The formal abstract work of Iranian-born, Berlin-based sculptor Nairy Baghramian (born 1971) draws on the legacy of post-minimal art to investigate the conventions and expectations that commonly surround public sculpture. This spring the Art Institute is pleased to present the debut of Baghramian’s French Curve (2014) and Slip of the Tongue (2014), site-specific works commissioned for the Bluhm Family Terrace.
For Baghramian, the bodily experience of public sculpture is necessarily inflected by its surroundings. Recognizing that the spectacular view of Chicago’s skyline from the terrace is the most defining aspect of the space, she chose to emphasize the horizontal plane of the terrace floor. The artist said, “I did not want to compete with this impressive vertical backdrop; instead I wanted to offer a leisurely horizontal axis.” French Curve takes its name from a traditional drawing tool, and indeed Baghramian thinks of the work as a simple, elegant line that has become a three-dimensional form.
Approximately 55 feet long, the sculpture is composed of numerous handmade segments of cast aluminum. The scooped-out hollow spine, approximately knee height, on the interior side is, for the artist, analogous to the marrow of a bone. This intimate underside has a hand-sculpted, shiny finish while the outside of the sculpture is cast-aluminum matte.
Complementing this serene work on the terrace is a group of seven works by Baghramian titled Slip of the Tongue. Displayed in the sculptural vitrines in the adjacent Terzo Piano space, these fragile, speculative forms made of epoxy resemble flaccid sacks. They seem to melt and collapse against the glass and resemble on a smaller scale what has been removed from French Curve. The separation of the inside from the outside encourages the public to consider the different purposes of the spaces in which these two related works are located and how they might cohere—all the while asserting qualities of contemplation and negotiation over spectacle.
Sponsors This exhibition is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago with major funding from the Bluhm Family Endowment Fund, which supports exhibitions of modern and contemporary sculpture.
2 hours 53 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago NOW ON VIEW—Otis Kaye incorporated currency into a series of works as a commentary on the close relationship between art and commerce. Heart of the Matter shows a torn-up representation of Rembrandt’s Aristotle with a Bust of Homer with a stack of cash hanging from its center. The painting was purchased at the time for a record-breaking price. Kaye sought to critique the commercialism at the “heart” of the art world while paying tribute the great artists who make it possible.
See our new acquisition—Otis Kaye's Heart of the Matter—on view in Gallery 262.
7 hours 35 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago NOW OPEN—To Build a Modern Campus: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and the Illinois Institute of Technology, 1939–1948
Former Bauhaus director Ludwig Mies van der Rohe began designing the IIT campus mere months after arriving in Chicago. To Build a Modern Campus examines both the project’s exemplary expression of modern technology and the social struggle of those displaced by its construction.
2 days 10 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago "We still live in a country where only tragedy teaches us the names of invisible men."
Chicago Reader visits Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem, on view through August 28.