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The public light project, Reading Cones and Cone Bread *addresses questions: How is Richard Serra’s Reading Cones a public arena of collective graffiti in Chicago? How does a light projection of graffiti art operate on the surface of Richard Serra’s sculpture?


Through the medium of projection, which activates the Chicago graffiti inside of the well known minimalist artist Serra’s work in Grant Park, the urban dweller engages anew in Serra’s work. Beginning in 1967, graffiti art in the US is an illicit art movement, which expresses social and political concerns. A high school student in Philadelphia tagged city walls in order to draw the attention of a girl. Although it started as a prohibited action in public space, in the 1980s many graffiti artists showed their work in the galleries in NYC. Graffiti art in Chicago is still an illicit art because the city of Chicago banned spray paint in 1992. However, there are many graffiti artist in Chicago and graffiti art is a part of the city in the public space. Kevin Coval, who is a poet, educator, and organizer in Chicago, collects images of graffiti art in Chicago to reveal a counter narrative and challenges the boundaries between legal/ illegal art.


Serra’s public art work is a large scale minimalist sculpture made of 32 tons of metal. The material comes in large metal sheets, which reflect their heavy weight and oxidation process. In 1989, the Leo Burnett Company donated the artwork to the Chicago Park District for temporary display. “At that time, City officials had planned to relocate the sculpture to the entrance of State Street Mall after its renovation was completed. Although the Mall project was finished in 1996, the move has never taken place, and the prominent sculpture remains in its Grant Park location.” In 1990, the work became a permanent public artwork owned by the City of Chicago.

Reading Cones is located in Butler Field in Grant Park, 301 W Monroe St,Chicago, IL, 60606. Grant Park is surrounded by a mixture of the old and new residential buildings with people of all levels of education, age and racial backgrounds living in the same neighborhood. More than a million tourists visit the park yearly. Butler Field faces the Petrillo Music Shell along with open area, which offers additional seating for concerts and festivals during the summer such as Lollapalooza. Although the public sculpture is seemingly site specific—the narrow entrance of the convex sculpture seems perfectly aligned with the Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain—Serra’s work is not site specific because not created for Grant Park.


Two Magnasonic LED Pocket Pico Video Projectors installed inside of the two concave surfaces of the sculpture. Two tripods supported the projectors which are self powered and have a 2-hour battery life for extended displays. The two tripods with projectors was installed in the narrow entrance of the sculpture for 1 day from May 4th from 7pm to 9pm evening. The 30 second animation will play in a continuous loop.


A graphic light animation is projected inside the monumental architectural sculpture. Using projection mapping, light illuminates the graffiti scratched on the interior surface of Richard Serra’s work such as the tags Peanut, SSKO, and VP$K. Part of the graphic light animation is a sourced Instagram video clip by the graffiti artist hashtagbluntgod. In the video, neon pink, yellow, blue, and green spray-painted graffiti blinks rapidly to hard-core rock music.


The audience for the project will be tourists, passersby, residents, and the SAIC community near Grant Park.

*Reading Cones and Cone Bread  was the part of final project in the class:Public Light and Space in the School of Art Institute of Chicago (2017) by professor Jan Tichy. 

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