February 24, 2012

South of Wacker, an urban canvas like no other

Department of Visual Arts Chair Jessica Stockholder has, in the name of art, bedecked Madrid’s Crystal Palace with plumes of pigmented wool, arranged the skeletal remains of old bathtubs into 49-foot-long arrays, and dumped blue paint on armchairs perched high in the air.

This June, she’ll have a new space for her bold installation art: State Street.

In her latest project, dubbed “Color Jam,” Stockholder will almost literally be painting the town red, covering an undetermined stretch of State Street between West Wacker Drive and West Congress Parkway with a multitude of colored textiles that she says will make the cityscape look something akin to an animated movie.

The installation is part of Art Loop, an ongoing series that was started two years ago by the Chicago Loop Alliance, an organization partially funded by businesses along State Street that aims to raise the profile of the area through installations like these. Local businesses pay an extra fee in return for city services and art projects to help attract visitors to the street.

Stockholder plans to fill the intersection with color, covering the street, sidewalk, and sides of the buildings with fabrics such as vinyl.

“My aim is that the street corner is what it always is—and have it be radically transformed,” she said.

The experience for viewers, she said, would be similar to watching a black -and-white film turn into color.

Stockholder, who has exhibited work at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, said that creating new work was an essential part of her job when she was a professor here.

“I’m of value at the University because I work,” she said. “It’s the primary part of what I bring to the table.”

Prior to her appointment last summer at the University of Chicago, she taught sculpture at Yale University.

Ty Tabing, director of the Chicago Loop Alliance, lauded Stockholder as one of the city’s marquee artists.

“She’s a relatively new arrival to Chicago, and she’s arguably the most famous artist in the city,” he said.

Over the last two years, the Alliance has invited artists to exhibit their work on nine blocks of State Street. Two years ago artist Tony Tassert created a 30-foot tall fiberglass eye, while last year Kay Rosen challenged people to do good through her “GO DO GOOD” poster series.

Tabing said the “Color Jam” installation will also serve as the springboard for other interactive artistic “jams” that will take place over the summer.