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Monday, July 27, 2015
MCA's Sewer Pipe Tower Prelude to the Chicago Architectural Biennial
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The first Chicago Architecture Biennial doesn't begin until October 3rd, but the Museum of Contemporary Art has just launched its own pre-emptive strike on the broad plaza fronting its severe Josef Paul Kleihues-designed facade. It comes in the form of a fifth annual MCA Chicago Plaza Project, featuring three works by Brazilian artist Alexandre da Cunha. MCA chief curator Michael Darling told the Chicago Reader's Ionit Behar that he and da Cunha had the Biennial in mind when planning the installation. "There are amazing architectural possibilities for these things," beginning with with the possibility of passersby initially mistaking the plaza for a construction site.
Set on one of the high plinths on either side of the grand staircase is da Cunha's 2013 Mix (Americana), an actual cement mixer. Removed from its truck and painted white, blue and red, it resembles a space capsule. Viewers can peer into its open end and watch the play of light, from another opening on top, on the mixer's interior.
At the north end of the plaza, there's Biscuit, a concrete disk, set on an angle and standing on edge. A cross between yin yang symbol and Tinkertoy connector, its recesses beckon for inhabitation . . .
A photo posted by Alicia_SoSweet (@acat415) on
The clear centerpiece, however, is Figurehead, made from sewer pipe. Usually visible only while waiting to be planted . . .
. . . and thereafter largely buried from view . . .
. . . the three sections of pipe at MCA have been assembled by da Cunha to form a 30-foot-high tower. Like Marcel Duchamp, da Cunha is known for creating art from everyday objects - everything from pop bottles, to beach towels, to the heads of mops, and the concrete pipe used in Figurehead is said to be locally grown. As with Biscuit, the pieces making up Figurehead are not solid but pierced with large openings. The bottom-most section has an inward contour, making it seem like the base for a goblet spire.
This permeability changes the perception of the tower as you move around it. From one perspective, it almost seems to be a support pillar for the similarly irregular-formed Lurie Children's Hospital . . .
You can step inside Figurehead, and as you look up, the openings might make you think of a fragmented, prehistoric version of a James Turrell Skyspace . . .
Step outside Figurehead and it becomes a framing device . . .
. . . or echoes a shadow where a young woman can find shade in which to sleep . . .
While daCunha's Plaza Project has - as far as I can tell - no formal connection with this fall's event, we can only hope the Biennial's programs will manage to be just as engaging.
Love the addition of the sewer pipe. A modern everyday reminder to get your drains cleaned soon!
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