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Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

Color Jam maintenance | The Scene


Monday, July 16, 7:39pm Before the 76,000 square feet of vinyl comprising Color Jam was installed in June at State and Adams Streets, artist Jessica Stockholder’s vision of a “three-dimensional painting” had already been compromised. Transportation officials worried that saturating the whole intersection in blue, green and red, entire stoplights included, could be a traffic hazard. Halfway through its four-month display, which ends September 30, the $500,000 artwork’s appearance—and therefore its intention to alter our perception of urban space—is being jeopardized by sheer wear. In the eyesore’s high-traffic areas like the crosswalks, the vinyl’s paint has worn off, revealing a shiny, foil back. “We’re still grappling with how to address that,” says Philip Barash, director of marketing and development at the Chicago Loop Alliance, which commissioned Color Jam. “It may be as easy as painting. It may be more complex like finding a new material.” To combat those pesky black gum spots, employees of the Safer Foundation, which puts ex-cons to work, mop the piece nightly. Color Jam janitor Michael Washington (pictured) says he’s cleaned gobs of spit and vomit off the piece with a neon-green Mr. Clean solution. “Some guy was sitting here begging,” Washington says, “and was like, ‘Put some kitchen cleanser on it.’ Not on this material!”

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