Freedom Wall

1+

Client: Private

Location: Chicago, IL, United States

Completion date: 1994

Artwork budget: $18,000

Project Team

Artist

Adam Brooks

Industry of the Ordinary

Fabricator and installer

William Hutton, Bob Morales

Billboards, Inc., Crown Point, Indiana

Overview

What does Freedom mean, and to whom?

At a time when the notion of freedom is being examined, challenged and redefined in many areas of our culture, as well as globally, it seems appropriate that a public recognition of particular champions and defenders of freedom be carried out.

‘Freedom Wall’ is the largest permanent publicly-sited that Adam Brooks has completed to date. It consists of a solicited list of names of people who represent the idea of freedom in all its potential interpretations. The names were chosen by sending letters of solicitation to approximately 800 selected participants from across the country and by sending direct e-mail over the Internet, which was in its infancy at the beginning of the project. Invited participants included teachers, students, writers, artists, commentators, politicians, civic and religious leaders, and others who felt that the freedoms embodied in the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution need to be recognized and reinforced. Each participant was asked to submit up to three names of individuals that they felt embodied the idea of Freedom, whatever that meant to them.

The work was fabricated using durable enamel paint on vinyl, and is still is exceptionally good condition more than 25 years after its initial installation.

Goals

The artwork was sited in this location because it is directly visible from the Chicago Transit Authority's elevated trains which carry 50,000 people a day past the work.

Process

The names were chosen by sending letters of solicitation to approximately 800 selected participants from across the world and by sending direct e-mail over the Internet, which was in its infancy at the beginning of the project. Invited participants included teachers, students, writers, artists, commentators, politicians, civic and religious leaders, and others who felt that the freedoms embodied in the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution need to be recognized and reinforced.

Additional Information

Reminiscent of Maya Lin’s Vietnam War Memorial, where the representational gives way to language as a primary form, Freedom Wall memorializes seventy individuals, historical and living, who represent the concept of freedom. Each individual’s name is emblazoned in white enamel against an 1,100 square-foot mural made of black vinyl, fusing the cool, spare aesthetics of Minimalism and the linguistic interests of postmodernism. The site of the wall, located in the heart of the River North gallery district, raises issues concerning the commerce of art and freedom of cultural expression. Despite its straightforward presentation, a complex narrative unravels by interpreting what characters appear and in what order. Martin Luther King appears first, having received the most nominations, followed by Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Nelson Mandela, respectively. Jewish author Elie Wiesel is number seventy. Women make up thirty percent of list, and are represented by such figures as Susan B. Anthony, Wilma Mankiller, Margaret Sanger, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Mother Theresa. A blank space represents those participants who found it impossible to respond to the notion of freedom with three names. – Excerpt from article by Susan Snodgrass