A Heroic Monument to Some Dead Dodo


The late Chicago 47th Ward Alderman John Hoellen particularly disliked Pablo Picasso’s sculpture at then-Civic Center Plaza in downtown Chicago. In a resolution introduced at a Chicago City Council meeting July 7, 1967, Hoellen called for the statue to be “deported,” preferably to Paris, France, and called the sculpture (according to a Tribune article):

… a heroic monument to some dead dodo, a Barbary ape, or some sort of Trojan dove. The symbol of a dead dodo would not be fitting because Chicago is a live, vibrant and dynamic city winging its way to old-world greatness; and certainly the symbol of an ape would be highly improper because Chicago has always led in architecture, business, and industry and [the city] apes no one.

Maybe not that bad.

The Chicago Picasso, Daley Plaza, Chicago, Illinois

The Chicago Picasso, Civic Center Plaza, now Daley Plaza, Chicago, Illinois

The sculpture is huge. It’s fifty feet tall, weighs some 160 tons, and in blocks of skyscrapers, dominates the scene. It’s also surprisingly hard to photograph. Picasso, a canny businessman as well as one of the 20th Century’s great artists, donated the sculpture. The materials and labor were paid with donations.

Picasso never bothered to explain what it was, what it represented or what he was thinking. The late Mike Royko may have come closest:

Interesting design, I’m sure. But the fact is, it has a long stupid face and looks like some giant insect that is about to eat a smaller, weaker insect. Its eyes are like the eyes of every slum owner who made a buck off the small and weak. And of every building inspector who took a wad from a slum owner to make it all possible…. You’d think he’d been riding the L all his life.

To WC, it looks more like your average Chicagoan, worried about being mugged on the street, shoulders hunched and cross-eyed with constant paranoia. But all great art serves as a mirror to the viewer’s perceptions. If you’re in The Loop, and haven’t seen it, it’s worth a look.

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One thought on “A Heroic Monument to Some Dead Dodo

  1. This viewer sees only the juxtaposition of a sentient, very social bipedal spirited from Picasso’s African period into an outcropping of a different jungle whose tribe is caught by the same stark surprise. No conveyance of alarm just restrained urges to sniff–among both parties.

    And so it was, “Picasso Pokes Fun of Postmodern Man,” then Bob Harley sang, “…it’s harder in a concrete jungle.”

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