Playfulness • Crown Fountain • Millennium Park, Chicago, IL • Sculptor: Jaume Piensa • Architect: Krueck & Sexton
The kids who have been here all afternoon know when it’s coming, and press up against the video wall or run out into the direct line of fire on some secret timetable. Then, as a giant face looming above them closes its eyes, a spout, spray and tide of water wash away the cares of anyone within squealing distance of Chicago’s Crown Fountain (the second appearance of a piece from Chicago’s Millennium Park in this little list). It is a watery, wet cycle repeated many times throughout the day, and the kids have it timed to the second, although the adults seem to have no clue to its cascading tides.
But in all its crowd pleasing, it never becomes Disney-fied (not that that’s a bad thing), due to the heroic scale, debt to cool video technology, a bit of hard edge and the serene parade of faces, spouting water like the gargoyles they are meant to harken. Fitting, that reference to a city so indebted to architecture and the building arts.
Part of my respect for this piece also stems from the respect given it by its creators, guardians and visitors. In our nervous, litigious, overly-insured age, there are minimal signs of warning, it is not overly patrolled, and it is kept clean and safe by a citizenry that is stoked by civic pride, not admonished by “No Littering” signs.
Like WaterFire, it is a beautiful deception, making unwitting convert of people who frown upon or fear Art, or bemoan the diversion of public funds into such works. Maybe they do realize it, but are just too busy toweling off a happy, wet and exhausted daughter, son or grandkid to care.