Thursday, August 22, 2013

In Celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the Founding of the Republic

In Celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the Founding of the Republic, 1976
Isamu Noguchi
Grant Park, near the Art Institute Annex
West of South Columbus Drive and south of East Monroe Street

            Commissioned by the B. F. Ferguson Monument Fund to commemorate the bicentennial of American independence, this work includes two 40-foot granite components placed within a reflecting pool. One element stands upright and is composed of two slabs that meet at an oblique angle, while the other is a cylindrical fountain situated horizontally adjacent to an annex of the Art Institute of Chicago designed by Walter Netsch. Artist Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) was the son of a Japanese poet and American writer. Born in Los Angeles, he spent most of his childhood in Japan. He served as an assistant to Gutzon Borglum as well as Constantin Brancusi.
            Noguchi works primarily in stone and usually carves by hand. For this monumental piece, however, he chose the Minnesota rainbow granite but had it shaped by machine. The vertical component features horizontal grooves in its surface that accentuate the visual impact of the water cascading down. The horizontal element recalls the action of a waterfall as water spills over the sides.
            The water is an essential element of the composition and, unfortunately, some aspects of the site have raised concerns among students, bird lovers and ornithologists. Large numbers of birds slam into the east-facing reflective window on the Columbus Drive and, those who do not die instantly, fall into the moat-like pool and lay stunned, vulnerable to lurking predators or to drowning. There were so many complaints that the fountain is often turned off, even in warm weather, and the pool is drained.

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