Saturday, August 31, 2013

From Here to There


From Here to There, 1975
Richard Hunt
Dr. Martin Luther King Community Service Center
4311 South Cottage Grove Avenue

            Commissioned by the City of Chicago, this composition includes two 7-foot high welded bronze sculptures atop brick pedestals. Originally, the works were placed approximately 30 feet apart, with one positioned under an entrance overhang and the other in the open plaza, thus requiring viewers to join them as a single work in their mind. Currently, the two sculptures are separated completely, with one positioned on South Evans Street on the west side of the building and the other on Cottage Grove, so that one must pass through the enclosed lobby or walk around the building to encounter both pieces. 
            Throughout his career, many of Hunt’s sculptures have incorporated winged forms or shapes that suggest the possibility of flight. These two pieces offer such aspects as well. While one calls to mind the curvilinear shapes associated with birds, the other is more hard-edged and geometric, evoking the mechanistic angles of an airplane. In 1998, Hunt explained that his use of such forms was about “trying to achieve victory or freedom internally,” as well as “investigating ideas of personal and collective freedom.” These visual references to flight have resonances in the African-American experience, representing freedom and transcendence. Hunt has also contributed a powerful piece entitled I Have Been To The Mountain (1977) to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Memphis, Tennessee.
            The neighborhood that houses Hunt’s work in Chicago is one that is still struggling economically and stands as a reminder that King’s messages about racism and poverty in the United States still demand action. In 1959, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission declared Chicago the most racially segregated city in the country. A Census Data survey conducted in 2012 by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research determined that Chicago remains the most segregated city in the United States.


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