Chicago's Art World, Then And Now

Monument with Standing Beast

In the years following World War II, Chicago saw its urban core contract due to suburbanization. Mayor Richard J. Daley, who held the office for twenty-one years (1955-76), longed for a downtown as spectacular as it had been previously, and saw to it that Chicago’s streets would be the home to public sculptures that would dazzle locals and tourists alike. An untitled sculpture by Pablo Picasso (1967), located in the plaza at 50 W. Washington St., laid the groundwork for one of the most robust public arts campaigns in the world. Although at first controversial because of its abstract design, the “Picasso” (as it is locally known) is now a beloved symbol of the city’s acceptance of forward-thinkers and visionaries.

Monument with Standing Beast (1984) by the French artist Jean Dubuffet is located in front of the James R. Thompson Center, a governmental complex at 100 W. Randolph St. It is an easily recognizable sculpture and was to capture what the artist thought a three-dimensional drawing would look like. Monument with Standing Beast is one of only three sculptures of Dubuffet’s found in the United States. Known as an artist of the “Art Brut” style, Dubuffet was inspired by vernacular arts, such as graffiti writing, which he believed reconnected him with a more authentic type of artistic experience. Organic and architectural figures haphazardly combine to create the large, twenty-nine-foot amorphous fiberglass structure punctuated by various entry points. One may stand within the sculpture and look from the inside out. Even if you cannot identify the various shapes comprising the sculpture, rest assured that Monument with Standing Beast has been interpreted in many ways. It is called “Snoopy in a Blender” by natives of the city, affectionately attesting to its amorphous, white and black appearance. L.F.