Work No. 1357

Lucy Wang on MOTHERS

By

Posted January 3, 2013

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Martin Creed
Work No. 1357, MOTHERS, 2012
White neon, steel
22.4 x 47.6 feet (6.8 x 14.5 m)
Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York
Installation view, Martin Creed Plays Chicago, MCA Chicago, 2012
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

As a teenager, I have ambivalent feelings about MOTHERS. On one hand, the work is reminiscent of my mother hovering over me, constantly watching and never missing a thing. On the other hand, I’m glad to have someone who’s always here to take care of me. Either way this work pays a well-deserved tribute to our mothers and the all-encompassing role they played in our lives as children. On second thought, what if Martin is questioning our undying devotion to our mothers? What if he’s asking us if we can over-praise (if that’s even a word) or over-value our moms? What if he’s making a statement on how we all focus on the mother and not the father? (Compare Mother’s Day festivities to Father’s Day ones.) Maybe I’m overthinking it now. Maybe he just wanted to make a nice spinning sculpture.

Mia DiMeo on MOTHERS

By

Posted December 20, 2012

BuildingAtNight_20120827_41

Martin Creed Work No. 1357, MOTHERS, 2012. Courtesy of the
artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York. Installation
view, Martin Creed Plays Chicago, MCA Chicago, 2012. Photo:
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

In sans-serif neon caps a single-word marquee spells out the origin of us all. M-O-T-H-E-R-S spreads above the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s plaza on a steel pedestal that spins the letters high enough to keep anyone standing below from losing their heads but low enough to still feel dangerous. It’s the mother of all mothers monumentalized, and artist Martin Creed has said of Work No. 1357, MOTHERS that the size of the word is meant to reflect the ultimacy of the relationship as well as the physical scale of a baby in utero. Envisioned to inhabit a public space, MOTHERS is the amplified version of the pithy conceptual language Creed uses in his life and art. Unlike the smaller text in works like Work No. 845 (THINGS), the glowing characters, with their stark presence over the open space, feel ominous, as if declaring an unknown wrath in rhythmic rotations—have you cleaned your room, have you spoiled your appetite, have you called your mother today? In plural form the word is all-inclusive and anonymous: mothers are both yours and mine but not just yours and mine. The term envelops an archetype of a life-giving nurturer and elicits the psychological complexity of a relationship that begins even before the umbilical bond is severed. Even when they do not fit this ideal, the concept of a mother is something we return to—like soldiers dying on a battlefield, we cry out for them.

Creed acknowledges the sentimental strength of the word but recognizes looming maternal power as frequently being the most confounding and overbearing of familial relations. “Words are work,” he says. “Words are things, shapes.” Visceral associations and anecdotes must strike passersby when they catch sight of Creed’s big word. They must tear it apart: Mother ship, Motherland, Motherf**ker, Motherhood, MOTH, OTHERS, HERS. Something women are built to be. Something women shouldn’t have to be. Something I don’t want to be. A familiar word outlined and hollow, its letters framing the sky, with no easy answers despite the artist’s seeming straightforwardness. Like motherhood itself, art is a thing that is hard work.

As 2012 comes to close, so too does Martin Creed’s yearlong residency at the MCA. A lot of our visitors chose to share their experiences of Martin Creed’s work on the web so we’ve selected some of our favorite responses to include here. Though we couldn’t include everything we loved, we tried to. Logically some works attracted more attention than others (say, the huge neon sign rotating on our plaza) so not all of Martin Creed’s pieces are represented. The following tweets are in roughly chronological order, beginning with the most recent. If you have a good photo you’d like to share with us, please leave a comment below, or let us know on Twitter or Instagram, @mcachicago.


This is the 3rd ball of paper I’ve seen @mcachicago today w/o reference on object labels. is someone playing a prank?

 

MCA Visitors on MOTHERS

Posted December 13, 2012

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For this issue’s installment of visitor comments, we asked vendors and passersby at our Tuesday Farmers’ Market for their reactions to MOTHERS.

“What’s neat is it generates a lot of ideas and questions, which is what art is supposed to do.”

“I think of plants and food because I’m growing things, and everything comes from the mother.”

“Why does it say mothers? Why not fathers? Both parents are special.”

“I saw a couple of mothers pointing at it with their babies, which is cool. Good picture opportunity.”

“I did not think it would look like that. I saw it going up last week. But it’s cool.”

“Definitely not what I expected. It’s kind of random that it just says ‘mothers.’”

“It’s pretty awesome. It’s really orderly out here, but the rust of the sign takes you to another place.”

“I don’t know what to think. What does it do? It turns around. I don’t get paid to turn around.”

“How heavy is it? Is that support sufficient?”

“I do like it, but I have no idea what it might mean or imply. But aesthetically, I like it.”

“Can’t go wrong with a theme like mothers.”

“I think it’s kind of cool, especially when it’s moving, but what does
it mean?”

“Why only mothers? Why not women in general?”

“I like it because I’m pregnant. Baby is on the mind.”

“My first thought was, ‘Hey! I’m one!’”

“It’s a very strong statement.”

“I mean . . . it’s just plain cool.”

“The piece is very applicable to us. We’re on a mothers’ getaway weekend.”

“I appreciate the kinetic aspect of the piece.”

“Honor your mother!”

“Where’d they get the beams to make sure it’s structurally sound?”

“I didn’t understand it at first and I still don’t. You know, like, why does it rest on that pedestal? Things like that.”

“Mothers make the world go around.”

MCA Visitors on Work No. 1357, MOTHERS

Posted November 27, 2012

Creed-MOTHERS-162

Martin Creed
Work No. 1357, MOTHERS, 2012
White neon, steel
22.4 x 47.6 feet (6.8 x 14.5 m)
Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York
Installation view, Martin Creed Plays Chicago, MCA Chicago, 2012
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

“Why only mothers? Why not women in general?”

“I like it because I’m pregnant. Baby is on the mind.”

“My first thought was, ‘Hey! I’m one!’”

“It’s a very strong statement.”

“I mean . . . it’s just plain cool.”

“The piece is very applicable to us. We’re on a mothers’ getaway weekend.”

“I appreciate the kinetic aspect of the piece.”

“Honor your mother!”

“Where’d they get the beams to make sure it’s structurally sound?”

“I didn’t understand it at first and I still don’t. You know, like, why does it rest on that pedestal? Things like that.”

“I like being able to be under it. I also loved the idea of a big neon THING going around and around and beaming out at night.”

“Mothers make the world go around.”

If you walked past the MCA plaza sometime in the last few weeks you may have noticed some construction work going on. In early August, the pace accelerated and Martin Creed’s Work No. 1357 MOTHERS quickly took shape.

Here is the story in photos.

All images: Martin Creed: Work No. 1357, MOTHERS, 2012 (MCA Chicago Plaza Project, install in progress). White neon, steel. 22.4 x 47.6 feet (6.8 x 14.5 m). Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York. Photo: Abraham Ritchie, © MCA Chicago.