June 6, 2012

Jessica Stockholder’s large-scale installation is on display through September 30.

Walk to the corner of State and Adams, and you'll find the intersection a far more colorful place than usual. The sidewalk is bright orange and light blue, the buildings adorned with angular fields of blue and green and more orange. Color Jam, a large-scale public art installation covering immense swaths of the Loop intersection through September 30, is the work of Jessica Stockholder, a multimedia artist and the faculty chair of UChicago’s Department of Visual Arts.

"I was invited by the Chicago Loop Alliance to make something that addresses the streetscape of State Street," Stockholder says. She wanted to create a visual and physical experience "at odds with the intersection, with the grid of the city—and at the same time, quite respectful of it," playing on the orderly architectural bricolage of the Loop while simultaneously embracing pictorial flatness.

"I'm interested in how the surfaces of architecture—in fact, all surfaces—have pictorial possibility, and I'm interested in putting together that experience of picture-making with the three-dimensional experience of moving through space," Stockholder continues. "So I proposed to fill the intersection with color, and I didn't know if it would be possible. It’s very easy to think of such a thing, but harder to do it.

Needless to say, the project proved quite possible. Through judicious use of vinyl and adhesive, and with the kind cooperation of those who occupy the now-florescent skyscrapers, Stockholder has created a small oasis of aesthetic cohesion within one of the world's most visually multifarious urban spaces. It’s high-minded, yet instantly and intuitively accessible, and therefore exemplary of how the University of Chicago aspires to interact with its city.

"Color Jam introduces a sense of possibility about how we can impact our environment and experience our city in creative ways," says Derek Douglas, Vice President for the Office of Civic Engagement at the UChicago. "It's wonderful to see our faculty interacting with the city in such a direct and profound way."

By Drew Messinger-Michaels, AM’10


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