sculpture

Posted by Ellen

Icelandic sculptor Steinunn Thorarinsdottir  populated this garden just south of the Art Institute with aluminum and cast iron people.

Posted by Ellen

We went to Chicago last weekend for a family wedding, a proverbial happy occasion. The town was bustling with big goings-on; for example, the night before "our" event, there was another wedding at the same downtown hotel, a high-concept sort of wedding in which the bride and everyone else was wearing black. Also at our hotel, an MLS soccer team had taken up residence, visiting from Toronto for a game against the Chicago Fire (the Fire won, 1-0).

And then there was the happy occasion seen here, which included a Saturday morning photo session in front of Millennium Park's "Cloud Gate," aka the bean.

Seven years ago, when this tourist magnet first opened, photographers were required to get $350 permits and schedule their shoots in advance. Annish Kapoor, the artist who designed the bean, controlled his work's copyright and attempted to limit its reproduction. But the bean is nothing if not a photo op, and Kapoor quickly had to back off his restrictions; currently, you don't need a photo permit unless you are part of a film crew of ten or more people. The thousands of visitors every day who pull out their cellphones aren't breaking any laws.

The perfect shine and complex globular shape of the bean were inspired by drops of mercury, according to Kapoor, an Indian-born British sculptor. He thinks the popular name for his work, bean, is idiotic. He named it "Cloud Gate" because most of its polished stainless steel surface reflects, and distorts in odd ripply ways, sky and skyscrapers. Visitors are mostly interested, however, in how it reflects them, especially in the arched middle section, which reflects reflections of reflections in crazy, curvy ways much too complicated to figure out.

The plaza in which the bean sits is actually the roof of a restaurant and parking garage, and it had to be seriously reinforced to support 110 tons of highly polished stainless steel. After the reinforcing, computer-aided robots spent a year bending and welding together 168 steel plates, and after the welding, a crew of humans with sandpaper spent more than a year polishing the plates. After all the polishing, the welding seams became completely invisible, an accomplishment that won the work an Extraordinary Welding Award from the American Welding Society.

The lower part of the bean, where people leave fingerprints, is washed every day with Windex. The upper part, where air pollution and birds jeopardize the polish, is washed twice a year with liquid Tide.

If you want to rent it for a day just for yourself and your friends, the city charges $800,000. Twice so far, since opening day in 2006, people have paid that rent. The rest of the time, everybody's welcome, free of charge.

Posted by Ellen

It must have been Oscar Wilde who said that you could never be overdressed or overeducated. In fact, he may be saying it just now, as he contemplates the world outside his childhood home in Dublin's Merrion Square, dressed to the nines from the neck down and wearing a becoming shade of snark across his face.

Sculptor Danny Osborne was as much prospector as artist for this project. He found the jade for Wilde's smoking jacket in extreme northern British Columbia, near the Yukon border. The pink collar and cuffs are from manganese-rich veins of zoisite in Norwegian shale.

The shimmery trousers are larkivite, also from Norway, a coarse-grained rock rich in anorthoclase feldspar, mined in Oslo Fjord. The well-polished shoes are black charnockite, from southern India; they get their shine from a distinctive kind of pyroxene known as hypersthene.

The 35-ton boulder that Wilde lounges on is Irish, but it's not in situ; Osborne found it in the Wicklow Mountains outside of Dublin.

The statue was sponsored by the Guinness Ireland Group and dedicated in 1997, ninety-seven years after Wilde's death at age 46.

It seemed appropriate, even necessary, to end this posting with a Wildeism. Settling on a single passage, however, proved ridiculously difficult, and it is certainly unfair to the man to reduce him to well-dressed witticism. But this line may do as well as any: "Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future."

Or this: "Being natural is simply a pose."

Posted by Ellen

The United Nations Conference on Climate Change opened a few days ago in this brand new convention center in Doha, capital city of the Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar. The venue is "ironical," according to a columnist for India Today in Mumbai, because "talks about cutting down fossil fuel emissions and sustainable development are being held in the mecca of opulence and fossil fuels."

Qatar has the world's highest per capita income and also generates the world's largest per capita carbon footprint.

The "high-level" work of the conference is set to begin Tuesday, with attending nations each being given three minutes to address the group on climate-change and carbon-dioxide control issues. The conference banquet is set for Tuesday night; although the new building is said to offer banquet seating for 10,000, the climate change banquet will be held at Qatar's Islamic Museum in downtown Doha.

The name Doha is Arabic for "big tree," a theme much in evidence in the conference center architecture. In its central hall is French-American artist Louise Bourgeois's largest spider statue, Maman.

Posted by Ellen

They're asking 7000 Euros in Amsterdam for this trompe l'oeil coat made of wood.

Posted by Ellen

Ten years ago, an exhibition of work by the Colombian sculptor and painter Fernando Botero toured Europe, including a stop in the courtyard of the Cathedrale di Milano, as shown here. Next fall, a Botero exhibit will visit Bilbao, Spain, but the photo below taken in Bilbao last week features a sculpture that resembles the work of Botero in roundness alone.

Posted by Ellen

Visitors enjoy their reflections in the bean, in downtown Chicago's Millennium Park, near the waterfront. The couple pictured here can also be seen at lower right in the picture below, when they were first approaching the shiny thing and had not yet found themselves in it. But they're already there, if you look closely, along with the skyscrapers in the background and an ice skating rink in the middle distance.

Posted by Ellen

I don't know where Lenfest Plaza is in Philadelphia, but I gather that this airplane sculpture by Jordan Griska has been installed there recently, along with some Oldenburg paintbrushes. Guess I have to check it out.

Posted by Ellen

There's a troll underneath the Fremont bridge in Seattle, with a Volkswagen in its grip. The three billy goats gruff, in rusty cast iron,  are grazing on a church lawn a couple of blocks away, at the corner of Troll Avenue and 35th Street.

Posted by Ellen

The bronze leg of the sculpted woman here appears to have graffiti on it. The bronze head of the man appears to have a seagull on it.

The people appear poised to run into the surf near the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey.