Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A half-century later, and we still don’t have a clue what Picasso statue is

It’s Oh, So Fitting of Chicago’s character that one of the most prominent landmarks our city has – the statue created by famed artist Pablo Picasso – is something we don’t have a clue what it’s supposed to be.

A daily sight in Daley Plaza
It has been 50 years to the day since the Picasso, as we simply refer to it, since Pablo himself never gave his creation for the city a proper title, was unveiled to the public.

OF COURSE, AS also is so befitting of Chicago’s character, city officials chose to celebrate the half-century mark of the statue last week.

As in the official ceremonies marking 50 years of the statue’s presence in the Daley Plaza were held Aug. 8, rather than on Tuesday.

I’d like to joke that the reason the ceremonies were held a week early was because we wanted to detract from the pair of events that otherwise would have had their anniversaries on Aug. 8.

As in the 29th anniversary of the Chicago Cubs’ first attempt at playing a night game at Wrigley Field (it was rained out, and the first actual game didn’t occur until the following day), or the 41st anniversary of the time the Chicago White Sox tried playing an official major league ballgame in shorts.

INSTEAD, WE CHOSE to jump the gun on the Picasso structure, which now is such a part of the city’s composition that we don’t really notice it. We walk through the Daley Plaza in the shadows of the Daley Center courthouse or the County Building/City Hall where the real Richard J. Daley prevailed and we expect to see it.
Would something like this really be better?

It’s just there.

Personally, I’m not going to take a crack at guessing at what it was Picasso was trying to portray when he created the statue on commission for the architectural firm that designed the Daley Plaza for Chicago back in the mid-1960s (although I do get a kick out of the White Sox warmup jacket he occasionally was photographed wearing).

Although the artistic experts who say it is a profile of a woman (if viewed from behind at just the right angle) may be on to something. Personally, I think the confused perception it creates amongst so many people may be totally befitting of Chicago.
Celebrating the shorts?

A PLACE THAT outsiders may find bewildering, but that we locals accept for all its flaws and complications.

In fact, I wonder if a more conventional attempt at public art would have created something that would be oft-ignored and long-forgotten. Or wind up creating an image that would totally tick off a segment of the city.

Such as the ideas that were tossed about publicly back in 1967 by those who were offended by Picasso’s effort to create an image that would come to personify Chicago. Then-alderman John Hoellen (I knew him later in his professional life as a CTA Board member) was the guy who suggested a statue of Chicago Cubs slugger Ernie Banks.

Which I’m sure would have gone over terribly with the segment of Chicago that has no use for the Cubs, or baseball in general.
Says about Chicago?

ALL I KNOW is that the Picasso (which actor John Belushi’s character made reference to in “The Blues Brothers”) is now a common backdrop – particularly for all the activist-types who choose the Daley Center for their protests against local government.

I suspect Picasso himself would have appreciated that idea, since the artist himself had Communist leanings (but that didn’t stop him from accepting payment from the city for his work).

Besides, perhaps it’s a good thing that Picasso’s work of vague perceptions exists for Chicago.
Picasso used to be part of the holiday festivities when city tree was in Plaza
Otherwise, our city’s most prominent work of public art might very well turn out to be the Bat Column statue by Claes Oldenburg (whom the now-defunct City News Bureau used to like to boast was one of their former reporter-type people) that exists outside of the Social Security Building on Madison Street. Just think of all the confusion that image could cause!


No comments: