Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Revisiting Chicago's Picasso + El Cubano Grande

The Chicago Picasso

The "Chicago Picasso" in Daley Plaza, Chicago, IL

Up in the sky - it's a Bird, no it's an Afghan Dog, no it's a Baboon! Seriously, what is it? It IS an abstracted Picasso sculpture of a Woman's Head. Wouldn't you be disappointed if a Picasso wasn't slightly weird! As Mayor Daley said at the unveiling "What is strange to us today, will be familiar tomorrow."
On view at the Chicago Institute of Art
Original Maquette sent by Picasso.
Downtown Chicago is an exciting urban landscape with several great public sculptures. One of the most interesting public sculptures anywhere in the world has been in place in Chicago for over forty years now - the magnificent Picasso which dominates Daley Plaza. The Chicago architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill, while designing Chicago's Civic Center, envisioned a large-scale public monument to anchor the plaza in the front of the project. SOM senior partner, William Hartman, contacted Picasso and a commission was agreed upon. When Picasso got the call, he was working on a series of paper and cardboard cutouts he called "Heads of Sylvette", which he translated into metal sculptures. For the Chicago Picasso, a small 42-inch maquette of the final 162 ton, 50 foot tall sculpture was sent by Picasso as a "gift to the people" of Chicago. This maquette is presently on view at the Chicago Art Institute in the Modern Wing. The city sent Picasso a $100,000 check for his design, but he insisted the sculpture was a gift and tore it up. The production of the sculpture was handled by Skidmore's structural engineers and paid for as a part of the cost of the Civic Center construction budget. Fabrication was done at United States Steel Corporation in Gary, Indiana, where it was entirely preassembled, then disassembled and shipped to Chicago for final installation on the plaza. The sculpture was completed in 1967.

Controversy started almost immediately. It was a visual shock to most Chicago residents and politicians. There was a serious movement to have the sculpture removed and replaced with a more conservative, acceptable and realistic image of baseball player Ernie Banks, in his Chicago Cubs uniform. The Chicago Daily News columnist, Mike Royko, wrote that the sculpture had "a long stupid face that looks like some giant insect..." Some people insisted the architects had been duped and it actually was a Baboon, others were fairly certain it depicted an Afghan Dog, there was a contingent who thought it was purely nonobjective but many thought it was a pile of rusty junk metal, an eyesore that needed to be hauled away. 

The sculpture is actually based on Picasso's model Sylvette, who wore a ponytail on top of her head which splayed to both sides framing her face. His preliminary drawings all show various heads and some show breasts, so there is no doubt it is a female human head. Picasso was in his 60s at the time and had been distorting the human form for most of his life by the time he created this head and shoulders bust for Chicago.
Picasso's Design Process for the Statue.

Picasso was between wives Francois Gilot and Jacqueline Roque when he was introduced to artist's model Sylvette David. She became Pablo Picasso's muse at Vallauris on the French Riviera although their relationship was platonic. Sylvette's presence brought a new and positive phase to his work. She was the inspiration for a group of forty paintings and drawings called Picasso's Sylvette cycle. Most importantly, the "Heads of Sylvette" were a series of metal sculptures Picasso based on Sylvette and her coiffeur. These works marked yet another major innovative change in his work. While working with Picasso, Sylvette changed her name to Lydia Corbett.  Today Lydia Corbett (Sylvette) has residences in France and England, she now works as an artist herself.
Sylvette David (Lydia Corbett) with Picasso

Do you see the face,
hair and shoulders
in this rear view?
Chicago has grown to love its Picasso sculpture which is now a symbol of the city. Artist Lydia Corbett's greatest contribution to the art world may well be as the long-necked, ponytailed model for Pablo Picasso's monumental gift to the windy city.

FOOD: The Trendy and Delicious Cubano Sandwich.
The Cuban culture is known for beautiful people, a strong cup of coffee, the best cigars and the fabulous Cubano sandwich. Cuban sandwiches called "a sandwich mixto" were common on menus in Cuba starting in 1900 and a staple by the 1930s. They became the preferred lunch for Cuba's sugar mill workers. In eastern Cuba, the bread is rubbed with garlic first.

The classic Cubano sandwich is constructed with Cuban pan de agua bread* rubbed with garlic and built with dill pickles, grilled ham, swiss cheese and smashed pork chunks which have been slow roasted in mojo, a delicious citrus and garlic marinade. One should butter the outside of the bread and cook in a special press, called a plancha**, to press the sandwich between two hot plates. You end up with a thin, hot, crispy sandwich with oozing melted cheese.

*For bread you need a loaf which is crusty on the outside and soft in the middle, but never use a baguette, which is too narrow and too hard to press correctly. **No plancha press? Cubans often cook their sandwiches on a griddle or in a skillet and put a brick wrapped in aluminum foil on top or use a cast iron skillet to press their sandwich flat. Enjoy your Cubano! 
- Thin slices of grilled ham
- Hot, slow roasted pork (the quality of the Roast Pork makes the sandwich)
- Thin slices of swiss cheese
- Slices of dill pickles
- A 12" loaf of Cuban pan de agua bread, split open
- garlic clove
- butter

In Miami, Cuban sandwiches are both a meal or a snack. The best and most authentic Cuban restaurants in Miami have a take out window, so people can walk up to buy a quick cafe Cubano and croqueta preparada (Cuban sandwich made with pork croquetas). Reuben's Cuban Restaurant reportedly has fantastic Cuban sandwiches. In south Florida Cuban Cafes are a home away from home for the Cuban community. Here, order the croqueta preparada.  Ruben's, 8281 SW 124th St., Miami, FL 33156 (305) 235-5575.
A second recommendation in Miami is the Latin American Cafeteria. 9796 SW 24th St., Miami, FL 33165  (305) 226-2393.  
In New York City you can find an excellent Cuban Sandwich on the Lunch menu at The Spotted Pig, 314 W. 11th Street at Greenwich St.  (212) 620-0393
In Chicago check out 90 Miles Cuban Cafe. 3101 N. Clybourn Ave. Chicago, IL 60618, Phone: (773) 248-2822
Until later,
© ARTS&FOOD,( All rights reserved, © Copyright Jack A. Atkinson 2011 Under All International, Digital, Intellectual Property and Copyright Laws. Images © Copyright individual Creators, Lenders or Fabricators.

No comments:

Post a Comment