Client: Chicago Transit Authority
Location: Chicago, IL, United States
Completion date: 2005
Artwork budget: $100,000
John E. Bannon
Worldwide Global International Inc.
Elizabeth Kelley Karpowicz
Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs
9’ x 13’ x 9’ (2.74m x 3.96m x 2.74m)
Located @ Chicago Transit Authority Headquarters
Twenty-two neon tubes, suspended in the atrium of CTA Headquarters, simultaneously describe three images celebrating four different aspects of the transit authority. When viewed from below, Transit depicts the CTA train and bus system maps. Looking west from the lobby mezzanine, an elevated train appears to depart a station, while the north-facing image is a CTA bus arriving at a stop. The title, Transit, reflects both the subject matter and the action the viewer takes to see the three neon images.
This commission was for the Chicago Transit Authority's new headquarters in downtown Chicago. They were looking for a hanging sculpture in the lobby and were open to ideas incorporating light and requiring electricity. The theme was open as far artists' interpretation, but I took the obvious approach and proposed a sculpture that addressed the main aspects of the CTA: buses and trains coming and going, maps, and movement. I felt this would be an ideal application for the perspective based technique I developed which produces different images depending on the location of the viewer. In order for the viewer to grasp the entire work, they would have to "transit" (which is the CTA's middle name) around the piece and see it from the three primary locations. One of the goals, as with all of my public projects, was to complement and not compete with the new architecture and surrounding environment. In this case, the use of neon allowed for the piece to be clearly visible and not block out the natural light or the view through the wall of windows. The piece is not massive or bulky, but light and airy.
In 2003, I made one of my first perspective-based pieces on the campus of Purdue University North Central. Lee Kelley, who was the head of public sculpture for the City of Chicago at the time, admired it and informed me of the CTA opportunity. I designed and fabricated the entire piece myself with the exception of the aluminum grid. That was fabricated by Adduci Sculpture of Chicago. The installation was done by myself, my wife Vivian, and another neon handler named Mark Wright. Power construction was the company that built the building.
Since completion of this piece in early 2005 there have only been two times where it needed to be maintained and in both cases, in was to replace a transformer, a relatively simple task that was performed by the in-house building engineer. Neon is considered a green technology as far as electricity consumption. It is similar to CFL bulbs only neon tubes can last upwards of 70 years.