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MCA Chicago Plaza Project: Mark Handforth

September 19, 2011 6:00 AM

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Mark Handforth, Lamppost Snake (credit: Amy Cavanaugh)

Mark Handforth, Lamppost Snake (credit: Amy Cavanaugh)

markhandforth phonebone MCA Chicago Plaza Project: Mark Handforth

Mark Handforth, PhoneBone (credit: Amy Cavanaugh)

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
220 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL
(312) 280-2660
Tue 10 a.m.–8 p.m.
Wed–Sun 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Closed Mon
$12 General
$7 Students and Seniors
MCA Members, Military and Children under 12 Free
Admission is free all day on Tuesday
www.mcachicago.org

If you’ve walked past the Museum of Contemporary Art at all in the past two months, you’ve probably done a double take at the giant bone with a yellow telephone attached to it towering over you on the sidewalk. PhoneBone is just one of the sculptures by artist Mark Handforth on display outside the MCA. The others, LamppostSnake, Blackbird and BeatProp, contribute to a feeling of other-worldliness as you pass by the museum.

markhandforth blackbird MCA Chicago Plaza Project: Mark Handforth

Mark Handforth, Blackbird (credit: Amy Cavanaugh)

The Hong Kong-born, British-raised Handforth takes objects you would expect to see outside, like streetlights and traffic cones, and turns them into unexpected works of art. His work bridges the incredible collection of work inside the museum with the greater city, and with effective results—the sculptures draw viewers in, making you wonder what else awaits you inside the museum walls.

LamppostSnake is a street lamp shaped into a coiled snake. Partially painted red, the sculpture sits atop the museum roof and overlooks the plaza. At night, it illuminates the space. Sitting opposite LamppostSnake, on another section of the roof, is Blackbird, which Handforth fashioned out of a giant coat hanger made from brass pipe. The sculpture is bent and twisted, like coat hangers get when they’re shoved in the back of closets, but the greater allusion here is to the sculpting process.

markhandforth beatprop MCA Chicago Plaza Project: Mark Handforth

Mark Handforth, BeatProp(credit: Amy Cavanaugh)

PhoneBone is the standout work, and features a giant femur with a sunshine yellow earpiece cradled around it, like a method of communication for giants. Blink and you’ll miss BeatProp, which is set off a bit from the other three sculptures. Made of a collapsed traffic cone painted silver and topped with an English policeman’s hat, the sculpture is splattered with paint.

BeatProp resembles a small creature, and LamppostSnake and Blackbird evoke animals as well. You’ll feel ripped out of the Chicago streets and placed in a strange forest, populated by odd, giant animals – the effect is meant to heighten awareness of your surroundings. The installation is a fun twist on outdoor space and a great way for the MCA to tease passersby about the amazing collection it has just beyond its doors. But the best part is, you can see these sculptures for free, day or night.

The sculptures are on display through October 10.

Amy Cavanaugh, CBS Chicago
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