Discover Where Nature Meets the City | The Perfect Setting
7 October 2017
One of Chicago’s greatest assets is its collection of public artwork, many examples of which are in walking distance of 1000M along the Lake Michigan shoreline in Grant Park.
EXPO CHICAGO, The International Exposition of Modern & Contemporary Art, annually brings a group of leading national and international galleries to exhibit in the soaring halls of Navy Pier. In collaboration with the Chicago Park District, EXPO CHICAGO presents IN/SITU Outside, providing galleries the opportunity to site large scale sculptures by internationally-renowned artists throughout the city, including right outside 1000M’s front door. This year, presented by David Zwirner Gallery, Isa Genzken’s Two Orchids is on display near Buckingham Fountain.
Tony Karman, who founded EXPO CHICAGO in 2012 and is its current President | Director, is committed to presenting a superb platform for global contemporary art and culture. He describes Two Orchids as “the perfect example of an extraordinary artist, artwork and location coming together and representing what the core programing of EXPO CHICAGO is all about.”
The staggering diversity of Isa Genzken’s work is only one factor that distinguishes her as one of the most influential artists of the past 40 years. The German artist’s work includes sculpture, as well as film, collages, installations, and more with varying motifs and styles.
Rising to 28 and 34 feet, Two Orchids winds whimsically upward, rendered in stainless steel. The sculpture is a chapter in a long history of public art on Chicago’s lakefront, which harnesses the simultaneous backdrops of the iconic city skyline and Lake Michigan.
Since 1836, when Grant Park was mandated to remain “forever open, clear and free,” it has been an ideal setting for melding public art, natural beauty and the city’s dynamic architecture. Buckingham Fountain, the extravagant water monument, was built in 1927. The trend of adding non-commemorative public art to Chicago began in 1967 when Mayor Richard J. Daley dedicated the sculpture commonly known as The Picasso, which sparked private and public investment to public art, much of it on the Lakefront in 1000M’s neighborhood. In 1978, the Chicago City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that a percentage of the cost of constructing or renovating municipal building be set aside to purchase artworks. Chicago was one of the first to enact an ordinance that incorporates public art into its official building program. Today, there are 40 public artworks on the lakefront alone.
Fisher Stolz, a professor of sculpture at Bradley University, is no stranger to public art on the Lake. His sculpture Transformation was first exhibited on Lake Michigan near Buckingham Fountain where Two Orchids now stands. Both works are powerful testaments to how public artwork exists in concert with the natural beauty of Grant Park.
Stolz describes the process of sculpting for each particular space such as the lakefront as a process similar to melding together lyrics and music to create a song—they play off each other and often evolve in unison.
“Lake Michigan is a beautiful setting,” said Fisher.
Karman couldn’t agree more. “As Chicago’s front yard, Grant Park provides an unbeatable location for sculpture juxtaposing with Chicago’s iconic architecture on one side and Lake Michigan on the other. It’s the perfect setting.”
Genzken herself has said she will only exhibit sculptures where they will “enrich their surroundings.”
“Two Orchids is imposing, playful, surreal and provoking all at once,” said Karman. “When we placed the sculpture near Buckingham Fountain, the setting revealed itself to be the ideal location.”
Orchids are a flower tied to globalization. The sculpture analyzes how tropical flowers once associated with royalty exist in locations all over the world with all sorts of owners. The public exhibition of Two Orchids speaks to how accessible this once tropical flower has become, especially as it puts down “roots” in Chicago’s most esteemed public park.
Grant Park is just one of many places in 1000M’s neighborhood to seek beauty.