Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts
University of Chicago (UChicago) Arts has announced the return of Wolf Vostell's groundbreaking Concrete Traffic sculpture—a 16-ton, 1957 Cadillac De Ville encased in concrete—to its longtime home in Hyde Park this fall, following a four-year conservation effort. The colossal work, conceived in 1970 by German Fluxus artist Vostell (1932-1998), will aim to interrupt daily life in true Fluxus fashion by being placed among the everyday vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the Campus North Parking Garage at the University of Chicago (5525 S. Ellis Ave.). UChicago Arts will celebrate the sculpture's return to public view (and initiate dialogue on the power of public art) with a series of free exhibitions and public programs under the moniker "Concrete Happenings," presented at UChicago institutions including the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, and Smart Museum of Art, and others throughout the 2016-17 academic year.
Kicking off Concrete Happenings will be the dramatic transport of Concrete Traffic through the streets of Chicago in a public procession from its current location at the Humboldt Park storage and conservation facility Methods and Materials to its mother institution at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and finally to its permanent home in Hyde Park from 11:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. on Friday, September 30.
Concrete Happenings will officially launch with a "Drive-in Happening" featuring a projection of automobile-related films and videos by Vostell within the Campus North Parking Garage starting at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct 14.
"Concrete Traffic exemplifies the dilemma of public art, caught between desiring urban contexts and broad audiences on the one hand, and being subjected to environmental exposure and possible vandalism on the other," said Christine Mehring, Chair and Professor in the Department of Art History and the College. "This is why conservation measures are essential to preserving the art-historical significance of artworks like Concrete Traffic, which so often use non-traditional yet culturally significant materials such as concrete. This is also why we are focused on raising awareness of the challenging issue of public art conservation through the exhibitions, film screenings, symposia, happenings, and other programming taking place through the Concrete Happenings project."
"The monumental sculpture that is Concrete Traffic and the event of returning it to campus are the extraordinary first steps on the trail we're making toward a new level of engagement with public art," said Bill Brown, Deputy Provost for the Arts and Karla Scherer Distinguished Service Professor in American Culture. "Public art is so important to making the mere walk through campus an intellectual experience. It challenges and fascinates people, and it pushes them to wonder about the relation of form and space."
The University of Chicago has a rich history of embracing challenging public art on and around campus as a means of extending the intellectual life of the community beyond classrooms, libraries and labs, and into the everyday spaces that shape the human experience.
Concrete Happenings builds on that legacy by inviting artists, communities, scholars and art-lovers to experience the power of public art through a yearlong celebration featuring exhibitions and interactive public programs, including happenings, music performances, film screenings, talks, book and paper arts workshops and more.
Concrete Happenings is also part of a yearlong celebration of public art in 2017. The City of Chicago's 50x50: Celebrating 50 Years of Public Art in Chicago initiative aims to catalyze and connect public art to advance the goals of the Chicago Cultural Plan by bringing public art directly to Chicago neighborhoods.
For an up-to-date schedule of related public exhibitions and programming, visit arts.uchicago.edu/concretehappenings.
David Katzive, installation view of Wolf Vostell's Concrete Traffic, January 1970. Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Photo (c) MCA Chicago. Courtesy The Wolf Vostell Estate.