Base URL: []

December 2006, 6 posts, 208 lines


Let's all support global warming.

I think there is something wrong with the official thinking.



I for one have been emptying aerosol cans by the dozens out the back door. Die planer die!

jno wrote:


Has anyone else noticed how much Walker Evans, in his later life, is the spitting image of Gandalf the Grey?!?!?!? My apologies if I misspelled the LOTR character. It is so remarkable I think his estate could sue on the grounds of personal infringment.


Other Group,

I'm working on a set of essays about art. My publisher over at Kinko's thinks it might be a good idea for them to get out a bit. So I'm putting this up here because it gets seen, time stamped and possibly improved through commentary. I may do this again depending, or not in which case we can go back to our regularly scheduled update from Bad at Sports. I like this but the first and last paragraphs need some work. Sure I love Robert Huges but this may well be a bit far, though I like the Corbusain reference and a line or two on the bean. Thanks.

Millennium Park A Review

Haddon Pearson

First of all Millennium Park is not a 'Park' just to get that right out of the way, the word park is in the title but it's not a park. There are a few varieties of actual parks, there are the ones where you can toss a Frisbee, the ones where you can get out of the office and sit on a bench and eat lunch, the ones where you can lay out on a blanket and read a book, the ones where mothers watch kids run around, the ones where teens go to drink beer, smoke pot, make out and, in a pinch, get laid. Millennium Park is none of these and calling it a 'park' throws people off.

Once we give up that it might actually be a 'park' it allows the possibility to label it more accurately. Millennium Park has been called many things but I prefer to think of it as the 'social condenser' that La Corbusier or his followers never managed to actually make. Oh so, so like the roof of Unite d'Habitation: lots and lots of cement, a bit of water for the kids, not much shade, decent views of the city, a bit removed from the chaos of true nature, centrally planned, problematic parking, more of a sculpture garden than an actual recreation area. And as a social condenser it works well, it draws people in, it's a nice place to visit and spend a bit of time and strangers do mingle and strike up conversations.

For the particulars, I quite like 'The Bean', usually the sky meets the ground on the horizon but the bean bends both together in one place and you can walk up and leave your fingerprint on either one. Most often we look at the work of art itself but with mirrors the work disappears and it is the reflection that we look at, the same is true here. The bean seems incredibly modest as it passes our gaze along and gives us back ourselves and our city and I can't knock it. Many an artist will say that they are trying to 'make people look at the world differently' and to pull this off with a whole skyline is pretty deft.

Recently I visited the bean when it was coated in snow and it looked amazingly egglike. As the city pecked its way out one couldn't help getting the notion of seeing the entire city being either born or reborn if one entertained that the phoenix might rise from ice as well as ash.

I also like the video screens most of the time. If anything it's an emotionally inverted, animated, overblown, Hollywood version of Munch's 'The Scream' that goes through a few hundred gallons of water a day. It is nice to see happy faces when, for so many, the normal urban expression is speedy indifference. I certainly don't like the glass blocks of it and in winter, sans water, the whole thing couldn't be worse. I think it should have been built so that the two monoliths retract underground for the winter. Then, in spring, they would rise up and start anew perhaps taking a week to do so while showing videos of spring growth.

The screens do have their flaws but it's hard to work up much angst against them when you're there. Right as the images start spitting (what else would you call it?) the kids go absolutely crazy and they love it as they get doused. Art is a powerful thing but all my intellectual views pretty much vanish when a couple dozen kids shriek with joy. Nothing else in the loop makes so many children so happy. I'm inclined to side with bliss over artistic aspirations, mine or anyone else's. I know I'll get grief for saying it but sometimes the 'Duchamp vs. Seinfeld' is a tough one to call.

The Gehry band shell is solid, front on it's sharp especially as it contrasts to the geometry of the buildings behind it, from the back it's lacking though coming east on State street when the lighting is right it's positively awesome the way it broils between the buildings like something right out of an H.P. Lovecraft story. The bridge reminds me of the modulating 'Stairway' of Bruce Nauman, though changing side to side rather than up and down but I've never actually gone across it. On the whole it's no Bilbau and we'd be crazy to think a band shell ever could be. If we look on it as just a band shell it's probably the best band shell on the planet and for what it was intended to do a friend reports the sound is phenomenal.

