The star pupil: The Eye opens on State Street

July 14, 2010


(photo by Lee Bey)

The three-story steel reinforced fiberglass eye sculpture--called, appropriately enough, "Eye"--debuted this week at downtown's Pritzker Park.

The work is by Oak Park artist Tony Tasset and is actually modeled after one of his own eyeballs. Produced by the Chicago Loop Alliance, the giant unblinking blue eye, veins and all, is joined by Tasset's companion piece, "Cardinal",which is 156 street banners along State Street featuring the state bird. The banners are designed to flutter like a flipbook, giving the illusion of the Cardinal flying down State Street from Congress to Wacker.

I like the "Eye." It's a commentary on our Age, if you ask me. Security cameras, cellphone cams, red light cameras, youtube videos---we are all watched as we watch. Life is increasingly like that brilliant "everybody's gotta watch everybody else" scene in "Casino". That and I was fascinated by the detail Tasset was enable to incorporate. The longer you look at it, the more details you can find.

Like Anish Kapoor's "Cloudgate" at Millennium Park, it is public art that prompts reaction and almost demands to be touched and photographed, as was the case when I visited yesterday. A few of the kids--including my own--thought the giant eyeball was creepy. One father (not me) had trouble getting his daughter to pose for a picture near it. "She wanted to see this all day and now that we're here, she's scared to get near it," one father with a camera told me.

And the Eye prompted discussion. While I took photos, a guy I know stopped by and joked that if they wanted more teenagers to identify with the sculpture, they should have made the eye roll. Another guy suggested the Chicago could take a cue from its 1999 "Cows on Parade" exhibition, but instead of cows, there would be other three-story body parts found around the city. And on my Facebook page, a commenter wrote, "I am surprised the Transformers didn't pick this thing up and toss it into the Soldier Field saucer. Two points." Also on my Facebook page an artist wrote: "Kudos to [Tasset] artist for managing the concept, getting the political support and funding to fabricate; but, my thoughts on seeing this: bad concept, bad execution, bad emotion. It is just not of the caliber of say, of similar scale and possibly similar budget, it is not [of the] same profundity, say, as Anish Kapoor ...in the end I am saddened, yet, still, this novelty may be the wave of the near future...who am I to judge. Judge for yourself, of course."

The Eye will stare out from the corner of Van Buren and State until October. Were it a permanent work, I'd suggest another companion piece for it as it reached middle age. Something like, well:



(photo by Lee Bey)