Client: CTA Arts-In-Transit Program
Location: Chicago, IL, United States
Completion date: 2009
Artwork budget: $103,000
Public Art Agent
Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs/ Public Art Program
Chicago Transit Authority/ CTA Arts-In-Transit Program
Begneaud Manufacturing/ Lafayette, LA
Terry Dowd, Inc./ Chicago
Iconographic structures above two train station platforms are comprised of randomly pivoting, mirror-polished modules. Color-saturated reflections of the city are agitated and shattered by the wind and approaching trains. The fragments of symbols, icons and language continually shift, de-form and re-form, the activated forms suggesting a duality—the vulnerability as well as the perseverance of the creative process in the face of disruptive social dynamics and uncertain public reception or general societal indifference. The iconography is drawn from a spectrum of creative realms—visual, musical, scientific, literary, economic, etc. Dimensions: 27'W x 5'-9"H x 1'D (Each Structure)
The primary goals of this art program were 1) To generate the artwork from the constructional system of the renovated elevated train platform structures, 2) To reflect the character of the immediate neighborhood of art galleries and 3) To react to the force of the arriving and departing CTA trains. We considered many potential locations for the artwork and, to maximize visual interaction across the train tracks and to minimize the potential for vandalism, we located the artwork structures above the platforms, across from each other. The material palette is similar to the station structure, except for the bright chromic surfaces of the inscribed pivoting panels, which symbolize creativity within a monochromatic world. We utilized a minimalist iconography---geometric forms, symbols, icons, numerals and language sub-units---to suggest creative ideation in diverse realms (visual, musical, scientific, literary, economic, etc.). Due to the mechanical nature of the structure, the panels pivot and shift over a long period of time, a slo-mo reaction to the forces of the trains.
Feedback from the municipal review process prompted us to reconsider the location of the artwork, and we adapted the concept to the location above the platforms. We worked closely with CTA architects and Department of Cultural Affairs staff to refine and detail the integration with the overhead platform structures and affirm the durability of materials and function. This was the first renovation of the CTA Brown Line in 100 years---with a similar expected lifespan and zero maintenance. The panels are balanced on mechanical pivot points with no required lubrication, and the mirror-polished color-anodized panels are titled downward to optimize viewing angles and allow water and dirt to run off. CTA staff affirmed our specifications for the materials, details and attachment to the station structure. It was fortunate that we delayed fabrication until the construction of the station was well underway---the as-built dimensions were irregular, varying from the architectural drawings---and the artwork modules would not have fit. The artwork structures were fabricated in Lafayette, LA, shipped to Chicago, and installed by a local art installer, extending over the tracks of an active CTA train line.
Due to the nature of a large public agency like the CTA, review and implementation processes can extend over a long period of time. We are always adaptive to feedback and changing parameters, employing an analytical process to re-conceptualize the semantics of the artwork within its urban and infrastructural setting, reconfiguring the artwork structure to optimize its new context.