Category Archives: Art Outdoors

Jacob Watts (b. tba, American), Moose Bubblegum Bubble, 33 E. Congress (South Wall), Chicago, Illinois.

Jacob Watts, Moose Bubblegum Bubble, 2014, 33 E. Congress, Chicago,  11/2017 5.19 mb

Jacob Watts is a photographer and visual storyteller based in Chicago, Illinois. A graduate of Oswego (Illinois) High School (class of 2008), Watts received his B.F.A. from Columbia College Chicago in 2012. The photo-illustration of a moose blowing bubblegum hangs on a blue wall in the South Loop of Downtown Chicago at a size of 48′ by 43′.

Jacob Watts has been passionate about the medium of photography since before he was a teenager. From the start of his interest in photography, Watts was wholly intrigued by Photoshop. Today the artist creates illustrative and conceptual images with an emphasis on post production. Most of Watts’ work consists of graphic, imaginative, surreal, and composited works from his own images. His current headline work includes images in areas entitled Strangers, Recovery: Movie Posters, Some Time Alone. Portraits, Hvrbrd, Motion, Conceptual, Things are Strange, and Building A Universe.  

According to the artist’s website, he is passionate about collaboration and finding creative solutions to exceed expectations. Watts is represented by Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago.

In the spring of 2014, Columbia College Chicago’s Wabash Avenue Corridor (WAC) Campus Committee launched a student and alumni competition to install artwork in the heart of the South Loop. Watts’ Moose Bubblegum Bubble was selected as one of the winners.

The scores of educational and cultural projects and programs that WAC advances strengthen the ties between students, artists, curators, academic institutions, cultural organizations and local businesses. Artists and curators from around the world have participated in WAC projects and programs to create murals, performance, installations, actions and large-scale projections that are always free of charge and open to the public.

This public arts program brings together the visual, performing, and other arts and media which are expansive, diverse and accessible so to provide a transformative experience to the many tens of thousands of urbanites who live, work and play in the city on a daily basis.

Starting in 2016 WAC began a focus of diversity, equity and inclusion, and developed one of the largest street art and public art collections of women artists and artists of color. This effort continues in 2021.

SOURCES:

http://www.jacobwatts.net/

Jacob Watts

https://patch.com/illinois/oswego/former-oswego-grads-art-receives-prominent-downtown-chicago-placement-0



Ruth Aizuss Migdal (b. 1932, American), Here, Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Illinois.

Ruth Aizuss Migdal, Here, fabricated painted steel, 2012, Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago. 5/2015 3.73 mb

Ruth Aizuss Migdal was born in Chicago. The artist was educated at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (B.F.A.) and the University of Illinois at Urbana (M.F.A). Migdal was awarded an honorary doctorate from U of I, her alma mater, in 2019. Classically educated and trained in painting and printmaking, initially she created abstract paintings. Migdal turned to sculpture where, in 1971, she began exploring the female figure.

Her towering sculptures begin as a maquette and, then, as a wax mold, they are each pieced together section by section. Today the artist continues her work in bronze and steel, creating large abstracted figurative sculptures that have been installed in popular locations throughout Chicago and around the United States.

Here is a 14-foot-tall public sculpture, painted a shining bright red, that depicts a dancing female figure on the runway and poised for flight. Standing in Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo next to the Chilean pink flamingos pond, Migdal’s sensuous, voluptuous, and muscular female dancer sculpture (and others like it) are constructed and deconstructed with multiple body parts. It exemplifies a spirit of joyfulness, independence, and perseverance. Further, the artwork is an expression of strength and a lust for life.

Here is one of the major examples of Migdal’s red dancing figures – another, entitled Whirling Dervish is in Chicago’s Douglas Park. La Diva III at 2650 N. Clark Street in Chicago was Migdal’s first monumental red painted sculpture installed in a public space. The photograph is from May 2015.

Here is installed in Lincoln Park Zoo. Founded in 1868, Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the most historic zoos in North America (fourth oldest) and one of the only free admission zoos in the country. It attracts over 3.6 million visitors annually.

SOURCES:

https://sculpture.org/member/ruth_aizuss_migdal

wgntv.com/news/features/85-year-old-chicago-sculptor-has-no-plans-to-slow-down/

http://www.lincolnparkchamber.com/news-item/art-on-clark-ruth-aizuss-migdal/

https://ruthssculpture.com/

http://www.lpzoo.org/

Eduardo Kobra (b. 1975, Brazil), Muddy Waters, 17 N. State Street (Stevens Building), Chicago, Illinois.


Muddy Waters, “King of the Chicago Blues,“ by Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra in a photograph taken in May 2021. The 10-story mural tribute was painted in 2017 and is located on State Street in Downtown Chicago.

This 100-foot-tall (10 stories) mural of legendary Chicago blues musician Muddy Waters (1913-1983) was dedicated in June 2017 on the north wall of the 19-story Stevens Building at 17 N. State Street in Downtown Chicago.

Painted by Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra (b. 1975), it took over two weeks to paint it. The new mural covered over a big, yellow “Go Do Good” painting. The Stevens Building itself is a notable early skyscraper on the east side of State Street near its intersection with Washington Street. When it was built in 1912 by Daniel H. Burnham (1846-1912), it was one of the most modern business structures In Chicago and filled with retail shops. The Charles A. Stevens & Bros. building is nineteen stories above ground and three below,

The colorful portrait mural of Muddy Waters is part of a campaign to beautify the walls of some tall buildings in Chicago as well as to mark the significance of Black music in Chicago. Specifically, Eduardo Kobra’s mural is a tribute to the legacy of Muddy Waters in the Chicago blues music scene. Among Muddy Waters’ many titles and accolades, he may be perhaps best known as the “King of Chicago Blues.”

Growing up in Mississippi, Muddy Waters was first exposed to music at the local Baptist church. During World War II, when Muddy Waters was still in his 20’s, he moved from Mississippi to Chicago. He came to Chicago because he wanted to be a professional musician and Chicago since the 1920’s had been a center for jazz and blues music production.

In 1951 when Muddy Waters recorded his song “Still A Fool” at newly-founded Chess Records on the southside of Chicago, he started the next decade making several blues classics. In 1951, the Chess brothers, Leonard and Phil, both around Waters’ age, wanted the new blues musician to record using the new label’s professional musicians instead of Waters’ own band.

By September 1953 Waters was recording with his own band which became one of the most acclaimed blues bands in history. It included Little Walter Jacobs (1930-1968), a Blues and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame harmonica virtuoso; Jimmy Rogers (1924-1997), a Blues Hall of Fame musician on guitar who, with Little Walter and Muddy Waters, helped define the Chicago Blues sound; rural blues legend Elga Speed Edmonds (1909-1966) on drums; distinctive keyboard stylist and Blues Hall of Fame inductee Otis Spann (1930-1970) on piano—and, at times on bass, Willie Dixon (1915-1992), Grammy Award winner, and inductee in the Blues, Rock and Roll, and Songwriters Halls of Fame. The clarity of the clip of Muddy Waters’ electric guitar and his gravelly voice, deep and wide, were also distinctive features in a career that spanned 50 years and included 11 Grammy Award nominations with 6 wins.

