Mixer drum, towering manhole frame Museum of Contemporary Art exhibit

Sources: Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; CP staff

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Plaza photo: Nathan Keay, MCA Chicago

Three ubiquitous concrete elements, one ready mixed and two precast, anchor a Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago plaza exhibit running through July 2016. Dubbed MCA Chicago Plaza Project Alexandre da Cunha, 2015, it features the Brazilian artist’s Mix (Americana), a painted mixer drum on loan from a New York gallery, plus Figurehead and Biscuit, two new “works” from Evanston, Ill.-based drainage products operator, Concrete Specialties Co.

Museum staff characterize Mix (Americana) as “A full-scale mixer liberated from its typical location on the back of a delivery truck. This red-white-and-blue, stars-and-stripes vessel is not only meant to inspire double-takes for visitors passing through the area, it also functions as a strange, quasi-kaleidoscopic viewing device: when viewers peer into its open end, complex shadows, forms, and the depth of the interior chamber are revealed as sunlight filters down into the barrel through a hole in the top.”

CSii 300The artful mixer drum rests on a platform overlooking the museum’s entry plaza, two blocks east of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile shopping district. At ground level are two elements da Cunha interpreted after an early-2015 visit to Concrete Specialties’ Elgin, Ill., plant. The 35-ft. high, 10-ft. diameter Figurehead consists of a manhole and two risers, all with various blockouts or penetrations; the 11-ton Biscuit is a variation of a drainage structure cap.

Concrete Specialties Vice President Al Nondorf hosted the artist and MCA officials for a day in Elgin, enabling the guests to ponder large precast structures to augment Mix (Americana) for the plaza exhibit. After visiting the plant, MCA Chicago observes, “da Cunha was inspired to produce new work that continues his interest in repeating geometric forms. The tower-like Figurehead is made from sections of sewer pipe like those under the city of Chicago. Stacked vertically, [they] suggest a ready-made skyscraper. Similarly in Biscuit, da Cunha transformed a mundane sewer cap into a playful abstract composition simply by presenting it in an unconventional way.”