Nov. 7, 1996
Vol. 16, No. 5

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    'Wrap artists' Christo and Jeanne-Claude to speak

    Controversial artists will present lecture on Nov. 16 In 1969, artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude put their signature wrap on Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, using 3,000 square feet of heavy tarpaulin fabric and rope to completely enshroud the museum. When the Chicago Fire Department ordered the museum to dismantle the material -- citing public safety concerns -- the museum refused to comply. This is only one of many controversies ignited by the artists, who in the past three decades have traveled the world creating site-specific art of monumental proportions.

    The renowned conceptual artists' next stop will be on campus, where they will talk about their current projects. The duo will present "Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Works in Progress: Over the River, Project for Western U.S.A. and The Gates, Project for Central Park, NYC"at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, in the Jules F. Knapp Research Center at the Biological Sciences Learning Center. A reception at the Smart Museum of Art will follow.

    "We are especially pleased to host this lecture because the University has a long history of interdisciplinary inquiry into topics of wide cultural interest -- and the work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude encompasses many complex issues of global and cultural concern in such arenas as law, politics and art," said Kimerly Rorshach, Director of the Smart Museum.

    Over the River involves suspending fabric panels horizontally from steel cables high above the waters of an as yet unspecified U.S. river. The Gates consists of 4,000 fabric-draped, 18-foot-high steel gates framing 26 miles of walkways in New York City's Central Park. The installation is intended to underline the organic environment of the park, in airy contrast with the geometrical grid of Manhattan. The Gates has been rejected by the New York City Parks Commissioner -- as initially are many of Christo's and Jeanne-Claude's projects. They fund their own multimillion-dollar projects through the sale of project drawings, collages and lithographs.

    During the past three decades Christo and Jeanne-Claude have created a vast, diverse body of site-specific projects, which often take as long as 20 years to develop and implement and which utilize hundreds of workers and engineers.

    Past works have included "wrapping" rural and urban sites using custom-made prefabricated materials like polypropylene, steel and rope. Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida (1980-1983) featured 6.5 million square feet of fabric floating around 11 islands; The Pont Neuf Wrapped, Paris (1975-1985) featured 400,000 square feet of polyamide fabric anchored with rope and steel chains; and The Umbrellas, Japan USA (1984-1991) featured 1,760 yellow umbrellas at a California site and 1,340 blue umbrellas at a Japan site. Each umbrella was the size of a two-story house.

    More recently, Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin (1971-1995) completely covered Germany's parliament in Berlin with over 1 million square feet of reflective aluminum fabric -- enough to cover 14 football fields. Materials from the projects are recycled and re-used in new contexts, such as insulation and storage.

    The lecture by Christo and Jeanne-Claude is sponsored by the Smart Museum and the Department of Art History, and is co-sponsored by the Chicago Artists' Coalition, a service organization representing 2,700 artists in the Chicago area. Both the lecture and reception are free and open to the public. For more information, call 702-0176.