Ponder the Picasso (and Other Objets D'art) Put on Your Walking Shoes and Take Our Tour of Chicago's Public Art

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Michaelson Daily Herald Correspondent

The year was 1967. Mayor Richard J. Daley was still firmly entrenched as "The Boss," the fiasco of the Democratic National Convention was still ahead and Chicago was christening a new piece of public art. Controversy raged.

"What the devil is it?" people wondered. Only Pablo Picasso knew for sure - and he wasn't telling.

Three decades have elapsed and time has healed these schisms. Chicago's most distinctive and controversial sculpture has become a city icon, its Cor-Ten steel gently rusting to a deep brown, its 25th birthday celebrated in 1992 with a giant cake portioned out to the public. Its 30th noted this year with similar hoopla.

Dedication of Chicago's Picasso marked a new era in installing public art. Since that time, more than 20 sculptures have been added to the Loop art collection. This compares to 14 pieces added in the previous 74 years.

Sprinkled throughout the city are works of Calder, Chagall, Miro, Moore, Noguchi and Taft - in such diverse media as glass, wood, steel, paint, film, neon, fiber and ceramic.

Installation of the Picasso also marked a new emphasis on contemporary public art, breaking from the tradition of cast-bronze statues of notable public figures.

It was the latter that caused sculptor Lorado Taft to observe that wherever he looked, his view was "encumbered by metal coats and trousers."

Taft's opinion aside, come along with us on a tour of Chicago's top outdoor public art. We've also included a few fun things and good places to eat along the way.

The Picasso

A good place to begin our tour is at the Daley Center, at Washington and Dearborn, with the untitled abstract sculpture that has become to Chicago what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris.

This 50-foot-tall three-dimensional sculpture, expressing the head and face of a woman, is the work of one of the most controversial and influential figures of 20th century art. (Pablo Picasso 1881-1973.)

Side shows: Free noon-time "Under the Picasso" concert series run year-round (Monday through Friday), outside during warm weather, inside when weather is inclement.

Upcoming programs include "Austrian Folk Music and Dance" (today), "Studio Steppin' " (Monday), with the public invited to waltz, fox trot, jitterbug and Latin dance to recorded music and the Primera Singers from the Fairmont Hotel (Wednesday) to launch Italian Heritage Month.

Changing art exhibits are held in the lobby of the Daley Center.

Eats: Trattoria No. 10, 10 N. Dearborn St., (312) 984-1718, where the signature dish is ravioli - five kinds in full and half portions.

Lions (and other big cats)

Not all of the art at The Art Institute of Chicago is inside. On the grounds you'll find a Moore, a Calder and a Noguchi.

Of course, there also is that other Chicago icon, the pair of 10-foot-high bronze lions of Edward Kemeys that have guarded the entrance to the museum for more than 100 years.

Entirely self-taught, Kemeys discovered his ability to sculpt while cutting trees in Central Park and watching an artist modeling heads of animals at the zoo.

Seasonally, the lions are treated to such whimsical dressings as Santa hats or (honoring rare championship seasons) Bear football helmets. (Edward Kemeys 1843-1907.)

In the art museum's Stanley McCormick Memorial Court at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Monroe Street is Henry Moore's 16-foot-tall bronze "Large Interior Form." Of outdoor art, the English sculptor, son of a Yorkshire coal miner, said he preferred "almost any landscape" to the most beautiful indoor setting. (Henry Moore 1898-1986.)

The garden also provides the setting for Alexander Calder's "Flying Dragon," a sculpture of red steel plate. On the east facade of the museum, connecting a fountain and reflecting pool, is Isamu Noguchi's "Celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the Founding of the Republic," a granite-and-stainless steel sculpture commemorating the American Bicentennial. …