In June 2017 at the dedication of the mural at the busy intersection of State and Washington Streets in the heart of downtown Chicago’s business/shopping districts, Muddy Waters’ family was in attendance. Of Muddy Waters’ legacy, born in Mississippi and living and working in Chicagoland since the 1940’s, Rolling Stone wrote: “With him the blues came up from the Delta and went electric.”

https://www.grammy.com/grammys/artists/muddy-waters/6890

http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/151.html#:~:text=The%20decline%20slowed%20the%20migration,resurgence%20of%20the%20record%20industry.

text&photo:

Bob Mangold (b. 1930, American), Anemotive Kinetic, Sinnissippi Gardens, Rockford, Illinois.

Bob Mangold (b. 1930, American), Anemotive Kinetic, Sinnissippi Gardens, Rockford, Illinois, in July 2017.

As a kinetic (movement) artist, Mangold’s sculptures explore concepts of space and motion.

In 1962, Mangold began his Anemotive series of spherical, wind-propelled kinetic sculptures. As with this work, Anemotive Kinetic, the anemotives are characterized by cup-like shapes mounted on arms which allow for motion in nature. 

text&photo:

Jerry Peart (b. 1948, American), Wildflower, Sinnissippi Gardens, Rockford, Illinois.

Jerry Peart (b. 1948, American), Wildflower, Sinnissippi Gardens, Rockford, Illinois, in July 2017.

The 20-foot painted aluminum sculpture in a fountain setting stands near the entrance of the Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens along the Rock River in Rockford, Illinois.

The Conservatory opened in October 2011 and offers a main exhibition house, greenhouses, classrooms, a roof garden, a lagoon, walking trails, outdoor gardens, and more.

Jerry Peart is a Chicago-based artist who, according to his website https://www.sedgwickstudiochicago.com/jerry-peart, has created over 35 large-scale public sculptures. The artist created Wildflower in part because he was inspired by this place in the Midwest dedicated to all things clean and green.

text&photo:

A Gift to the People: The Chicago Picasso, 1967.

FEATURE IMAGE: Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. Author’s photo (July 2015).

Chicago’s “Picasso” in today’s downtown Daley Plaza was officially unveiled on Tuesday, August 15, 1967 at 12 noon.

Weeks before the public event excitement (and some dread) swirled among Chicagoans and others as to what Pablo Picasso’s monumental outdoor sculpture would be like.

In the photograph on the wall, Mayor Daley and others pull the cord on August 15, 1967 unveiling Chicago’s iconic Picasso.

The famous Basque artist was first approached by Chicago leaders in May 1963. This encounter led more than four years later to the Cor-Ten steel sculpture’s installation and unveiling on a beautiful Tuesday summer’s afternoon in the Chicago Civic Center Plaza. Many in the crowd of thousands who had gathered to witness the historic event gasped and jeered at the modernist art work when the fabric cover was taken off. Local newspaperman Mike Royko wrote in The Daily News that the art work looked like a “giant insect.” Photo Credit: “Picasso in Chicago” by Emily Barney is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. Author’s photo (October 2011).

Chicago’s first major public outdoor sculpture started a long term national trend to display massive outdoor contemporary art for the public

The now-iconic Picasso unveiled in 1967 is credited with being the first public outdoor sculpture installed in Chicago that put Chicago on the map as one of America’s first major cities to display massive outdoor contemporary art for the public.

In 1958 there was an untitled art work by Richard Lippold (1915-2002) constructed in the lobby of the Inland Steel Building (1954-58) by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in downtown Chicago. It is four blocks from City Hall and the new Civic Center Plaza that the same architectural firm was helping to design and build in the early 1960’s.

Untitled (known today as The Radiant One), Richard Lippold, commissioned in 1957, Inland Steel Building, Chicago. Author’s photo (December 2017).

This was followed in 1964 by a large modernist work unveiled at the University of Chicago Law School entitled, Construction in Space and in the Third and Fourth Dimensions. It was made in 1959 by Russian Constructionist Antoine Pevsner (1886-1962).

The reputation and fame of Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) in 1967 helped catapult the idea and cultural practice of the installation of modern art, often monumental, in high-profile public spaces across the country, and starting in large measure, in Chicago.

In the following years and decades installation of public art that had broadened beyond the commemorative extended to established artists, many with international reputations, as well as more recent and sometimes emerging artists. In 2021, one online list of public art on campus at the University of Chicago demonstrates its extensive practice that was largely ushered in with Chicago’s Picasso (Ira J. Bach and Mary Lackritz Gray, A Guide to Chicago’s Public Sculpture, University of Chicago Press, 1983, p. xiii; https://arts.uchicago.edu/public-art-campus/public-art-campus#Antoine_Pevsner – retrieved June 9, 2021).

Since before the mid-20th century, public art in America has been often characterized by Modernism (i.e., MoMA’s modernist sculpture garden dated from the 1940’s). Modernism began as a cultural rebellion against prevailing classical-romantic art work. Until around Rodin’s Balzac in 1898, art work in the classical and romantic style filled parks and plazas throughout the 19th century and afterwards that memorialized people, places, and events. Modernists identified the classical-romantic style as old, trite, exhausted, and artistically bankrupt in rapidly changing times. Instead, Modernism offered artistic forms and creative responses that met and expressed an increasingly global and machine age – and not by grand depictions and tired motifs of old Romans standing (or lying) on privileged porticos in togas (i.e., Thomas Couture (1815-1879) Romans during the Decadence, 1847, oil on canvas, Musée d’Orsay).

Thomas Couture (1815-1879), Romans during the Decadence, 1847, oil on canvas, Musée d’Orsay. Starting no later than 1900, contemporary society was increasingly artistically influenced by Modernism. Characterized by the rejection of centuries-old literary and historical subjects and forms, it turned to abstraction and imaginative artistic responses as more fitting expression for a rapidly changing modern society.

Pablo Picasso had dominated the modern art scene for most of the 20th century, starting and particularly as the innovator of Cubism with French painter Georges Braque (1882-1963). Picasso was one of several artists who, as Harper’s Bazaar observed about the magazine’s engagement with modern artists, “broke new ground, challenged established thinking, and signaled seismic shifts in the culture” (Harper’s Bazaar, March 2021, p. 236).

Pablo Picasso, Three Women, 1908, oil on canvas, 200x 178 cm, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.

Picasso, Student with a pipe, Paris, 1913, Oil, gouache, cut-and-pasted paper, gesso, sand, and charcoal on canvas, 28 ¾ x 23 1/8 inches, The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza from the side looking to the southeast. Author’s photo (July 2015).

On a representational level, a woman’s facial profile (eye, nose, lips, chin) followed by two “wings” of flowing hair, and rounded shoulders are in plain sight. Yet other interpretations for the sculpture are also reasonably feasible. For example, from the back, are the top symmetrical curves of the wings reflective of the curves of a woman’s buttocks with legs constituting the rest? Are the cut-out shapes like a head and neck in this context possibly a phallus? Picasso famously did many pieces of art that were highly sexualized. In 1932 Pablo Picasso produced an entire series of what would become iconic paintings of Marie-Thérèse Walter, his young, blonde-haired mistress, in the most lascivious and sensual positions imaginable. Picasso’s Minotaur and Wounded Horse is one example of it produced in Boisgeloup (outside Paris) on April 17, 1935 and today in the permanent collection of The Art Institute of Chicago. (See – https://johnpwalshblog.com/2013/05/15/picasso-and-chicago-the-show-may-be-over-but-its-best-parts-stay-on-display-its-called-the-art-institute-of-chicagos-permanent-collection/).

Picasso narrowed the central plane of the head toward the top, and indicated its slight tilt backward. Using Student with Pipe as a guide, what is usually interpreted as flowing hair past a woman’s head and body, these immense curved symmetrical “wings” in Chicago’s Picasso may be conceived as the shadow or shadows of a head and body. If the rods are not representative of something specific – i.e., guitar strings – but, as Picasso alluded in the LOOK interview of November 1967, an aesthetical connection, then this interpretation of a figural foreground and shadowed background that makes for a sculptural whole is also feasible.

The Chicago sculpture’s circular eyes and long flat nose are typical of Picasso heads of the 1913-1914 period which were translations of the features of African, specifically Wobé, masks. Picasso used their economy and schema to transform them into his personal and whimsical art work. (William Rubin, Picasso in the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, MoMA, New York, 1972, pp. 88-89).

Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza, Author’s photo. (December 2017).

Mask (Kifwebe), Songye, late 19th or early 20th century. Wood, pigment, 12 x 7 1/8 x 6 1/8 in. (30.5 x 18.1 x 15.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum. The object is a female mask with projecting mouth, triangular nose, pierced eyes, overall concentric linear carving, and polychrome pigment.

The mask type that was shared by other African societies is characterized by angular and thrusting forms, and the entire face is covered in unique patterns of geometric grooves. Female masks, such as this one, are distinguished by the predominant use of white clay and, in a feature shared by Chicago’s Picasso, the rounded form of the head crest. (See – https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/169088– retrieved June 9, 2021).

Picasso with wife, Jacqueline. Photo credit: “picasso” by ombrelle is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Picasso was 72 years old and  Jacqueline Roque was 26 years old when they met in 1953. Picasso’s first wife, Olga Khokhlova, died in 1955. Picasso romanced Jacqueline until she agreed to date him and they married in 1961. During their courtship and marriage of 20 years, Picasso created over 400 portraits of Jacqueline, more than any of his other muses.

Picasso’s widow, Jacqueline Roque Picasso (1927-1986), gave her portrait to the president of Iceland and the bust was consigned in 1988 to the National Gallery of Iceland. A more realistic figure, Picasso’s slightly earlier art work evokes features and forms found in the abstracted sculpture for Chicago done a little later, such as the wing-shaped curves of the flowing hair that comes to a point at the bottom. https://www.listasafn.is/english/exhibitions/nr/476

Pablo Picasso, Jacqueline with a Yellow Ribbon, 1962, sheet metal, cut-out, bent, and painted, 19 5/8 inches, National Gallery of Iceland, Reykjavik.

Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. Completed no later than 5 years after Jacqueline with a Yellow Ribbon in 1962 the dramatic shapes and formulations of the monumental sculpture share recognizable affinities. Author’s photo (July 2015).

Perfect Summer’s Day for Unveiling Ceremony

August 15, 1967 was a perfect summer’s day with temperatures in the low 80s and no rain to worry about in the forecast. The Woods Theater across the Plaza on Dearborn was playing Jack Nicholson’s new film, Hells Angels On Wheels. Before the unveiling, Mayor Richard J. Daley (1902-1976) spoke before the crowd. The mayor told the crowd that he was “very happy” that they had “come to share” in the dedication of what was “a great gift to our city” by Picasso. That Mayor Daley and Pablo Picasso, both Roman Catholics, unveiled Picasso’s gift on August 15 would be coincidental to the significant Catholic religious holiday of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary that also falls on the date.

A lunch-time crowd packed the new Civic Center Plaza on the day of the unveiling. The new plaza fronted a new modernist courthouse skyscraper and a modern outdoor sculpture – Chicago’s Picasso – as the major components of architectural plans virtually from its start.

In 1963, the Public Building Commission of Chicago decided to build a new modernist 31-story civic center fronted by a public plaza. The new complex would complement and contrast with the 10-story City Hall across Clark Street that opened in 1911. The new courthouse and plaza development was part of Mayor Daley’s overall downtown development that by 1963 was in high gear and would remain so past his unexpected death 5 days before Christmas in 1976 at 74 years old.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the architectural firm associated with the project, wanted the art work to be by Pablo Picasso. When the project’s coordinator, architect William E. Hartmann (1916-2003), told Mayor Daley of these plans, the mayor quickly supported the choice. The challenge now was to convince Picasso.

Chicago Civic Center, 1963. (see- https://www.artic.edu/artworks/107284/chicago-civic-center-perspective-view-of-plaza– retrieved June 9, 2021).

The Chicago Civic Center’s supervising architects was C.F. Murphy led by the Aurora, Illinois-born architect Jacques Brownson (1924-2012). Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Loebl, Schlossman, Bennett & Dart were associated architects. Al Francik was this drawing’s delineator.

The Chicago Civic Center was the first of several important new public buildings constructed in Chicago from the late 1950s to the 1980s as part of Mayor Richard J. Daley’s development of municipal government. The glass-and-steel modernist building held over 100 courtrooms, office space and a large law library. It boasted wide spans between weight bearing columns and 18-foot-tall floor to floor heights. Though the plan included a sculpture in the public plaza, Picasso’s sculpture came later after he was persuaded by William Hartmann of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to make an art work. Chicago’s Picasso continues to draw Chicagoans and visitors from all over the world to the plaza. 

On August 15, 1967, Mayor Daley continued his remarks to the assembled crowd: “Today, with its unveiling, it becomes a permanent part of the Chicago scene. As mayor, I dedicate this gift, in the name of the people of Chicago, confident that it will have an abiding and happy place in the city’s heart.”

The Deed of Gift, dated August 21, 1966, was signed by Picasso with one of its witnesses being, Jacqueline, his wife and written in both English and French. The entirety of the Deed of Gift in English reads: “The Monumental sculpture portrayed by the maquette pictured above has been expressly created by me, Pablo Picasso, for installation on the plaza of the Civic Center in the City of Chicago, State of Illinois, United States of America. This sculpture was undertaken by me for the Public Building Commission of Chicago at the request of William E. Hartmann, acting on behalf of the Chicago Civic Center Architects. I hereby give this work and the right to reproduce it to the Public Building Commission, and I give the maquette to The Art Institute of Chicago. Desiring that these gifts shall, through them, belong to the people of Chicago” (Balton-Stratton, The Chicago Picasso, p. 33).

Picasso donated his sculpture to the people of Chicago in 1967. Skateboarder on Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. Author’s photo (July 2015).

Children’s slide on Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. Author’s photo (May 2021).

Picasso’s “gift” cost $300,000 to fabricate–or around $2 million today

Picasso donated his sculpture to the people of Chicago in 1967. The artist’s gift constituted the 42-inch maquette and the rights and privileges surrounding it. The monumental sculpture based on Picasso’s “gift” of the maquette cost $300,000 to fabricate–or around $2 million today – and paid for by private monies (Bach, p. 76).

The Picasso sculpture could not be completely a matter of artist largesse (though he did not accept a fee). Gertrude Stein in Picasso, her memoir of the artist written in 1938, writes of the young and then-impoverished Picasso who gave a prominent collector one of his desirable art works when he might have paid for it. Picasso told Stein about the collector: “He doesn’t understand that at that time the difference between a sale and gift was negligible” (Stein, Picasso, p. 8). Fast forward about fifty years and something similar might have applied for Picasso in 1967 in terms of acknowledging the people (and collectors) of Chicago.

Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. Author’s photo (May 2021) .

Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. Author’s photo (July 2015) .

Not everyone who gathered at Daley Plaza in August 1967 during the “Summer of Love” and then-escalating Vietnam War was there to welcome Picasso’s sculpture. Though Chicago had a long and venerable history with Picasso’s art – The Art Institute of Chicago began collecting it in 1923 and the first Picasso exhibition was at The Arts Club of Chicago that same year—protesters held signs at the unveiling, some of which read: “Let’s give it back now!!!,” “The Colossal Boo Boo,” and “It’s a Monsterment.” To what degree connoisseurship influenced protesters in August 1967 would appear to lie in the outright rejection of Modernism though more nuanced criticism could include crass commercialization of Picasso’s art work.

From its unveiling in August 1967 until today, Chicagoans have been mystified by their publicly owned “Picasso.” Picasso’s untitled artwork has had its boosters and detractors. Over the years, it appears public opinion has mellowed about the 50-foot-tall, 162-ton Cor-Ten (self-weathering) steel sculpture, even turning mostly in favor of the enigmatic art work.

In more than 50 years of debate, Chicagoans have come to accept that they probably will never know exactly what it is that Picasso gave “to the people of Chicago.”

Though mysterious – is it a butterfly or bird? or, as Sir Roland Penrose (1900-1984) interpreted it, the abstracted head of a woman with ample flowing hair – many seek it out or find it as they cross the plaza. It adds grace, beauty, personality, proportionality and perspective to the urban space between Dearborn and Clark Streets at Washington Street.

Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza looking to the northeast. Author’s photo (May 2021).

The sculpture’s rods have been compared to the strings of a guitar (Bach, pp.75-76). Always in the public domain, it is a popular icon for Chicago.

The Picasso bestows international and modernist value to the “City of the (19th) Century” which in 1911 – the year City Hall was erected – poet Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) called “hog butcher for the world” in his poem, Chicago. Though Sandburg wrote these literary images in and of another era, the famous poet was just 3 years older than Picasso and died in July 1967, only weeks before the official unveiling of the Picasso that ushed in a new age for the city.

In May 1963, Picasso was a vigorous 81 years old and living in Mougins, France. By way of literary and artistic contacts in Chicago and Europe, William Hartmann was helped on his mission to visit Picasso as the young American architect headed to the south of France to await the outcome of his request to meet the aging Basque artist.

Picasso was 81 years old and living in the south of France when Chicago architect William Hartmann tracked the artist down to ask him to consider creating a sculpture on a monumental scale for Chicago’s new modernist Civic Center development project.  Photo credit: “PABLO PICASSO” by marsupilami92 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

William Hartmann, 47 years old in 1963, was born in New Jersey and started his architectural career in Boston after attending MIT. He joined Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in New York City following World War II and was working in its Chicago office since 1947. Hartmann, elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1963, is credited for personally enticing Picasso to design a sculpture for Daley Center Plaza in Chicago. In 1968, the year after the installation of the Picasso sculpture in Chicago, Hartmann was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Lake Forest College. (For Hartmann biographical information and interviews, see the Ryerson & Burnham art and architecture archive – https://digital-libraries.artic.edu/digital/collection/caohp/id/26834/rec/1– retrieved June 9, 2021).

At their meeting Hartmann looked to familiarize the artist with the downtown Chicago project: he brought photographs of Chicago, the building site, and its people. Hartmann included photographs of the many Picasso works owned by Chicagoans and its institutions to show him this city’s longstanding regard and love for him.

Picasso told Hartmann he would think about it.

Hartmann continued to visit over the next months and years bringing various Americana and Chicago-related items as gifts, such as major sports team paraphernalia. Hartmann also updated the artist on the modernist Civic Center construction project.

Picasso produced a draft.

Before starting his maquette, Picasso asked Chicago leaders to keep the art project “relatively confidential” and out of the public eye

Hartmann told him, “We want to commission you so that I end up with a study I can take back.” Maintaining his flexibility, Picasso told Hartmann, “I may not produce anything—or produce something that you don’t like. It’s best that we keep this low-key from start to finish, calm, and relatively confidential.”

Thus, out of “relative confidentiality” was born much of the mystery and intriguing quality of the “Picasso” at its unveiling in Chicago in August 1967.

Maquette for Richard J. Daley Center Sculpture,1964. The Art Institute of Chicago. Maquette for Richard J. Daley Center Monument, 1965. Welded steel (simulated and oxidized) 41 ¼ x 27 ½ x 19 inches, The Art Institute of Chicago. The artist; given to The Art Institute of Chicago, 1966. See – https://www.artic.edu/artworks/25809/maquette-for-richard-j-daley-center-sculpture — June 6, 2021.

In 1963 Mayor Daley looked to persuade Picasso to do a monument. In 1965, Picasso looked to persuade Mayor Daley to accept his foremost Cubist original work that would be seen and interpreted each day by thousands in the heart of Chicago’s downtown government, business and shopping district.

Chicago’s collection of public art was initiated on August 15, 1967, when Mayor Richard J. Daley dedicated an untitled sculpture commonly known as “The Picasso” in Chicago’s new Civic Center (now the Richard J. Daley Center). Four years earlier, architect William Hartmann of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill had approached Pablo Picasso with the commission. The artist accepted and crafted two steel maquettes: one he kept in his studio at Mougins and gave the other to the architect to use in planning the potential fabrication of the sculpture. With the Picasso sculpture’s unveiling in 1967, its presence inspired private and public investment in many more art works throughout the cityscape, including Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate (“The Bean”) completed in 2006 at Millennium Park.

Cloud Gate (“The Bean”), Anish Kapoor, 2006, Millennium Park, Chicago. Chicago’s Picasso in 1967 inspired private and public investment in art works throughout the cityscape well into the future. Author’s photo (May 2021).

When Picasso produced a 42-inch maquette of the sculpture, the board of the Public Building Commission of Chicago was given a private viewing of it. Afterwards, they passed a resolution authorizing the payment of $100,000 to Picasso (about $850,000 today) with the sum to include the purchase price for the right, title and interest in and to the maquette as well as copyright and copyright renewals. When Hartmann offered the $100,000 check to Picasso, he asked the artist to sign the “Formal Acknowledgment and Receipt.”

Picasso refused to accept the money or to sign the document.

Rather it was Picasso’s wish that a “Deed of Gift” be prepared and which Picasso signed on August 21, 1966. (see- https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Letter_Edged_in_Black_Press,_Inc._v._Public_Building_Commission_of_Chicago – retrieved June 4, 2021).

Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza from the back looking to the south. As in every cubist art work, a visit to the sculpture provides multiple viewpoints. Author’s photo (July 2016).

Richard J. Daley Center Sculpture, 1967, White chalk on plywood, 100 x 81 cm, Signed recto, upper right, in magenta pastel: “Picasso” (underlined); The artist; given to The Art Institute of Chicago, 1967. – https://www.artic.edu/artworks/28019/richard-j-daley-center-sculpture– retrieved June 9, 2021.

In the chalk drawing (above) the importance of the sculpture’s forms, both empty of steel and fabricated thereof, carry greater significance to the outcome of the piece. In the drawing Picasso does not include the rods of which much representational conjecture has been made (i.e., guitar strings) as the artist himself admits adds value for structural stability of the modernist monument.

Based on Picasso’s design and the 42-inch maquette he made, the monumental statue was built by U.S. Steel in Gary, Indiana. Anatol Rychalski was the engineer in charge of the design and construction.

