Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Tuesday, March 5

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr


Andrew / May 8, 2003 11:57 AM

I'm partial to the Electric Bug painted on the side of a municipal building overlooking Block 37 (where they put the Loop ice rink in the winter) -- it's just so goofy!

j3s / May 8, 2003 12:18 PM

It wasn't sanctioned, and it was only up for a day, high school, some friends of mine built a statue out of 2x4s of a man standing over a toilet, and put it up in the Skokie sculpture park. It was pretty awesome.

sourbob / May 8, 2003 12:45 PM

Does performance art count?

Because I'm a huge fan of the guy who rides the Red & Blue Lines in a homemade robot costume (a black sweatsuit (hood up), black gloves, his face painted silver, and shin guards on his legs and forearms).

If you've never seen this man breakdance to old Michael Jackson tunes or preach to no one in particular about how he's a robot for Jesus Christ, then buddy, you just haven't lived.

Jon / May 8, 2003 1:29 PM

Lorado Taft's Fountain of Time on the western edge of the Midway in Hyde Park. Long and made of concrete.

Although I do like the robot guy.

Lacey / May 8, 2003 2:56 PM

There is a beautiful John Singer Sargent painting at the Art Institute: "Mrs. George Swinton". Stunning up close. Link:

miss ellen / May 8, 2003 2:57 PM

the Chihuly installation at Garfield Park was incredible, although that has also come to pass.

i've always loved the mosaic at Bank One Plaza, "Four Season" - i've always loved how mosaics and collages take bits & pieces and make them into something else.

Kennedy / May 8, 2003 4:15 PM

I'm depressed. Let's
see,... The Bull in the finacial district is pretty cool. NYC sucks for public art.

Anthony / May 8, 2003 7:20 PM

David Bermant commissioned Dustin Shuler of Los Angeles to design 'Spindle', a $75,000 project consisting of 9 gutted automobiles stacked as if skewered on a large vertical spike.

Now that is what I call art.

Paul / May 8, 2003 7:44 PM

Anthony, I must disagree. Must. Must. I grew up with Spindle, and it became the absolute bane of my existance, as well as the existance of every other Berwynite. "Spindle! Oh, that thing with the cars! The thing that does nothing but house birds and collect bird poop!" "Yes, that Spindle."

My favorite right now is the Chicago Stock Exchange Room at the Art Institute.

Kris / May 8, 2003 7:56 PM

I'm partial to the Tin Man statue in Oz Park, at Lincoln, Webster and Larrabee.

Naz / May 8, 2003 8:00 PM

I was actually taking photos of the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion over in Oz Park a day or two ago. There are some other metal made sculptures and such around the city mostly in Lincoln Park and the Lakeview area.

Leigh Hanlon / May 8, 2003 8:08 PM

My favorite piece of public art is the statue of Capt. Christopher Pike from "Star Trek" in the plaza just south of the Tribune Tower. The artist chose to use the post-accident Pike as his model, with the guy confined to his electronic wheelchair prior to his return to Talos IV.

Another good sci-fi sculpture is on the Addison Street side of Wrigley Field. It depicts one of the expendable space marines from "Aliens" desperately trying to fire his handheld pulse rifle before the newly hatched aliens at his feet can climb up and hug his face.

dce / May 8, 2003 11:18 PM

I'm rather fond of that gleaming metal slab of sculpture in Lincoln Park - right there by the nature center. My father used it to help educate me about the nature of abstract art. He'd point to it and say:

"You know what that is?"

"No." I'd reply.

"It's a horse."


And so I've taken it upon myself to spread the word, informing all who will listen about the gigantic horse on Chicago's lakefront. Most people just get puzzled at this.

But who's to say it isn't a horse?

Phineas / May 9, 2003 7:02 AM

If we want to use the word 'favorite' to mean 'most disturbed by' I have to nominate the 'Harry Caray and the Harrowing of Hell' by Wrigley (which I believe Leigh was alluding to above...) But my god, if Harry is such a revered icon to sports fans and the city in general, why would we want to remember him as a dark lord of the underworld?

