Saturday, January 22, 2011

Vibrant and Vibrating Art -- New Installation by BJ Krivanek at the Brown Line's Chicago Avenue Station

On a recent wintery day, leaving the Brown Line at Chicago Avenue, I was greeted by the sight at left (view of the east platform).  My first reaction was that I was looking at a remarkably colorful and dynamic advertisement.  Then I thought it had something to do with Christmas or the upcoming Chinese new year, due to the vibrant red and image on the left panel, which reads like half of an inverted double-happiness character (see middle photo).  

I realized it was an art installation.  By BJ Krivanek, Reflections>Expressions is part of a cooperative effort between the city of Chicago and the Chicago Transit Authority to add art to stations (see and  In addition to the commercial and Chinese associations, this installation refers to music (treble and bass clefs), math (plus and sum signs, for example), money, and language.  This last subject appears to be a (re)new(ed) theme in current art (see

A most interesting element is the delta symbol, the two equilateral triangles that appear as parts of panels two and three (from the left) and four and five.  Delta is the mathematical symbol for change.  This installation supports the notion that change is part of, or comes from, interaction, both with each other and our environment.  The single deltas are literally formed of two panels, each of which, in turn, appears to be composed of six smaller panels.  The panels themselves appear to be made of sheet metal and move with the vibrations of the passing trains and, of course, the wind.  Kinetic and colorful, this installation lives one of its possible messages.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, when I wrote this post I knew nothing about this work.  Unfortunately, because I like to know the artist's (stated) intent and any back-story.  Fortunately, because I can rely on my eyes and knowledge.  Since I wrote it, Mr. Krivanek has provided me with a statement.  I was particularly amused by the following assumption, which would drive the fabrication of the piece:  

Commissioned as part of the first system-wide renovation of the CTA Brown Line in exactly 100 years, this public art program is expected to survive a similar period of institutional neglect. Its design and fabrication is decidedly low-tech---mechanical pivot points that will never be lubricated, mirror-polished color-anodized surfaces that shed rain and will never be cleaned....

View of West Installation

1 comment:

  1. Andrew,
    I love this! It's very beautiful.

    It sounds like Mr. Krivanek has designed his art in a similar way to how I pick plantings for the grounds of my children's public school (I'm a PTA Beautification Committee Co-Chair). That is: the plant must require no pruning, watering or other care, because it will get none, and it's base must also withstand (or be protected from) repeated bashing by large ride-on lawnmowers. All that's in addition to the requirement that it bear no fruit or nuts that could poison children, nor turn the ankles of running children. The latter requirements are by the school system; the former are my own based on observation of grounds keeping practices in my county. It feels like a weird mix of landscape design for bureaucracy and anarchy.
    Best wishes,