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.
12 hours 54 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago NOW ON VIEW—In 1963 Melvin Edwards began Lynch Fragments, a series of welded steel assemblages made in response to the tumultuous social climate of the Civil Rights movement. The title of the series evokes the horrifying images of racist mob violence, yet Edwards’s works distill the subject into a powerful sculptural language, fusing modernist abstraction with a sense of personal and collective history.
Afrophoenix No. 1—one of the earliest objects from the series—exemplifies how the artist physically transformed found objects and brought them together in poetically suggestive, tension-filled compositions. Here the formal arrangement of steel elements evokes an equestrian bridle and bit. Chains, hammers, nails, spikes, and screws magnify the sculpture’s associative power, recalling implements of labor and torture. At the same the title references the mythological phoenix—alluding to death, rebirth, and transformation.
See Afrophoenix No. 1 (1963) by Melvin Edwards in Gallery 289D.
17 hours 19 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago CLOSING SOON—Modern Velvet: A Sense of Luxury in the Age of Industry
With their plush, inviting, and varied textures, the velvets featured in this exhibition showcase the diversity of modern velvet as well as the effects of industry on its production. As industrial innovations at the turn of the 19th century allowed for faster production and encouraged the use of less costly materials, designers and manufacturers of velvet sought to maintain its association with wealth, luxury, and splendor.
Learn how this elegant fabric has inspired designers for centuries, with a wide range of examples from the 19th century to present day—closing March 19.
1 day 4 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago Just like the museum's collection comes from artists around the world, so does the Museum Shop’s assortment of products. We source exclusive products from artisans that are inspired by the cultures, mediums, and techniques represented in our museum collection. View our assortment of unique items from India.