Happy 100th anniversary to the Michigan Avenue Bridge and the "Mag Mile" at the Elmhurst Art Museum

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Happy 100th anniversary to the Michigan Avenue Bridge and the "Mag Mile" at the Elmhurst Art Museum
Installation view. Photo: Courtesy of Jack Nixon.

ELMHURST, IL.- Thirty-three years ago, Jack Nixon, the creator of “Studies in Light and Form: The Chicago Seven and the Michigan Avenue Bridge Sculptures” had no inkling that in the year 2020, his monumental drawing masterpiece would become so relevant to Chicago’s architectural history.

Christened on May 14, 1920 at the southern foot of the future “Magnificent Mile,” the bridge and its four limestone pylon sculptures would later be highlighted by the Wrigley, Tribune, Carbon & Carbide, Lincoln Tower, and Jewelers Buildings, as well as the newly refurbished InterContinental and London House hotels. The bridge and its towering neighbors are the main illustrative subjects in a one man show currently being exhibited at the Elmhurst Art Museum’s Guild Gallery.

The suite of six drawings produced as one piece of art, having taken four solid years of combined work to complete over a twenty-five year period between 1987-2012, is the vision of the native-born Chicagoan, a current resident of Wilmette, IL. Mr. Nixon’s graphite on paper portfolio is titled - “Classic Chicago: The Art of Architecture,” and will be on display in virtual reality at the new tour link

A contemporary tour de force of chiaroscuro technique produced with soft ebony on Stonehenge sheets and rolls, this gigantic and painstaking opus was conceived as a very special double triptych suite. The two main drawings, "Study in Light and Form: The Wrigley, Tribune, and Medinah Spires" and "Study in Light and Form: The Chicago River's South Side Spires" are 50 x 66" master Photorealist works that are a matching and mirrored pair reflecting a bye-gone era of building design and craftsmanship that may never be seen again in the United States.

Flanked by the four Michigan Avenue Bridge Sculpture drawings "Defense", "Regeneration", "The Discoverers", and "The Pioneers,” the "Wrigley/Tribune" and the "South Side Spires" set of very detailed works document and celebrate the post World War One romantic imagination and construction frenzy of granite, marble, limestone, brick, and terra cotta-clad Neoclassic, Gothic Revival, and Art Deco architecture styles of America's roaring 1920s.

Each of the six drawings is a separate, stand-alone piece that can be enjoyed as such or can be displayed in a variety of combinations. The full suite can also be repositioned with the two "South Side Spires" and "Wrigley/Tribune" triptychs facing each other on opposite walls or in hexagon rotunda. Standing in the middle or in between them creates the 360 degree encircling illusion of viewing the bridge sculptures and the many classic buildings from the north and south banks of the Chicago River - simultaneously.

Set between the "Windy City's" forked Chicago River winding in the west and Lake Michigan seen immediately to the east, and spanning the river between the city's founding two spots (Jean Baptiste Point DuSable's north bank log cabin (1780s) and south bank Fort Dearborn (1803)), the one hundred year old, double deck, double-leaf bascule Michigan Avenue Bridge is the central axis of the most beautifully ornate, most dramatic, and most dynamic urban landscape on earth.

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Happy 100th anniversary to the Michigan Avenue Bridge and the "Mag Mile" at the Elmhurst Art Museum

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