Rods of the Chicago Picasso in Daley Plaza, Author’s photo (July 2015).

“My job was to make an exact but giant likeness of Picasso’s 42-inch original. Being a follower of Picasso’s works, I knew that no snap judgement of this one would suffice. But those of us who built it accepted the challenge of its interpretation with as much enthusiasm as the challenge of its construction” (Chicago Tribune, August 20, 1967). Rychalski, a Polish immigrant to the U.S. in 1950 and, in 1967, senior designer in the American Bridge Division of U.S. Steel corporation, observed, “We had to roll steel to sizes which never have been rolled which means that the whole technology had to be to some extent improvised at the time.” Nearly 50 years later, in 2016, the 91-year-old Rychalski, said about the sculpture, “It defines the city as ‘spirit in flight.’ You look at the wings and the profile of an overwhelmingly powerful lady…the value of it is enormous.” (quoted in https://www.shawlocal.com/2016/07/28/shorewood-man-expresses-the-profound-through-his-acrylic-paintings/askc2p1/-retrieved June 9, 2021.)

Pablo Picasso and William E. Hartmann with the maquette in the artist’s Mougins studio in August 1966. This image appeared in the 1967 program pamphlet. Picasso made two maquettes – one he kept in his studio and the other he gave to The Art Institute of Chicago for the behalf of the people of Chicago.

Daley pulled the cord on the multi-color fabric that hid Picasso’s gift to the people of Chicago. Chicago poet Gweldolyn Brooks (1917-2000) read remarks and members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra played music.

Collective gasp from the crowd followed by jeers at unveiling

With the veil removed, the crowd let out a collective gasp and began to shout negative comments about the art work. In its first public appearance, the crowd of potential Picasso admirers turned into a Picasso peanut gallery – an unintended, unwanted but not wholly unforeseen consequence by city authorities. Bemused criticisms of the Picasso were also part of what became – in the mayor’s words at the sculpture’s unveiling – “a permanent part of the Chicago scene.”

The Chicago Picasso at the dedication ceremony before the unveiling on August 15, 1967. Photo credit: case 69C353: The Letter Edged in Black Press, Inc. vs. Public Building Commission of Chicago in records of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, RG 21.

Controversial reaction better than “no reaction at all”

For William Hartmann and others responsible for bringing the Picasso to Chicago the local crowd’s visceral and negative reaction to the monumental public art work in the downtown location was better than no reaction at all.

“Picasso’s work, frequently, if not always has been the center of controversy,” Hartmann philosophically observed, “So it all fit into that pattern beautifully.”

Mayor Richard J. Daley (right), c. 1971. Photo credit: “File:Chicago Mayor Daley and Keith Kingbay.jpg” by Chester R. Kropidlowski P.E. is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5.

A few days after the unveiling, Mayor Daley offers his thoughts at a press conference about the Picasso

A couple of days after the unveiling ceremony, Mayor Daley at a press conference offered what he thought about the Picasso sculpture. Though it was “wonderful,” Daley admitted like the rest of Chicago that he did not know what the sculpture really represents.

One idea the mayor floated was that it was a woman as some believed and that it was very appropriate that she stood in front of the courthouse.

“We’ve always looked at justice as a woman and it is outside a hall of justice,“ the 65-year-old Big-City Irish Democratic mayor said. He speculated further: “But it could also be a Phoenix. It would symbolize the rise of Chicago as a city of vitality out of the ashes caused by [the Great Chicago Fire]” (Chicago Tribune, August 19, 1967).

Considering the many conversations that were held over four years with city planners and the Basque artist through William Hartmann about Chicago’s Picasso it is fair to say that the mayor – the city’s biggest booster – would state his interpretation on the art work based on what he believed he saw after talking to the experts.

Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza, made from a 42-inch maquette in Mougins, France into a 50-foot-tall, 162-ton Cor-Ten steel sculpture in Gary, Indiana, is an engineering marvel. Author’s photo (July 2015).

From 42-inch maquette in Mougins, France, to 50-foot-tall, 162-ton Cor-Ten steel sculpture in Gary, Indiana

In those same days, Anatol Rychalski (b. 1925) was open-minded about the Picasso’s precise artistic representation. “It doesn’t really matter how you personally interpret the sculpture,“ he told the Chicago Tribune on August 20, 1967, “as long as you not ridicule for the sake of ridicule.” He then shared his interpretation: “To me it represents the winged spirit of justice, with the serenity and compassion of a woman. It is a benevolent but stern and powerful justice.”

LOOK magazine interviews Pablo and Jacqueline Picasso and they talk about Chicago’s Picasso

In November 1967, LOOK magazine interviewed Picasso and Jacqueline and the Chicago sculpture came up. They were both amused by the baffled reaction of Chicagoans to the art work. Jacqueline offered that it was obviously “a woman’s head” and shoulders but “no more.” Picasso observed that the “cage” of steel rods was more an aesthetic than a representation. In the LOOK interview Picasso observed: “I am touched that the [Chicago] public could mysteriously share my joy over the results of many years work in sculpture. In a way, my sculptures are more my children than my paintings. I am caught up in shaping my vision of the world. In sculpture, I cut through appearances to the marrow, and rebuild the essentials from there. I cannot invent a detail that has not been carefully planned and my wish is that the public, through thinking and meditation, may retrace my intentions” (LOOK, November 28, 1967). The Basque artist’s challenge to the viewer to discover an objective answer to his artistic intentions makes the sculpture’s meaning more intriguing.

Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. In a November 1967 LOOK magazine interview, Picasso and Jacqueline expressed amusement at Chicagoans’ reaction to the art work. Jacqueline said it was obviously “a woman’s head” and shoulders but “no more.” Author’s photo (July 2015).

“Eyes that are pitiless, cold, mean…”

Probing the artist’s intentions was met soon with succinct anecdotal insight from Chicago’s newspaperman, Mike Royko (1932-1997). Royko wrote creatively and personally about the significance of the art work for Chicago in 1967. The columnist’s cynical eye on the possible relationship of the modernist steel art work and the city he loved was published in the afternoon newspaper, the Chicago Daily News:

“That is all there is to it. Some soaring lines, yes. Interesting design, I’m sure. But the fact is, it has a long stupid face and looks like some giant insect that is about to eat a smaller, weaker insect. It has eyes that are pitiless, cold, mean.

But why not? Everybody said it had the spirit of Chicago. And from thousands of miles away, accidentally or on purpose, Picasso captured it.

Up there in that ugly face is the spirit of Al Capone, the Summerdale scandal cops, the settlers who took the Indians but good.

ITS EYES ARE LIKE the eyes of every slum owner who made a buck off the small and weak. And of every building inspector who took a wad from a slum owner to make it all possible.

It has the look of the dope pusher and of the syndicate technician as he looks for just the right wire to splice the bomb to.

Any bigtime real estate operator will be able to look into the face of the Picasso and see the spirit that makes the city’s rebuilding possible and profitable.

It has the look of the big corporate executive who comes face to face with the reality of how much water pollution his company is responsible for – and then thinks of the profit and loss and of his salary.

IT IS ALL THERE in that Picasso thing – the I will spirit. The I will get you before you will get me spirit.

Picasso has never been here, they say. You’d think he’s been riding the L all his life.”

