At 9:30pm on June 1, artist Jessica Stockholder stands suspended six stories above East Adams Street in downtown Chicago, in the basket of a boom lift or “cherry-picker” crane.
Jessica Stockholder in her Color Jam (2012) at State and Adams Streets in downtown Chicago. Photo: Kevin Shelton, courtesy of Chicago Loop Alliance
To her right is the corner of a glass-block and concrete building at 137 South State Street — covered in an electric blue. To her left stands SOM’s 1962 Home Federal Building. The northwest corner of the latter’s Modernist glass-and-steel facade is swathed in bright, almost neon green, except for street-level windows and a red band above them that reads “Bank of America.”
Workers wearing reflective vests are lining the intersection at Adams and State Streets, near the exact center of Chicago’s Loop, with more than 76,000 square feet of adhesive vinyl for Stockholder’s Color Jam. Commissioned by Chicago Loop Alliance, the installation is reportedly the largest public artwork in the city’s history. Its official opening is June 5 and it remains on display through September 30.
Once Stockholder returns to Earth, she and I meet across the intersection. We chat beneath the awning at 202 South State Street, built in 1915 and designed by Holabird & Roche, later (and better) known as Holabird & Root. Red surrounds us.
Once the site was chosen and the concept decided, how many revisions were there, to where exactly these color fields meet, how high up the buildings they reach and what shapes they are?
I waited to tweak things and firm up what this would be until we worked things out with [vinyl manufacturer] Bloomingdale Signs, to understand what would be involved [in those decisions] and how much color we could use. The kinds of angles I could use were part of that process as well. It’s much harder to make [the shapes wider as they get taller]. That’s why there’s that white piece around the [southwest] corner: To make that angle of red, a white piece has to be there. So I waited until we were working with Gary [Schellerer, Bloomingdale President and CEO] to get specific, once I understood what would be possible. Read More…