That said, I'm almost never able to resist stopping and marvelling any time I pass it. Unfathomably bizarre.

brian / May 9, 2003 8:08 AM

I have to admit that my favorite is rather pedestrian. I love the Picasso. Not because it is somehow beautiful, but because unlike so many other works of art, you can touch it, play on it, pee on it if you wish. Get really drunk and then lie on it and look at all the city lights and the moon on a cloudy night. Sit on it while drinking coffee and writing to friends, and you'll become an actor in a lot of tourist photographs.

Chicago has a ton of great art for viewing - Miro, the Chagall (which I think Ellen mentioned), and in a certain sense, the architecture is art too, and is one of my favorite things about this city.

Oh, and as for the Spindle thingie - there's one in Cicero here closer to home. Roosevelt and Harlem I think...

sEn^ / May 9, 2003 8:34 AM

yEs - I'm slanted towards the Tin Man and Cowardly Lion in Oz park too. I used to live on Belden/Clark and there was a house in the area right there that had several of the same metal artworks in it's yard - mostly giraffes I think. I always suspected the artist lived there. Now I live in Lakeview and there are several pieces on one of the streets cutting Broadway. Does anyone know who the artist is?

Alice / May 9, 2003 9:07 AM

I would also like to nominate the full-scale replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa that hovers over Touhy Avenue at the appropriately named Leaning Tower YMCA in Niles. Along with the Spindle in Berwyn, I think it belongs in the category of the bizarre yet iconic landmarks in the Chicago area.

Anthony / May 9, 2003 9:13 AM

Besides the 'spindle'... one of my favorite installations is called Body Movies. A relational architecture installation. An amazing installation and the movie outlining the concept and execution is very cool. Check it:

Kris / May 9, 2003 10:04 AM

The artist behind the Tin Man, the giraffes at Elaine Place, etc. is John Kearney. Most of his sculptures are apparently made from recycled steel car bumpers.

Shylo / May 9, 2003 10:32 AM

If the neon Superdawg sign is not considered public art, it should be.

mary lou wade / May 9, 2003 10:33 AM

Standing in the middle of Wabash, facing north, just south of Congress, you view the construction of the new Super Dorm on your left and the deconstruction of the old Red Cross Building on the east..(for a parking lot, I'm told!) Wierd, wonderful, and typical Chicago.

lacey / May 9, 2003 10:52 AM

Paul--the old Chicago Stock Exchange room is amazing. Also one of my favorites. I don't think you even have to pay admission to the AIC to view it. The beautiful work of Louis Sullivan, folks.

christopher / May 9, 2003 10:53 AM

those neon palm trees at the car wash where clark and ashland meet on the north side are pretty cool.

Chris / May 9, 2003 11:43 AM

One of the great things about the Harry Caray statue at Wrigley is that you could place a beer in his left hand.

photo of "Harry Caray, A One, A Two, A Three"

more info:

evelyn / May 9, 2003 11:58 AM

in hyde park, in front of one of the umpteen seminaries in the neighborhood, is a large metal goat. then, somewhere neat belmont, in a residential area, are a pair of metal giraffes flanking the street, obviously done by the same artist. i have no idea where they came from or why they're there. i have heard reports that they get mighty hot in the sunlight, though.

brian / May 9, 2003 2:02 PM

Someone told me that Ogden Avenue used to go through Lincoln Park and end at around North Ave (or the zoo? I don't remember). A lot of the bumper-art is stashed in tiny corners and parks that fill in where the street used to go.

Also in Hyde Park, there's a sculpture outside the Poli Sci building (on Woodlawn I think). Supposedly, on May 1st at noon the shadow forms a hammer and sickle. Would have been cool to catch this year, but the weather was poopy.

Marc / May 9, 2003 2:05 PM

There's a bit of graffiti over in Uk Village - can't remember the guy's name but he tags everywhere. There's one spot that he's tagged over an old piece of graffiti - the old piece read something like "Spooky eats dicks" and tagger X has put his tag over "Spooky" so that is now reads "tagger X eats dick".
Unintentionally funny.