Soft Version of Maquette for a Monument Donated to the City of Chicago by Pablo Picasso, Claes Oldenburg (b. 1929), 1969. Canvas and rope, painted with synthetic polymer, dimensions variable (38 x 28¾ x 21 inches, full height), Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

What could be seen as an early parody of the Picasso sculpture by Claes Oldenburg is, in fact, the artist’s homage to the art work as well as conversation with it on aesthetics.

In Oldenburg’s version Picasso’s steel becomes soft cloth; straight rods become limp ropes. More malleable than the original, Oldenburg dubbed his work “Super-Cubism” in that where a Cubist work offers the viewer multiple viewpoints, Oldenburg’s piece offers viewpoints that are unlimited (Picasso and American Art, Michael FitzGerald, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2006, p. 259).

Gertrude Stein by Pablo Picasso, 1905–6, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The Met writes about this work: “[Picasso] reduces her body to simple masses—a foreshadowing of his adoption of Cubism—and portrays her face like a mask with heavy lidded eyes, reflecting his recent encounter with Iberian sculpture.” see- https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/488221 – retrieved June 4, 2021.

Reaching farther back in Picasso’s career at the start of the 20th century, American writer Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) knew Picasso in Paris and later wrote about him. Stein observed that Picasso was “the only one in painting who saw the twentieth century with his eyes and saw its reality and consequently his struggle was terrifying …for himself and for the others, because he had nothing to help him…he had to do it all alone and, as in spite of much strength he is often very weak…” (Stein, Picasso, p. 22).

In 1906 when Picasso was 25 years old, he painted Gertrude Stein’s portrait. According to Stein, she posed for him in Paris “eighty times” but, finally, he “painted out the head” and, following a break in Spain, painted in a new head without seeing her again beforehand (see G. Stein, Picasso, 1938, p. 8). Though Stein was “satisfied” with the portrait and remained so over 30 years later, Picasso was criticized in 1906 for the depiction. The artist responded with a remark now considered famous and certainly, as Stein and the world discovered, prescient: “Everybody says that she does not look like it but that does not make any difference, she will.” (See G. Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas).

The bold creative vision of the Cubist artist is very much in evidence in Picasso’s gift to the people of Chicago that stands in Daley Plaza. It may be that Picasso’s intentions for the iconic untitled sculpture may only be known in future days. For, at first, they said it did not look like Chicago, but it didn’t make any difference – because it will.

Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza from the back looking to the southwest. Author’s photo (October 2015).

SOURCES:

Bach, Ira J. and Mary Lackritz Gray, A Guide to Chicago’s Public Sculpture, University of Chicago Press, 1983.

FitzGerald, Michael, Picasso and American Art, Exh. Cat. Whitney Museum of American Art/Yale University press, New York, 2006.

Rubin, William, Picasso in the Collection of the Modern of Modern Art, , MoMA, New York, 1972.

Stein, Gertrude, Picasso, B.T. Batsford, Ltd. London, 1938.

Stein, Gertrude, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Illustrated (PENGUIN PRESS). 2020.

Stratton, Patricia Balton, The Chicago Picasso: A Point of Departure, Ampersand Inc. Chicago New Orleans, 2017.

https://arts.uchicago.edu/public-art-campus/public-art-campus#Antoine_Pevsner

Harper’s Bazaar, March 2021.

https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/169088

https://www.listasafn.is/english/exhibitions/nr/476

https://www.artic.edu/artworks/107284/chicago-civic-center-perspective-view-of-plaza

https://digital-libraries.artic.edu/digital/collection/caohp/id/26834/rec/1

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Letter_Edged_in_Black_Press,_Inc._v._Public_Building_Commission_of_Chicago – retrieved June 4, 2021.
https://interactive.wttw.com/playlist/2017/08/02/colossal-booboo-incredible-story-chicago-picasso – retrieved June 1, 2021

https://www.artic.edu/artworks/28019/richard-j-daley-center-sculpture

https://www.shawlocal.com/2016/07/28/shorewood-man-expresses-the-profound-through-his-acrylic-paintings/askc2p1/)

Chicago Tribune, August 19, 1967.

Chicago Tribune, August 20, 1967.

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/488221 – retrieved June 4, 2021.

LOOK, November 28, 1967.

FURTHER READING (see – https://www.artic.edu/artworks/25809/maquette-for-richard-j-daley-center-sculpture – retrieved June 5, 2021):

“The Chicago Picasso,” Progressive Architecture (November 1966), p. 66 (ill.).

The Art Institute of Chicago, Annual Report (1966–1967), pp. 26–27 (ill.).

Chicago Picasso Dedication program (August 15, 1967) (ill.).

Lael Wertenbaker, The World of Picasso (New York: Time-Life Books, 1967), p. 153 (ill.).

“A Picasso Statue for Chicago,” The Burlington Magazine 109:766 (January 1967), pp. 34–36, figs. 68 and 70.

Burton Wasserman, “Picasso: The Touch of Magic,” Art Education 21:4 (April 1968), p. 29 (ill.).

Clarence Page, “Giant Iron Sculpture: Picasso Leaves His Mark on the City,” Chicago Tribune (April 9, 1973), section 1, p. 6.

Roberto Otero, Forever Picasso: An Intimate Look at his Last Years (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1974), pp. 46, 50, 52–55 (ill.).

Roberto Otero, “It’s more charming this way: How the master made us a gift,” Chicago Guide, vol. 23, no. 10 (October 1974), pp. 86–87.

Marilyn McCully, A Picasso Anthology: Documents, Criticism, Reminiscences (London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1981), pp. 266–267 (ill.).

Sally Fairweather, Picasso’s Concrete Sculptures (New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1982), p. 85.

The Picasso Project, Picasso’s Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings, and Sculpture: A Comprehensive Illustrated Catalogue 1885–1973, The Sixties II 1964–1967 (San Francisco: Alan Wofsy Fine Arts, 2002), p. 133, no. 64–373 (ill.).

Gary Tinterow, Master Drawings by Picasso, exh. cat. (Cambridge, Mass., 1981), p. 255, no. 27.

Stephanie d’Alessandro, “Picasso and Chicago,” (Art Institute of Chicago, 2013), p.26, cat 245 (ill.)

https://www.academia.edu/49215007/A_GIFT_TO_THE_PEOPLE_THE_CHICAGO_PICASSO_1967


Tribute on Old Route 66 in Joliet, Illinois: Historic Chevy Dealership in former downtown Motor Row gets street murals by Marion Kryczka.

Chevy Dealership: A Tribute to Route 66, 2007, 396 N. Chicago Street, Joliet, Illinois. One of two acrylic murals at this site by Marion Kryczka with the assistance of community members. Photograph by author.

Joliet, Illinois, a city of nearly 150,000 people about 45 miles southwest of downtown Chicago, is famous for many things not least of which is its appearance in the opening credits and scene of the classic 1980 comedy film, The Blues Brothers. Starring John Belushi as “Joliet” Jake Blues and and Dan Ackroyd as his brother, Elwood, there is a flyover of Joliet’s old steel mills in operation at night as well as the old limestone walls of Joliet Prison at dawn. The city of Joliet takes pride in this popular culture heritage, though those manufacturing mills are shuttered and the old Joliet Prison, only one mile away from Chevy Dealership: A Tribute to Route 66, closed in 2002.

JOLIET CELEBRATES ITS RICH AND DIVERSE HERITAGE IN PUBLIC ART

Joliet set out in the early 1990s to celebrate and present its rich and diverse heritage by way of a city-wide public artwork initiative.

