Chicago Gothic

Steps from the Gleacher Center on Pioneer Court—right in front of 401 North Michigan Avenue, home of the Magazine’s office—warmly dressed art installers Nick Valenza and Doug Roberts spent the morning adding finishing touches to Chicago’s newest public-art installation: God Bless America (2005) by artist J. Seward Johnson Jr., grandson of the founder of Johnson & Johnson.

Workers install Johnson's God Bless America in Pioneer Court

Previously on display in Key West, Florida, the 25-foot-tall couple taking center stage reimagines Grant Wood’s American Gothic (1930), a popular painting in the Art Institute of Chicago’s permanent collection, several blocks south. Only a few days earlier, tourists, office workers, and Chicago Booth students alike stopped to note the dethroning of Johnson’s King Lear, the previous tenant of the plaza’s pedestal.

Workers install Johnson's God Bless America in Pioneer Court

God Bless America dwarfs Pioneer Court’s other public piece: John Kearney’s permanent installation, a lonely moose made from chrome car bumpers that loiters near the Chicago River. A more familiar Kearney piece to many at the U of C may be his ram, nicknamed “Harold”—also made of car bumpers—that grazes in the grass outside the McCormick Theological Seminary.

The Hyde Park/Kenwood Community Conference has a virtual tour of public art in and around campus. A blogger at Public Art in Chicago tracks public art from all over the city.


Although Johnson has already done his last step creating the Styrofoam covered by urethane statue, two workers reassembling the piece still had to manually piece it back it back together.

December 10, 2008