Sunday, July 07, 2013

Mais, no Lascaux - In the Cave of the Red Line, an Animal Lair Awaits

click images for larger view
Descend.  Leave behind your accustomed world.  Ignore the gate.  It will not slam shut behind you, most probably.  Breath in the orange, the flame-like walls, like the plain of fire Dante passes through between Purgatory and Paradise.
There have been marketing rehabs of the tunnel leading to the State/Lake Red Line stop before. Last year, Peapod made the walls into a virtual grocery aisle. But this one takes the cave.

To promote its exhibition, Scenes from the Stone Age: The Cave Paintings of Lascaux, the Field Museum has remade the 60-foot-long tunnel into a subway homage to the caves where, 17,300 years ago, prehistoric man (or woman) created those amazing drawings of the animals they shared their world with.  The installation appears to be the work of Titan, the out-of-home advertising agency that also did the Peapod makeover.
It's an educational experience.  I never realized before that in addition to the drawings, early Paleoliths were also especially talented in creating ornate frames for their artwork. 
OK, yes, it's a little kitschy, but also a lot of fun, providing the kind of pop seasoning counterpoint a vital city's more serious monuments require.  I would hazard to say this particular palette has never before been deployed in a Chicago transit station.   Just as a study of the use of color in a public space, it's an interesting experiment.
Now you've got 17,000 years of French history in a single block, from Lascaux to the Second Empire stylings of the Chicago Theater.   Across Randolph, there's Daniel Burnham's Roman Empire wet dream of Marshall Fields (now Macy's.)
 Take a few steps down Randolph, and you're in Old Heidelberg .  .  .
 Skip next door and jump to an entirely different sub-continent, through the delirious hashish menagerie of the gloriously restored Oriental Theater.
And just across the street, ancient Egypt is represented in where we've got Radames and (spoiler alert) Aida sealed off in the abandoned sub-basement of Block 37 - never mind the death sentence, I hear the cell phone reception is terrible.
Truth be told, the Red Line Lascaux looks less like a cave than the lacquered wood parlor of a Prairie Avenue mansion, but its make me long for an architect brave (or foolish) enough to try out such deep, textured color in one of their interiors.

Scenes from the Stone Age runs at the Field through September 8th.  The cave at State and Lake, probably somewhat less.  See it before it's gone.


Matt Maldre said...

I hope nobody makes contemporary graffiti next to this prehistoric graffiti.

Lynn Becker said...

way ahead of you . . .