Depicted in painted murals placed at strategic points throughout the city, it presented the various historic periods, people, and significant activities that preceded and followed Joliet’s establishment.

WIDE PRAIRIES, DEEP RIVERS — AND THE I&M CANAL NATIONAL HERITAGE CORRIDOR

After many hundreds of years living on the undulating prairie with its deep rivers, Native American communities were met and later expelled by European explorers and settlers. This displacement process in Joliet’s history began in 1673 when French-Canadian explorer Louis Jolliet (1645-1700) guided a French Jesuit, Père Jacques Marquette (1637-1675), up the Des Plaines River and camped just south of today’s downtown. As inevitable as it would seem to be, there are other theories as to how the city of Joliet was named besides after Louis Jolliet.

By the nineteenth and twentieth centuries came a proliferation of canals, various industries, railroads, and quarries that saw the economic boom of this northern Illinois city surrounded by a broad geographical area of farms. In 1964, Joliet’s significance in the development of this part of the nation’s interior was officially recognized with the establishment of the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor designation.

IN THE 1990S, A CITYWIDE PUBLIC ART MURAL PROJECT

In the early 1990s, Joliet started a public art mural project. Contemporary art murals were created throughout the city often on exterior building walls or under viaducts. Several of these early murals, after 30 years being constantly exposed to the harsh weather conditions in summer and winter, are today in varying need of restorative work. Whether as an individual mural or as part of a series, these public murals have looked to depict in contemporary art the diversity of Joliet life in more than five centuries of its history.

CREATED IN 2007, ACRYLIC MURAL CHEVY DEALERSHIP: A TRIBUTE TO ROUTE 66

The 2007 acrylic mural called Chevy Dealership: A Tribute to Route 66 is the artists’ imagined depiction of a Chevrolet automobile showroom in Joliet, Illinois in the mid-1950s. Newer than other murals in the city, the mural is in remarkable physical condition as it sits in the direct western sun on an exterior wall along a high-trafficked downtown street corner. The 10-by-15-foot mural was created by a team of artists led by Marion Kryczka, a Chicago-based artist who was a longtime professor at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The artists who matured under Kryczka’s mentorship are today accomplished artists in their own right.

SERIES OF MURALS DISPLAYED ON THE EXTERIOR WALLS OF A 1930’S CHEVROLET SHOWROOM BUILDING

The mural is part of a series at the site. It is the larger of two murals displayed on west and south walls of a historic one story red-brick building at 396 N. Chicago Street in downtown Joliet, Illinois. The building had been the original showroom of Winston Chevrolet, a busy auto dealer in the mid-1930s and 1940s. In 1955 the dealership was acquired by Bill Jacobs, Sr. A vintage photograph from that time connected to the mural shows a bevy of new and used cars lined up and parked around the perimeter of the building apparently awaiting customers.

The acrylic mural of Bill Jacobs’ dealership in the 1950s is imbued with cultural and historical significance. Bill Jacobs Chevrolet, which opened in 1955, stayed in the family until it was sold in 2015.

BY 2010 BILL JACOBS AUTOMOTIVE GROUP EMPLOYED 500 PEOPLE AND SOLD LOTS OF CARS AND TRUCKS

The founder’s son, Bill Jacobs, Jr., bought the dealership from his father in 1978 at 23 years old. In 2010, Bill Jacobs, Jr., following a 7-year battle with cancer, passed away at 55 years old. Starting at this showroom building in 1955, Bill Jacobs Automotive Group had, by 2010, expanded to five Chicagoland dealerships. It employed almost 500 people and generated about $300 million in annual sales. Mrs. Jeanne Jacobs, the wife of Bill Jacobs, Sr., and Bill Jacobs, Jr.’s mother, passed away in October 2020. It was because of Jeanne Jacobs that her husband Bill Jacobs, a university professor, entered the car business. Jeanne Jacobs’ father owned a car dealership in Chicago where Bill Jacobs worked before he bought his own dealership in Joliet in 1955.

Since the 1970s, artist Marion Kryczka has had a career as an artist. Mr. Kryczka’s drawing is rooted in his foundation as a figurative artist and a lively technique which uses realism as a launching point to create familiar, beautiful, and meaningful scenes. For Chevy Dealership: A Tribute to Route 66, Krycka’s painting imagines a realistic American social scene which reflected Bill Jacobs Sr.’s business philosophy. Mr. Jacobs believed that business is about people and the mural’s showroom is filled with people who worked, lived and played in Joliet in the mid-1950’s. For a public mural like this one, community input was an important part of the process. There were group design sessions and meetings with city officials, with the city approving topics and contracting for the projects. For historic pieces, local residents sometimes posed.

MURALS FACE U.S. ROUTE 66, A 20TH CENTURY NATIONAL ROAD, AT JACKSON STREET IN JOLIET, ILLINOIS

The placing of Chevy Dealership: A Tribute to Route 66 in the mid20th century in the middle of the 1950’s helps express several important historical facets about the building, its car dealership, and the road (U.S. Route 66) that runs past it. In this art project are displayed many facets of Joliet’s rich heritage.

The mural is directly meaningful as a display of Joliet, Illinois, especially as it developed into a vibrant city where the Jacobs and many others put down roots. The mural also expresses the profound economic and cultural impact of the car industry in Joliet at that time reflecting national trends. Finally, it evokes the popularity of the legendary U.S. Route 66 which had opened in 1926 and followed a quilt of interconnected state and county roads for motor travel from Chicago, Illinois, through Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and all the way to Santa Monica, California in Los Angeles County. Chevy Dealership: A Tribute to Route 66 shows Joliet’s connection and contribution to this important larger national phenomenon.

MURALS DEPICT A UNIQUE MOMENT IN HISTORY THAT IS FOREVER CHANGED

The mid1950s for the Chevy dealership mural depicts that unique historical moment when old Route 66, just then 30 years old, was already on the threshold of major change. In the mural U.S. Route 66 was still in its hey-day—though, at the very same time, it was headed for a rapid and transformative decline.

In 1956 the Federal Aid Highway Act was passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Eisenhower. It authorized $25 billion for the construction of over 40,000 miles of an Interstate Highway System. The bill was the largest public works project in American history—and quickly displaced U.S. Route 66 as a major throughway.

SOURCES:

https://www.theherald-news.com/2020/10/13/jeanne-jacobs-made-the-joliet-car-business-her-family/ar1ppuo/

https://www.chicagogallerynews.com/events/marion-kryczka

https://patch.com/illinois/plainfield/car-dealer-bill-jacobs-55-dies-after-7-year-cancer-fight

https://www.daily-journal.com/news/local/the-great-walls-an-artistic-and-historic-adventure-in-joliet/article_7bf2fac1-a1c9-5c44-bc7b-042e470ddbbd.html

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1997-12-07-9712070397-story.html

https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/publicroads/96summer/p96su10.cfm Richard F. Weingroff. Summer 1996.

—all sites retrieved December 4, 2020.

Sea of Flags (2004), a street mural by Gamaliel Ramirez in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood.

Photograph and Text ©John P. Walsh

SEA OF FLAGS, 2004, 2500 West Division Street, Chicago (Humboldt Park) by Gamaliel Ramirez (1949-2018) with the assistance of community members.  

