If you're in Chicago, chances are you've already ran into Tony Tasset's three-story high, hyperrealistic fiberglass eyeball. In Pritzker Park sits Eye, a colossal sphere that was commissioned by the Chicago Loop Alliance. (As part of its premiere Art Loop installation, a new, temporary work “by an important artist” is to be installed each summer.) The American multimedia artist wanted to compete with the other big sculptures in the city, like the “Bean” and create “something that people would respond to, that was iconographic.” As he says, “A lot of my artwork takes things that are already somewhat familiar and recontextualizes them. People can project their own ideas onto [the eyeball], but I guess it's a symbol of consciousness and being part of a community.”
Taking a look at Tasset's other sculptures, you start to realize that this isn't any ordinary artist. Tasset's known for his off-beat, slightly dark humor. In fact, his sculptures have a surreal, playful quality to them. The Chicago Tribune reports that Tasset, who earned a master's degree from the School of the Art Institute in 1985, said his goal as a public artist is to create work that both appeals to “intellectuals” and has meaning to a wider audience.
Then again, Tasset knows his Eye will not please everyone. “There are going to be a lot of people who are like, ‘Oh, this is terrible. I've always wanted to make work that people either loved or hated. The worst thing would be a kind of innocuous decorative work that you can just pass by, that doesn't do one thing or another.”
He added, “I wanted to make something with effect.”
See what he means by viewing his other pieces.
Blob Monster is a sculpture Tasset created using poured colored resin, metal, wire mesh, and paint. Measuring 14′ x 13′ x 12′, the large sculpture looks anything but ominous with his sad face and dripping paint.
Though this slightly deformed snowman looks like he's on the verge of melting, he's actually far from it. Made of polystyrene, fiberglass mesh, paper-mache, plaster, resin, steel, brass, acrylic and oil paint, the life-sized dirty snowman is unclothed with outstretched twig arms and a crude face made with dried leaves and punched in eyes and mouth.
“…I often feel that all my work is one big story.”
Capuchine Chandelier is an amazing art piece made of plastic, oil paint, and electric lighting. Created in the likeness of bones and skulls, the chandelier finds light and beauty in darkness.
Blood-colored candle wax drip, ooze and spill from the mouth of a faux stone grotto in this piece. Made of plaster, foam, paint, and wax, the grotto is deliciously dark, looking like a life-size shrine.
Paul is a large sculpture made of painted fiberglass over a steel frame. Commissioned by the Art-in-Architecture Program of the State of Illinois, Paul was Tasset's first monumental, figurative piece. It was inspired by everything from Michelangelo to Walt Disney, as well as by the fading roadside attractions that dot rural America. As Tasset says, “Paul is my portrait of this American moment. The traditional tall tale of Paul Bunyan is an allegory of American optimism, power, and consequence. This Paul is a traditional icon projected into current time. Paul has been forced to grow up.” It is located in the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park of Illinois.
The artist, Tony Tasset, in front of Blob Monster
Love them or hate them, Tony Tasset's sculptures are truly thought-provoking works of art. The way he takes ordinary objects and finds new meaning to them is quite ingenious. Try and check out the large eyeball if you're in Chicago and let us know what you think!