Andrew / May 9, 2003 2:19 PM

Evelyn, the sculptor is John Kearney, as Kris noted above. Follow his link for more info.

Ian / May 9, 2003 2:35 PM

I did a double take (waht, waht) as I raced past the Cowardly Lion the other day because it looked as though it may have been beheaded...did it?

Jon / May 9, 2003 5:38 PM

The story behind the PolySci statue at the U of C goes like this (it's actually on University at 58th):

The building that it stands in front of, Pick Hall, was an addition to the Goth buildings of the main quadrangle - that is, it doesn't look like any of the other buildings there. When it was built it housed the economics department and they commissioned an Italian sculptor, Virginio Ferrari (I think I spelled that right), to design something to complement the building. Well, at the time, and to this day, the U of C Econ department is well-known for its intense free-market approach to "the science" (some, like me, would call it conservative, but we got yelled at for doing so). Anyway, Ferrari was (is?) a communist and designed the statue so that at noon on May 1 the sun blazing down on the sculpture makes a perfect hammer and sickle shadow on the ground.

I saw it my first year two years ago - it's pretty accurate and pretty cool. You can see it start to develop as it gets closer to May 1, too.

Apparently, though, the story is incorrect. Allen Sanderson, an econ professor, overhead one of my guides giving a tour one day and came to Admissions to tell them that the story is all wrong, that it doesn't actually form a hammer and sickle, etc.

But I've seen it. If it's not a hammer and sickle, I don't really know what else it could be.

kathleen / May 10, 2003 10:55 AM

I really like Moore's "Nuclear Energy" statue on Ellis in Hyde Park. It's one of the few pieces of modern sculpture that I've been able to understand what it means.

I saw the Ferrari statue on May 1 and I didn't really think the hammer looked like a hammer. Just sort of a blob in the middle of the sickle.

susan / May 10, 2003 4:00 PM

Regarding the Ferrari sculpture, I've been told that, at some point, it used to cast the correct shadow, but it's no longer as clear as it once was. Also, we've had a dearth of fair days on which to see it. I've always enjoyed the idea of it though.

It's not exactly public, and it's more than art, but the interior of St. John Cantius Parish (near the Chicago stop on the Blue line) is my candidate for the most awe-inspiring sight in Chicago.

However, as a University of Chicago student, I have to say that scav hunt ( is the ultimate in public art.

tbone / May 10, 2003 4:43 PM

If "Nuclear Energy" were filmed on a snowy night, from bare to caked with snow, and played back at high speeed, it would fling you out of your seat.

At least, I'd like to watch such a film without a seatbelt.

Joseph J. Finn / May 11, 2003 12:57 PM

I've always loved the state of Lincoln in Grant Park. It's nice and simple, catches him nicely, and has that nice hemisphere of seats around him.

Amy / August 2, 2003 3:25 PM

Despite the fact that no one is probably reading this thread actively at this point, I grew up in Hyde Park and if no one's yet mentioned the egg sculpture in the little park between 54th and 55th and between Kenwood and Woodlawn, it's charming. It's cast metal in the shape of a large egg, and has legs with little chicken feet and a sticking-out bit where the egg's navel would be (if eggs had them) that could be a beak or a faucet or something. It was made by a sculptor from the neighborhood who was in fact kind of in the performance art category, his name was Cosmo Cosmopoli and he had very long white hair and beard and usually wore all red so obviously he was often called Santa Claus. I believe he's passed away now, and to add to the sadness I heard the sculpture had been stolen.

The goat and the giraffes discussed by evelyn above (the former is in front of McCormick Theological Seminary in H Pk) are made of car bumpers.

The Magikist sign is also pretty amazing.

GB store

Recently on Fuel

Urban Ethos [26]
What is Chicago's "urban ethos"?

Cool Glass of... [16]
What're you drinking?

Supreme Decision [22]
What's your reaction to the Supreme Court's decision on the Affordable Care Act?

Taking it to the Streets [20]
Chicago Street Fairs: Revolting or Awesome?

I Can Be Cruel [9]
Be real: what is the meanest thing you've ever done?

View the complete archive

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15