The mural entitled Sea of Flags depicts Fiesta Boricua (De Bandera a Bandera), an annual 3-day music and cultural event in the Humboldt Park neighborhood in Chicago. Attracting tens of thousands of visitors, the fiesta is held starting in late August or early September. In 2018 the Fiesta Boricua celebrated its 25th anniversary and offered 3 stages booked back to back with scores of musical and cultural performers specializing in the pulsating rhythms of Puerto Rican salsa, reggaeton, bomba, plena, and merengue music, and more.

Some of the famous people depicted in the mural Sea of Flags include Puerto Rican nationalist Lolita Lebrón (1919-2010), Nuyorican (“New York City/Puerto Rican”) poet and playwright Pedro Pietri (1944-2004) and, depicted as a bronze statue on the image’s left side, Don Pedro Albizu Campos (1891-1965), the leading figure in the Puerto Rican independence movement.

An abundance of Puerto Rican flags in the mural is intentional by the artist and his assistants. Since Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States in 1898 following the Spanish-American War — and ceded the Philippines and the island of Guam at the same time — Puerto Rico and the U.S. have had a complicated political relationship that is yet to be completely mutually resolved today.

Gamaliel Ramirez was born in the Bronx in New York in 1949. He spent most of his career in Chicago teaching and as a working artist. After 35 years in Chicago he retired to Santa Rita, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Following Hurricane Maria in September 2017, Mr. Ramirez was hospitalized for many months and passed away on May 21, 2018. The artist of this colorful mural has left behind for us a legacy of paintings, other murals, photography and poetry.

Virtual Tour of The Shrine of Christ’s Passion in St. John, Indiana. (73 Photos and Video).

Photographs, Text, and Video ©John P. Walsh

INTRODUCTION

One hour’s drive (about 40 miles) south of downtown Chicago– and 90 minutes drive from the University of Notre Dame near South Bend, Indiana, is The Shrine of Christ’s Passion. Within a 30-acre site whose landscaped rocks, hills, and trees envelop the visitor, the shrine is located on busy U.S. 41 at 10630 Wicker Avenue in St. John, Indiana. A pioneer town settled in 1837, St. John still sits among farm fields though there is increasingly more development only minutes from the Indiana-Illinois state line.

On the historic Wachter family farm, the level terrain is a perfect outdoor setting for an array of multi-media and interactive attractions. Most visitors, whether as individuals or in groups, come to the shrine to traverse the half-mile winding concrete pathway that contain over 40 life-sized bronze sculptures which dramatize the Passion of Jesus Christ in the Bible.

The visit to the shrine begins in the well-stocked gift shop and leads directly outdoors to the dramatization of Jesus at The Last Supper and into the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prays. This is followed by the 14 traditional Stations of the Cross. The visit ends at Jesus’s empty tomb and his appearance to Mary Magdalene. Finally there is the dramatic Ascension of the Risen Jesus into Heaven on Mount Olivet.  

The shrine opened in 2011 and added its latest attraction– namely, a re-creation of the rock-filled path up Mount Sinai to where Moses has received the 10 Commandments –in 2017.

The Shrine of Christ’s Passion required a decade of planning and over $10 million dollars to build. Each setting or station for Christ’s passion has an orientation kiosk. Each features the well-known recorded voice of American television journalist Bill Kurtis. A push of a button has Mr. Kurtis’s voice over the kiosks’ speakers provide a clear and brief description in English of the sculptures’ scenes followed by a short meditation.

Along the broad concrete pathway the prayer trail is meditative and its easy progression from station to station lends itself to discovery. Formed hills, planted trees, bushes, and grasses as well as many large boulders, provide a complete landscape far from the outside world. The design creates a terrain that is self-contained and works to evoke the arid climate of the Holy Land where the last days of Christ can become vibrant today.

Upon exiting the gift shop with its walls and shelves of tempting religious articles and other items for purchase — all proceeds apparently go to the upkeep of the shrine– one steps into an outdoor pastoral setting which offers the immediate transition into the world of the Bible and following in the footsteps of Christ during his darkest moments. Visitors share the trail with others from around the nation and world. This is part of what makes each visit to the shrine unique and alive. Yet there is ample space and freedom to enjoy one’s own completely personal experience.

Whenever one may visit the shrine — it is open 361 days a year– the prayer trail has an atmosphere that is quiet and respectful. There is always a place to sit and drink in the sculpture art detailing the greatest story ever told. Among its flora, evocative rock and land formations, and realistically-rendered life-sized sculptures depicting Jesus Christ’s suffering –- one witnesses in a a new way Christ’s mission which triumphed over sin and death. 

A large and impressive place, The Shrine of Christ’s Passion retains a human scale along with giving the visitor a sense of being serenely out in nature.  Depending on how much time a visitor can spend, a visit to the shrine could possibly be accomplished in as little as 30 minutes though at least an hour should be allowed to see and begin to savor everything it has to offer.

In addition to the main prayer trail and gift shop, the shrine includes more attractions such as the Moses, Mount Sinai, and the 10 Commandments trail; The Sanctity of Life Shrine; and Our Lady of The New Millennium, a monumental three-story (34 feet) tall statue of the Virgin Mary constructed out of over 8,000 pounds of stainless steel.

The Shrine is operated by a non-denominational nonprofit, private foundation. Admission to all attractions at the shrine is free. The Shrine is open daily from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Thursdays until 8:00 p.m. The Prayer Trail is open year round, weather permitting.  

Sources –
The Shrine of Christ’s Passion Official website – http://shrineofchristspassion.org/
Our Lady of the New Millennium – https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2011-03-04-ct-talk-mary-statue-0305-20110304-story.html

IMAGES FROM THE PRAYER TRAIL

Main Entrance on U.S. 41 at 10630 Wicker Avenue in St. John, Indiana, minutes from the Illinois-Indiana state line. Just 40 minutes from downtown Chicago, there is ample free parking and tour buses are welcome.

The Gift Shoppe.

The Last Supper Luke 22:19

“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

Garden of Gethsemane Mark 14:34

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” Jesus said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

THE 14 STATIONS OF THE CROSS AT THE SHRINE OF CHRIST’S PASSION, ST. JOHN, INDIANA.

1. Jesus is condemned to death Matthew 27: 19-26

“Pilate had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.”

2. Jesus carries His cross John 19:16-17

“Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).”

3. Jesus falls for the first time Isaiah 53:1-3

“He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”

4. Jesus meets His mother, Mary Lamentations 1:12

“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
    Look around and see.
Is any suffering like my suffering
    that was inflicted on me..?”

5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross Luke 23:26

“They seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.”

6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus Psalm 17:15

“As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face;
    when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.”

7. Jesus falls for the second time   Isaiah 53:4-6

“Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.”

8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem Luke 23:27-31

“A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.”

9. Jesus falls for the third time Isaiah 53:10-11

“Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand….”

10. Jesus is stripped of His clothes Matthew 27:27-31

“They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him.”

11. Jesus is nailed to the cross Luke 23:33-34

“When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.”

12. Jesus dies on the cross­ Luke 23:44-49

 “Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.”

13. Jesus is taken down from the cross Mark 15:39

“When the centurion who stood facing him saw how Jesus breathed his last he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!'”

14. Jesus is placed in the tomb Luke 23:50-53

“Going to Pilate, Joseph of Arimathea asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.”

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene John 20:16

 “Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” 

MORE of the Prayer Trail

The Ascension Acts of the Apostles 1:9

“…Jesus was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”