Why?

The worst piece of public art in Chicago

Anyone know what the brilliant idea was here?

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect, tnr.com, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

17 thoughts on “Why?”

  1. The amazing thing is that the original Marylin Monroe scene in “Seven Year Itch” is a quintessential New York scene. Why the hell would anyone put up a statue like that in Chicago?

    1. This public art has proven to be very useful. Tourists and Chicagoians alike take shelter under Ms Monroe’s skirts when it rains.

    1. To John and others: It is quite possible to embed a link in a comment on this blog. I’ve done it many a time, without using the blogger privileges which are needed to embed an image, say. You have to type the well-known formula {a href=””}[your link text]{/a}, using angle brackets <> instead of the braces { } the *!@€#* software has made me use, and then paste the link URL inside the quote marks.

  2. Harold, you are not hip to progress in the arts. Technology has made it possible to make something important, powerful, enduring, and profound much more easily than in the old days. The most derivative, trivial piece of ephemera can now be a monument by being really big. (The clothespin in Philadelphia is much taller than this, so I’m not sure why you are attending to Marilyn at all, though; let’s try to keep our readers focused on what really matters). Compare: music at one time required a lot of very tedious effort at old-fashioned stuff like intonation, dynamics, harmony and like that, but with the right amp, anything can be loud enough to be great now. This is an enormous productivity gain.

  3. Michael, that’s a fascinating discussion: Bob Dylan vs. the classically trained. I’m less certain it has much to do with technology and more a change in cultural consciousness and our relationship to the arts.

    1. Uhh?
      Is this supposed to be some sort of slam AGAINST Bob Dylan?

      Dylan has a lot of crap is his oeuvre (as do most artists) but his best stuff is every bit the equal of “the classically trained”. Obviously the words of something like _I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine_ or _Love Minus Zero_ or _Every Grain of Sand_ would (and do) sound wonderful when sung by “more traditional” voice, eg Joan Baez, but I think it would be foolish to claim that they don’t have their own beauty and coherence when sung by Dylan.

      More generally
      “Compare: music at one time required a lot of very tedious effort at old-fashioned stuff like intonation, dynamics, harmony and like that, but with the right amp, anything can be loud enough to be great now. This is an enormous productivity gain.

      is just stupid. I mean, my god, 1957 was 55 years ago — do we still need the idiotic mindset of that age telling us that they don’t make music like they used to, and these damn teenagers with their transistor radios and their leather jackets are just agents of communist infiltration?

      If someone feels the urge to post a “damn kids get off my lawn” comment, might I suggest they at least update it to be somewhat relevant? I suggest either:
      (a) back in my day we had to program PROPERLY, caring about every byte of ram and every CPU cycle, not like nowadays with all this XAML and scripting and waste and bloat OR
      (b) back in my day if you wanted sex with a stranger you had to work for it, going to a bar, chatting someone up, buying them drinks, pretending to be interested in them; not like this Craigslist and Grindr and internet nonsense.

      1. “Uhh?
        Is this supposed to be some sort of slam AGAINST Bob Dylan?

        No, if anything it was in his defense! I’ve never been a huge fan of his, but he is a great example of folk brilliance.

  4. Eli, I’m sympathetic, and I think the point is what is now “great” used to be a kid banging on an old tin. I’m sympathetic to that view too, especially what gets played on commercial radio (which is why I no longer listen).

  5. Umm, because you’d better be prepared to show your underwear for the security screening when you enter the building behind it (housing the Cook County courts)? Unless, that is, you’re a lawyer… because nobody wants to see lawyers’ dirty underwear…

  6. This seems like a pretty horrendous sculpture. However…artists such as Jeff Koons, Claes Oldenburg, or Ron Mueck create similarly kitsch giant objects and people that are both beautiful and quirky. This one piece shouldn’t discredit the whole enterprise of giant, lifelike, acontextual sculpture-making.

  7. It’s a pretty hideous piece of “art”. But purpose? I see only one person mentioned that the original scene was quintessential New York–Chicago is better known for eLevated trains (even though it has its own subway stops as well). So making a giant sculpture of a NYC visual icon is a big FU to NYC. Whatever you have NY’ers, we can make BIGGER. (If only they could make it BETTER).

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