Of course the cost for all this is through the roof, but this is one of the things modernity has yet to find a way to deal with. Money interferers with our gaze, whether it's a Rothko or a Johns and the same is true here. It's difficult to see where the fortune went and the possibility of what could have been done with it haunts us. The commerce side of art lays into the gaze of the onlooker; it's a bit like imagining what you will spend your lottery winnings on if only you could pick those numbers for once.

There are only a few destinations outside of shopping, sports and entertainment that the average 'Joe and Jane' will come in from the suburbs to see: The Museum campus, Science and Industry, the Sears Tower, The John Hancock, Art Institute, the MCA and a few others. That the Millennium Parkmanaged to join this list is no small thing. Urban planning is not an easy undertaking and with the prominence of the real estate involved the stakes were pretty high and considering how wildly that things could have failed I'm pleasantly surprised that a success was the result. I have to give the whole glossy 'shabang' a good grade. I'll give it an 'A' today and cover myself with an option for a 'B' callable in 5 years.

I suppose that in the way of things that the true gauge of this will be time. Outdoor sculpture doesn't get turned off or rotated out of exhibition, it's always there, plus without the benefit of white walls it has a tough venue to compete with. In ten or twenty years will people still be coming to see it? Will it still be a draw or will it be a dead expanse of cement with a few mostly ignored public sculptures that people walk past? Perhaps in their day the Miro (tucked into a shadowy alcove), the Calder (frequently lonely) or the Dubuffet (dirty, regularly repainted) were as much celebrated attractions as Millennium Park is today, I can't say.

Perhaps it's not the park that I would have made but then the park wasn't made for me. On a visit to the suburbs there was a discussion among neighbors as to whether they had gone to visit The Millennium Park or not, and the ones who had gone loved it and recommended it. These are people who haven't gone to the Art Institute since it was a school field trip and yet they were enthused about 'Cloud Gate' and the 'Crown Fountain' and discussed them and the rest of Millennium Park as much as they might have discussed art in years, or ever.

In the end the subject matter of any work of art is always, always the same: ourselves. This is so much of what life is, us and those around us - what is life without either one? Millennium Park points this out in a diffuse way, its two main works rotate on just this axis and it gives us both in a way that is new and respectful. On a good day a couple people will move past the touristy theatricality of it all and in the video screens see into someone else or on the mirrored surface into themselves and small though this may sound, it is as much as we can ask of art.


I was hoping someone else would take this first, but . .

This is, um, how do I say it? Bad. Barely readable.

What is your intended audience?

Anyway. First, take it out of the first person. Of course it is all about you and your impressions; everything we write is. An occasional personal illustration can be good, but, if you get rid of most of the "I"s, it will read a little less like an eighth-grade book report.

I don't really want to be writing coach, but, what the hell. What else do I have to do? Fix it and repost it (there's no traffic here, anyway) or send it to me.


--- haddon pearson haddonpearson at wrote:


On Wed, 27 Dec 2006, michael bulka wrote:

Oh, come on Michael. IMHO, it's readable. I like the personal pronouns; I think there ought to be a lot more of those in "art reviews". But think of it as a travel document, not a critique of public art.

Millenium Park includes no 'art' in the sense I would recognize, but a lot of sharp political 'bread and circuses' fodder. It is not dissimilar to the concerts and events at the lakefront which were instituted in direct response to burning down the west side, years ago. I don't know how this 'Park' functions (as I am becoming more politically disconnected), but it beats the Cows on Parade.

I personally think the whole Millenium Park sucks, but I really like reading this particular take on it. It will teach me to hold my mouth with the suburban friends (as if I have any) and Republican relatives who think art should be uplifting. I do agree that the band shell is magnificent.

And Pearson, I actually like yr first paragraph. It only needs punctuation. The last paragraph you could leave off, it doesn't say anything, and I don't want to be subjected to _your_ generalizations, when I could do that myself in combining your approval with my disapproval. Good work. /jno