Where all good bumpers go to die
January 29, 2008 6:01 PM   Subscribe

Sculptor John Kearney of Chicago and Provincetown and his wife Lynn have been running Chicago's Contemporary Art Workshop in a former dairy for almost 60 years. Unlike their better-known contemporary the Hyde Park Art Center, (founded nearly the same year) the pair never let the gallery move beyond its original mission, to discover and support young artists, especially those with little or no exhibition background. The Workshop had early solo exhibitions for both artists who went on to fame, and those whose careers fizzled (full disclosure-that would be me) and has exhibited thousands in its 6 decades. Kearney, who worked with found objects from early in his career, is the best-known sculptor you never heard of, with his creative and amusing bumper sculptures all over Chicago.

Switching to bronze after Detroit stopped making chrome bumpers, most recently, the 85-year old artist completed four sculptures for Oz Park.
posted by nax (6 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I recognized his style instantly. In fact, the very first sculpture I can remember seeing and appreciating was almost certainly one of his - a ram of molded chrome, frozen and haughty in a gallery of the Arlington Heights public library.

Thank you very much for this, Nax.
posted by Iridic at 8:31 PM on January 29, 2008

I want to do a bike trip where I find every one of his sculptures. Every year I find another one or two.

I love him!
posted by elr at 10:04 PM on January 29, 2008

I did some photographic consulting at the house with the gorilla climbing up it back in the day (it was night, though, so i can't be sure... i've honestly thought it was a bear for years, but that looks like both the house and what I saw climbing on it). That was my first exposure to a big-time art commission in the private realm, and also my first exposure in general to the truly wealthy. Of that entire kinda-weird experience, it's that chrome beast suspended in the darkness that has been its emblem in my memory.
posted by pokermonk at 10:05 PM on January 29, 2008

A few of this sculptures are littered around Lincoln Park's residential interior. As pokermonk notes, these are usually at private residents, but two of my favorites are the horses tucked away here (can't see them due to the tree cover) just north-east of the Buddhist temple between Sedgwick and Hudson.
posted by wfrgms at 8:57 AM on January 30, 2008

Thanks for this post. I've always wondered about these, especially the horses wfrgms mentions; those always feel like a little tucked-away corner of Chicago that I'm never really sure if it actually exists or not.
posted by asuprenant at 9:44 AM on January 30, 2008

Then there's T. Rex.

After Jack spent literally decades begging the Lincoln Park Zoo to maintain their full-size elephant sculpture (and offering to do it for them), the thing finally fell apart. Rather than telling Jack to come and retrieve the rusted pieces, the zoo just threw it away. Sic transit gloria.
posted by nax at 12:30 PM on January 30, 2008

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