Martin Creed's MOTHERS at Museum of Contemporary Art

Martin Creed, MOTHERS, 2012.

Martin Creed, MOTHERS, 2012. Photograph: Courtesy of Martin Creed and Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York.

Since January, Martin Creed has served as artist in residence at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Winner of the Turner Prize in 2001, the British artist is probably best known today for his Work No. 1197: All the bells in a country rung as quickly and as loudly as possible for three minutes. This event/performance piece took place on July 27 when British citizens rang bells across the U.K. to announce the opening of the London Olympics. (Yep, it was more than a publicity stunt.)

Creed’s work defies easy categorization—he seems to tackle everything from painting and sculpture to music and performance. Over the past eight months of his MCA residency, Creed has created pieces using video, text, found objects and house paint. He even recorded an album at Soma Electronic Music Studios.

Creed’s latest Chicago project was unveiled this past Friday on the MCA’s front plaza. Billed as Creed’s “most ambitious neon project to date,” Work No. 1357 (MOTHERS) is a huge (20 feet tall by 47 feet long) steel and neon sculpture emblazoned with the letters M-O-T-H-E-R-S.

Atypical of Creed’s earlier neon works, MOTHERS is kinetic—it rotates on a central axis like a 1950s roadside motel sign. The overall aesthetic is far from flashy, however. The white, san-serif letters and dark painted steel are as stripped-down as Chicago’s Miesian skyscrapers.

In an MCA press release, Creed explains a bit of the concept behind the scale of MOTHERS: “Mothers are always bigger than you are.… It feels like mothers are the most important people in the world.” It’s an obvious yet cryptic statement, open to interpretation. (Are we talking about nurturing mothers or motherfuckers?)

But that’s the enigma—and the fun—of Martin Creed’s art.

Martin Creed’s residency at the MCA, Martin Creed Plays Chicago, runs through December.

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