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Public Sculptures

The longer days and fine weather make summer the ideal time for actually stopping to look at the public art that is all over the city.

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Chicago thrives in the sun soaked days of its too-short summer. The neighborhoods radiate with energy and Michigan Avenue is swarmed with hundreds of camera-happy visitors. Arguably the best—and paradoxically the worst—of the Chicago seasons, summer finally invites us out to the lakefront beaches, down south to Rainbow Cone and up north to Green City Market. The temperature is finally just right for biking the Lakeshore path and walking through Grant Park. In other words, the longer days and fine weather make summer the ideal time for actually stopping to look at the public art that is all over the city. And there is a lot more to see, beyond the famous Picasso, Chagall, Kapoor and Calder. So, grab your sketchbook and/or a camera and check out some of these current and classic sculptures in the downtown area!

America’s Courtyard
Denise Milan and Ary Perez, 1998
Museum Campus

Also located in Museum Campus along Lakeshore Drive is Milan and Perez’s America’s Courtyard. Located next to Adler Planetarium, America’s Courtyard is an interactive calendar. With the center stones forming a compass and the four open avenues depicting where the sun rises and sets at the solstices, visitors can chart change of the seasons by seeing where the sun is rising or setting in relation to the four avenues.

The stones that comprise the sculpture were moved from their original location near the Art Institute to the Adler Planetarium. The variety of these stones are also supposed to represent the ethnic diversity that composes the American population.
On view year-round

A Conversation With Chicago: Contemporary Sculptures From China
Chen Wenling, Sui Jianguo, Shen Shaomin, and Zhan Wang
Millenium Park

Millennium Park welcomes prominent Chinese artists to the streets of Chicago with the installation of four major sculptures prominently displayed above Jaume Plensa’s Crown Fountain on the east end of the park, and in the symmetrical space on the west side. The sculptural installation includes work from artists from different educational backgrounds and home environments.

Contemporary Chinese social issues are apparent in all four sculptures, from the looming energy crisis to globalization. Wenling, Jianguo, Shaomin and Wang present sculptures ranging from a nearly life size T-Rex, to a collection of several camo-covered oil derricks. The large, politically charged, socially active and aesthetically thrilling sculptures are at home in Chicago’s largest public gallery—Millennium Park.

God Bless America
J. Seward Johnson Jr., 2005
401 N. Michigan Ave

Just north of the Chicago River just south of Tribune building stands the epic sculptural tribute to Grant Wood’s American Gothic. An heir to Johnson & Johnson (an American icon in itself), Seward Johnson Jr.’s God Bless America is a 25 foot tall ode to one of the Art Institute’s most famous Regionalist paintings. Part of his Icons Revisited series, the work is on loan from The Sculpture Foundation, which has been responsible for the rotating sculptural projects on the spot, including the King Lear piece (also by Seward Johnson) that God Bless America has replaced.
On view through October 2010.

Magdalena Abakanowicz, 2006
Grant Park

At the south end of Grant Park, Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Agora has been a Chicago notable since the winter of 2006. The 106 hand-made headless and armless torsos whose surfaces are reminiscent of tree bark, reflect the artist’s interest in the interpersonal dimensions of crowds. They refer back to artist’s experience in Warsaw both during the second World War, and the following forty-five year Soviet domination. Abakanowicz describes the work as being like “one body that represents so many different meanings…. It’s the self against the whole world.”
On view year-round.

Buckingham Fountain
Edward H. Bennett, 1927
Central Grant Park

One of the oldest and most recognizable of Chicago’s monuments is the historic Buckingham Fountain, recently unwrapped from a long winter of deconstruction and repair. Renovated and rejuvenated, Bennett’s fountain is running and looking as good as it did in 1927. Plus it plays Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture for every water show, which is epically awesome.
On view April through mid-October. 
Water shows on the hour every hour for twenty minutes.

Three Forms for Chicago
David Nash, 2000
Museum Campus

Located on the northwest side of Museum Campus, near Lakeshore Drive, Nash’s Three Forms for Chicago is a short ride south on the 146 Bus. Installed in 2000, the tri-form recycled Midwest-native wood sculpture depicts a sphere, a pyramid and a cube. Nash’s interest in the interaction of man and nature is reflected in the charred finish of the pieces. Burnt after their installation, Three Forms is a reflection of human impact on nature and a structural manifestation of his concern for this relationship.
On view year-round.

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