In the summer of 1967; race riots spread throughout the country, the Soviet Union along with the US and UK banned nuclear weapons from outer space, protests increased against the war in Vietnam, Richard Speck was sentenced to death for killing eight student nurses in Chicago, the Supreme Court declared all U.S. state laws prohibiting interracial marriage to be unconstitutional, Carousel of Progress opened at Disneyland, Thurgood Marshall was confirmed as a Justice of the Supreme Court, Arab and Isreali forces battled in the Six Day War, “Aretha Franklin released “Respect”, and the “The Picasso” was installed on Daley Plaza.
It was against this backdrop of deep civil unrest that what is now know as “The Picasso” was gifted to the people of the City of Chicago as a work of public and civic art. It was a piece reflective of its time in that it was not a reflection of its time. The artwork was born from the imagination of an indisputable master and one of the worlds’ first global artists’. For the private developers of Daley Plaza, Picasso’s sketch held a pedigree representative of artistic authority. They made it big and permanent and called it done. The standard authority of power prevailed and delivered an ancient monument to one of the City’s most lively public squares.
The Picasso REDO isn’t an erasure of what is underneath or what came before but a direct address. This new and temporary piece is an apparition, a colorful mirror that spectrally reflects all of its surroundings. It’s not a clear reflection, but one that’s abstract and diaphanous, think big picture but the details are vague. The reflective surface is made of flowy fabric that moves with a touch or a breeze and is at the will of what is underneath it and impressed upon it- the Picasso and the public. There’s a will to recognize past and present, to draw parallels and declare difference. The fabric will have form of its own making and not rely upon the Picasso to deliver its silhouette. The REDO will utilize positive airflow pressure to create a pneumatic (inflatable) sculpture in the form of a draped pile. What is underneath or what was even there to recall from memory? Perhaps it’s raw materials waiting to be transformed or nothing but air.
As we know, Chicago is a different city from that of 50 years ago, yet still the protection of the basic rights and liberties of all its people is a daily battle fought civically and individually. Picasso REDO is an invitation for personal engagement, to see oneself included within the larger civic Chicago landscape. Through light, movement and tactility it invites the domestication of and participation in authority.