My current obsession is bold, unapologetic use of color. It’s a summer thing. That craving is being overwhelmingly satiated at the Art Institute of Chicago with their installation on the Bluhm Family Terrace in the Modern Wing entitled “Restless Rainbow” by Pae White. “What would it look like if a rainbow fell from the sky?” asks the Contemporary Artist. My mind goes to a stained glass window, a tile mosaic, or a 3-year-old’s vomit after eating a box of crayons. Fortunately for the sighted, White got the commission and has created a brilliant graphic piece that is a perfect artistic celebration of summer.
The broad, colorful curves of the Restless Rainbow completely blanket the north half of the Terrace. The nature of the installation not only invites you to view and appreciate it as art, but also demands that you experience and interact with it as a space, capable of engaging more of your senses than just sight. It allows you to escape to a vibrant world of color and shape seamlessly fused with the severe and stoic architectural surrounding of the Bluhm Terrace. The simple but acute architectural accents abruptly punctuate the wandering sentence expressively articulated by the Rainbow, giving it a comprehensible syntax as to not be perceived as overwhelming in its broad color spectrum.
There has of course been debate over the installation blocking the multi-million dollar views that can be seen from the Terrace at the Art Institute, especially in the summer when self-absorbed and culturally clueless brides run rampant through the streets. Some have called it an “Evil Eye” or “a clown’s nightmare” (I prefer, if being negative, to think of it as a hurricane hitting Richard Simmons’ house). However, the installation arguably enhances the view—hear me out. After engulfing your senses in a whirl of color and abstract spatial dissonance, the experience culminates in a viewing portal exposing the panoramic expanse of Millennium Park. The heightened anticipation caused by the Rainbow rationing the view makes it even more commanding and an even hotter piece of real estate than it already was.
It could be an important piece for the museum because, not only did it create buzz (which was about 60% of the reason I ran to see it so quickly), but with its brazen presence and digital-age feel it will also attract a viewer that may not frequent the seemingly stuffy, white-walled galleries of an art museum that some deem boring (or perhaps more appropriately worded as “intimidating”). The installation is accessible to a broader spectrum (pardon the pun) of viewers that might not have the education or intellectual or imaginative capabilities to understand or appreciate the other offerings of the Modern Wing. After all, who really “gets” Surrealism? Regardless, it is definitely an experience to see and enjoy before the fallen “Restless Rainbow” finds its way back into the sky after September 20th.