) Abakanowicz said the neighbors had been inviting her up to look at the aerial view and all are thrilled.

They will need to be lit at night, and well-lit.

The south loop behind these is a new neighborhood, and I say no place is a neighborhood until it has a great piece of public art.

This will be landscaped next year, with prairie grasses not too far away. Benches are coming too. Wooden I hope.

I love, believe it or not, that you’ll see them from your car as you zoom down Michigan Avenue, and it’s big enough and compelling enough to make you stop and get out to experience them.

I can’t wait to see them with Chicago snow, plentiful or light, on their shoulders and on their feet. They’ll be marching headlessly across the ‘tundra.’

I like them. I think there’s nothing nobler than a tree, and 106 beautiful, colorful living, growing let’s say, white birch trees would also look nice here. But trees are plentiful in the park; and these cast iron monsters make you think. They probably make you appreciate the peace of nature more; and they’ll make you happier to see ‘Cloud Gate‘ (‘the joy bean’) in Millennium Park. Mayor Daley’s right, they bookend the park. Many other sculptors want to be in Grant Park, there was a moratorium after Millennium Park, these were supposed to go in Museum campus, but Daley said he wanted people to see them, and he wanted that bookend and he broke the moratorium. I’m glad he did.

But here are the questions: why are there 106 headless, armless torsos? Why is today’s sculpture so overdone, monumental and repetitive? Doesn’t that make it easier to cause an impression, but an impression of scale rather than content? Does Abakanowicz do anything more with 106 than Rodin did with just one headless, armless walking torso?

Yes, she does. It’s a more complete experience, at least for a person of our time – the era of reproduction and multiple images at once.
And I like the movement it shows.

Does it do that better than

No fair, I love the Boccioni! I’d love to see a large one, outdoors, animating a well-designed piazza.

But here we were, in nature, except for the concrete plinths that I still don’t care for. We’re in a town that’s very eastern European, Polish in topography and population.

I walked away from the dedication, and I looked back at her work, to get my mental far shot,


No wonder the Mayor was inspired in his speech, and Nelson Algren’s poem to the city may have worked its way into his mind.

It’s urban, it’s raw, it’s a lot of people not really together, it’s masses in search of a leader, people looking for their heads, and for which way to go. It’s Chicago.

-Edward
—–

The Tribune says it could be controversial.
The Tribune art critic calls the work, “a strong achievement.”
and the Sun-Times critic wonders what the headless giants are thinking?

‘only-connect’ has some must-see photos of Agora, you even see the red I was talking about.

And, one last shot from me


The artist and her sculpture.

*** I write a lot more on Agora here!

Soon as it snows I’ll go there and write even mora on Agora.

11/18/2006

Now Playing in Chicago! “Agora.” By Magdalena Abakanowicz.

A cold day. A day of Warsaw weather. Windy and blustery. She arrived early.

Talking to all who would listen. When Channel 7 asked her what title they should put on the graphic she said, “Listen, I am artist. I am choreographer. I make textiles. I draw. I do everything. I don’t like titles.”

And she would pose gracefully, for all who wanted to photograph her.

I asked her about the concrete plinth. If she liked the way it turned out.

“Yes,” she said, “we worked very hard to make sure it was not ‘popular grey.'” I asked if she’d rather have them walk on the earth. “It’s not necessary,” said Abakanowicz.

I later learned she had worked hard to get the concrete that color. She had had the workers put booties on each of the figures, then spray the concrete with color. Then she didn’t like that, so she had them take it off. Then she had them put the booties back on, and had it sprayed again. Then it was brushed by hand to get it a certain color.

I asked her why she gave this four to ten million dollar sculpture as a gift to the people of Chicago. She said, “For the people I am friendly with, money is not power. Generosity is power. Friendship is power.” And she said, “This is not the first time I am in Chicago. I was here in 1982. There was a big show of my work. On all the streets it said, “Abakanowicz. Abakanowicz.” She never forgot that her first comprehensive retrospective in America was here. Poland was still under communism then. And she was a mid-career artist.

Mayor Daley showed up to help dedicate this new work.

That’s him in the fedora on the right.

He started with, ‘thank you Magda. Your work in the south side of Grant Park complements the peristyle in the north side of Grant Park.’

He’s right. Those columns march, and frame space. Then the Mayor paused. And then he launched into an unscripted speech worthy of Nelson Algren. He started with, ‘Magda, you honor the immigrant tradition. And immigrants built Chicago.’ He said, ‘last week we dedicated a park to the Muslims. Now this.’ He looked east for a moment. A Metra train rolled by. He honored that. ‘You know, it was the trains that built this city. They roll right through our downtown, trains, and the Metra are what we’re all about.’ He stepped back for a second, to add to his list. The new construction caught the Mayor’s eye. ‘We’re a city that’s always building, always on the move. Our skyline, people come from all over to view our skyline. And we’re building our skyline, and we’re proud of it. We’re a city of many kinds of people. And we have the Picasso sculpture, and we’re proud of it, and we’re so proud today.’
That’s a paraphrase of his fine imitation of Nelson Algren’s poem “City on the Make.”

