Color Jam: Chicago in Living Color

“Is there an exhibit entrance over here?” A retiree gestures toward a sealed building entrance, a Berghoff takeout bag slung over her wrist, silver-haired husband in tow.

I simply reply, “You’re in it.”

From people watching to window shopping, Chicago’s State Street always offers a visual banquet (Thomas Edison filmed it as early as 1897). Yet this summer, the corner of State and Adams streets has been imbued with new color. Artist Jessica Stockholder’s “Color Jam” has swathed the intersection’s surfaces in red, green, and blue for the Chicago Loop Alliance‘s Art Loop public art series.

“Color Jam” is Chicago’s largest art installation, requiring 76,000 square feet of vinyl to create the three-dimensional work. The colors envelop the intersection environment, taking on the shape of skyscrapers, stoplights, and even a Starbucks.

“I’ve spent a few hours on that street corner and watched the light change over a few hours and enjoyed seeing the people move through,” Stockholder told the University of Chicago, where she serves as chair of the Department of Visual Arts. “The colors that people are wearing and all of the activity framed by the work are surprisingly engaging.”

A city’s vibrancy should not be taken for granted. Yet over time we become numb to environmental triggers, dashing around in a pavement ballet with coffee in one hand and a cell phone in the other. Stockholder’s broad brushstrokes force us to reexamine the street corner canvas and our role within. Boundaries are delineated as the red sidewalk melds into the red street; new borders are created as children hop between green and blue. Moving through the color-saturated background, the actions and costumes of Chicagoans are highlighted like characters in a Technicolor animation.
See new shades of Chicago at “Color Jam” through September 2012.

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