From May 29th through June 4th, sheets of vinyl will be layered over the intersection of State and Adams streets in Chicago’s Loop in a site specific installation entitled Color Jam. The public installation, commissioned by Chicago Loop Alliance through their Art Loop public art program, is the work of multimedia artist Jessica Stockholder. The exhibit will be an ongoing piece of public art, covering sidewalks, buildings. and the intersection itself with contextually abstract shapes and colors. The work will be on display from its “official” completion on June 5th through September 30th of this year.
Reminiscent of Archigram’s colorful photo-montages, the single published rendering of Stockholder’s installation layers her distinctive use of bright and contrasting colors over a grayscale image of the street. The distinction between neon green, orange, pink, and blue along with bright red and green are distinctive, characteristic of much of Stockholder’s work.
Color Jam is the third annual outdoor installation of Art Loop, following Tony Tasset’s 30 foot sculpture of his own eye in Pritzker Park in 2010 and Kay Rosen’s “Go Do Good” movement in 2011. As a coalition of local businesses and organizations, the group acts as a Business Improvement District for the loop, installing art as a means to “serve the public, promote creative expression, and create value for Loop businesses and institutions.” Because Art Loop installs independent art rather than projects specific to any one building or architectural design, the work elaborates on the privately owned public space theme to “privately owned public art” (POPA). In this incarnation, POPA comes with a brand image, hyped video, and blurbs about football fields of vinyl.
While Chicago Loop Alliance brags about what it claims to be the “largest public artwork in Chicago history” with 76,000 square feet of vinyl, or according to the Chicago Loop Alliance, about 2,100 ink cartridges worth of color from a home printer. Looking closer at the image, and a bit beyond the hype, not much is shown about how the art will actually look or how it will fit into the cityscape. How will shadows crossing over colors alter the vibrant hues angling over facades? What will cars look like driving across patches of neon blue that lack painted crosswalks? How will vinyl be placed on the gothic detailing of the building at the South-West corner of the intersection? These questions only heighten the anticipation for Stockholder’s work, certainly more so than Chicago Loop Alliance’s flashy yet empty promo video:
Stockholder, well known for her mixed media work, describes herself on her website as “interested in and concerned about the nature of the objects.” Taking the site as an object of interest, her approach in Color Jam contrasts with the regularity of Chicago’s streetscape and quiet palette of greys and browns more typical to an urban context. Still, geometries respond to the lines of streets and buildings, relationships which correspond to Stockholder’s personal understanding of space:
The surfaces of walls and objects are full of pictorial potential. The surface of an object purports to let us know something about its mass. This something is sometimes accurate, or informative about the nature of the thing we are apprehending, and sometimes the surface tells another story entirely—sometimes the surface generates a kind of fiction. It is this possibility, inherent in materiality, to generate fiction that I am enamored with.
If you can’t wait to see the Stockholder’s installation, you can watch the construction process stream live online.