Abakanowicz started to speak to the crowd but after just a couple of minutes she choked up and couldn’t continue.

I remembered that years ago, when Marc Chagall came to town to dedicate his mosaic, he gave Mayor Richard J. Daley a big kiss. You didn’t do that then. Magda gave Richie a peck, we all applauded, and the Poles in the audience sang ‘Sto lat’ “Good luck, good cheer, may you live 100 years!’

We all followed our King/Mayor and Magda to walk through “Agora.”

The crowd swelled behind Mayor Daley, trying just to get close to him. It must be his power, right? When he veered left, we all behind him veered left. When he leaned right, we all leaned right. When he paused, people jostled to get close to his raw power. Is that what her sculpture portrays? 106 figures in search of a leader? And to what end will they follow that fellow?

A detail reminded me of communist times in Poland. I’d been there when authorities were visiting a down-and-out village. Somehow it would all get painted and spruced up before their arrival.

Here, I’d watched city crews in the morning frantically sod this just-completed construction zone so it would look good for the Mayor.

So what do I think of ‘Agora?’ It’s impressive. It creates an impression. You can not walk through it and not feel something. As you can at another work that grew in some way out of the horrors of World War Two, Eisenman’s ‘Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe’ in Berlin.

There you feel nothing. Not because it’s abstract. But because the stones have a coating on them, and are mainly a design. On a grid.

Abakanowicz’ group faces all different directions and that creates an energy, a movement, a group mentality, relationships, life for the work.

And there’s texture,

You feel a lot. You feel the march of time, as you do at Loredo Taft’s ‘Fountain of Time’ in Hyde Park.

That they’re headless and armless makes you feel the passage of time also. They are ruins in a way, the way we see many sculptures from antiquity today.

You feel the weight of history. It’s just a short step from the Roman precedent to what she’s doing.


And I love the red in these works, cast in Poznan, Poland. That the backs are empty, scooped out, makes them lighter. And we join our own bodies to theirs.

I love that the groupings open up and get more dense as you walk through them. As life does, and history does, and cities do.

I love that these will look nice from the windows in the residential skyscrapers around them. (Send me a photo please!) Abakanowicz said the neighbors had been inviting her up to look at the aerial view and all are thrilled.

They will need to be lit at night, and well-lit.

The south loop behind these is a new neighborhood, and I say no place is a neighborhood until it has a great piece of public art.

This will be landscaped next year, with prairie grasses not too far away. Benches are coming too. Wooden I hope.

I love, believe it or not, that you’ll see them from your car as you zoom down Michigan Avenue, and it’s big enough and compelling enough to make you stop and get out to experience them.

I can’t wait to see them with Chicago snow, plentiful or light, on their shoulders and on their feet. They’ll be marching headlessly across the ‘tundra.’

I like them. I think there’s nothing nobler than a tree, and 106 beautiful, colorful living, growing let’s say, white birch trees would also look nice here. But trees are plentiful in the park; and these cast iron monsters make you think. They probably make you appreciate the peace of nature more; and they’ll make you happier to see ‘Cloud Gate‘ (‘the joy bean’) in Millennium Park. Mayor Daley’s right, they bookend the park. Many other sculptors want to be in Grant Park, there was a moratorium after Millennium Park, these were supposed to go in Museum campus, but Daley said he wanted people to see them, and he wanted that bookend and he broke the moratorium. I’m glad he did.

But here are the questions: why are there 106 headless, armless torsos? Why is today’s sculpture so overdone, monumental and repetitive? Doesn’t that make it easier to cause an impression, but an impression of scale rather than content? Does Abakanowicz do anything more with 106 than Rodin did with just one headless, armless walking torso?

Yes, she does. It’s a more complete experience, at least for a person of our time – the era of reproduction and multiple images at once.
And I like the movement it shows.

Does it do that better than

No fair, I love the Boccioni! I’d love to see a large one, outdoors, animating a well-designed piazza.

But here we were, in nature, except for the concrete plinths that I still don’t care for. We’re in a town that’s very eastern European, Polish in topography and population.

I walked away from the dedication, and I looked back at her work, to get my mental far shot,


No wonder the Mayor was inspired in his speech, and Nelson Algren’s poem to the city may have worked its way into his mind.

It’s urban, it’s raw, it’s a lot of people not really together, it’s masses in search of a leader, people looking for their heads, and for which way to go. It’s Chicago.

-Edward
—–

The Tribune says it could be controversial.
The Tribune art critic calls the work, “a strong achievement.”
and the Sun-Times critic wonders what the headless giants are thinking?

‘only-connect’ has some must-see photos of Agora, you even see the red I was talking about.

And, one last shot from me


The artist and her sculpture.

*** I write a lot more on Agora here!

Soon as it snows I’ll go there and write even mora on Agora.