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Willis Tower

René Romero Schuler

Sculpture: (From left to right) Dann Nardi, Untitled (Gold Leaf Oval), 2010, wood and gold leaf. Dann Nardi, Untitled (Orange Oval), 2010, wood. Dann Nardi, Untitled (Gold Leaf Oval), 2010, wood and gold leaf.

Incredible art can be found, not just in the museums and galleries of our city, but in the offices, hotels, hospitals, and lobbies of all kinds that we encounter everyday. I paid a visit to the amazing Willis Tower last week after receiving an invitation to the unveiling of the current exhibition featuring the works of Ulli Rooney, Dann Nardi, and Vera Klement. The exhibition, which runs until November 5th, 2010, was commissioned by U.S. Equities Asset Management, and curated by Chicago’s Emily Nixon, of Nixon Art Associates, Inc. This show reflects the overall vision of US Equities, and Nixon has truly applied her expertise in bringing visions to reality. Robert Wislow, Chairman & CEO of U.S. Equities Realty has an affinity for the arts and serves on the boards of several arts organizations, including, at one time, the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Sculpture: Dann Nardi, Identity,1992, redwood.

Gary Michon, Vice President at U.S. Equities Asset Management and General Manager of Willis Tower, escorted me through the vast spaces of the exhibition. Each artist was well represented throughout the spaces with large, well-placed installations of their work. What really struck me, though, was how seamlessly everything flowed. There are over 10,000 people working in the Willis Tower every day of the week, plus an additional 10,000-12,000 visitors, all passing through these lobbies and experiencing these beautiful and thoughtfully displayed works of art. US Equities has gone so far as to create peaceful seating areas, where one can truly take in the magnitude of the incredible examples of works by three prominent and established Chicago artists.

Ulli Rooney, a native of Latvia, is a well-known Chicago painter whose minimalist paintings are responses to the midwestern landscape. Rooney’s technique has been described as Non-Objective Abstract Expressionism and she employs a broad, multi-directional technique of adding color upon color on her canvases creating a highly lacquered surface.

Paintings (From Left to Right) Ulli Rooney, Cardinal, 2003, oil enamel on canvas. Ullli Rooney, May, 2006, oil enamel on canvas.

Illinois native Dann Nardi has exhibited his sculpture both nationally and internationally. His work can be found in numerous public and private collections throughout the United States including Coca Cola and Phillip Morris. He was also one of the first artists to be featured in the local sculpture symposium “Sculpture Chicago.” Nardi received a BS and MS from Illinois State University and has garnered recognition throughout his career, including awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council Fellowship.

Vera Klement is a highly regarded and influential artist who has worked for over 40 years in the city of Chicago. She was born in the free city of Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland) and immigrated to New York City, training at the Cooper Union School of Art at the height of Abstract Expressionism. In 1964 she moved to Chicago to work as an artist and was a professor at the University of Chicago from 1969 to 1995. Her work is included in many major collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Smart Museum at the University of Chicago.

Sculpture: Dann Nardi, Untitled, 1993, cast concrete and silver leaf.

And allow me finish this discussion of Willis Tower by pointing out one hard-to-miss work of art that has been in the lobby of this building since 1974: “The Universe” by Alexander Sterling Calder, weighing in at an astounding 16,174 pounds, was commissioned by Sears, Roebuck and Company via Mr. Bruce Granger of Skidmore Owings & Merrill, architect of Sears Tower (now Willis Tower). The motorized sculpture is comprised of five parts: an upright spine with ten pennant-shaped flags colored red, yellow, blue and black; three flowers colored red, blue and black; a black pendulum; a sun shape painted red, orange and black; and a black helix. Twenty feet above the floor, the swinging, rotating and pendulous movements of the Calder piece recall the perpetual motion of the elements of the universe, and it helps set the tone for the awe-inspiring works of art to be found within the historic building.