So there’s this famous public art installation smack in the middle of Chicago’s Loop called The Flamingo. You may have seen it featured in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Or maybe you just came across it wandering around the Loop. It’s hard to miss.
Created by noted American artist Alexander Calder, is a 16m tall “stabile” (as opposed to a “mobile” that would move with the wind) located in the Federal Plaza in front of the Kluczynski Federal Building. It was commissioned by the United States General Services Administration and was unveiled in 1974, although Calder’s signature on the sculpture indicates it was constructed in 1973. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)
Notable for its wonderful red colour (“Calder Red”), it stands beautifully juxtaposed against the black steel and glass of the modern and minimalist Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-designed Kluczynski Federal Building.
What’s remarkable about this statue, apart from it’s sheer size, shape and striking colour, is how it changes with the light. When I visited two weeks ago, there were fair-weather clouds blowing through the troposphere (I had to look that one up) above Chicago that were changing the light on a minute-by-minute basis.
Here are three images of the Flamingo shot in quick succession—no more than 50 seconds elapsed between the 1st and last image—and you can see how the quality of the light changes from soft to harsh. And that Flamingo still glows. (My personal favourite is the first one, mostly because of the composition, the slightly more muted tones and softer, less distracting background light.)
It is a challenging subject to capture; installed in a relatively confined space, surrounded by tall buildings, the light doesn’t always hit it quite the way you’d want it to. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to matter.