With deep affection for Chicago and its commitment to public art, we can’t get enough of the monumental sculptures that abound in the city of big shoulders, from locked-land to lakefront. Today, we’re spotlighting Agrifolia Majoris by Nancy Rubins.
Nancy Rubins is an American sculptor, represented by the global gallery, Gagosian and Rhona Hoffman Gallery. She’s widely known for her otherworldly yet familiar assemblages of objects — toasters, hair dryers, canoes, mobile trailers, cast iron animals, plane parts — the list of objects continues to grow.
As seen with Agrifolia Majoris, Rubins situates these forms in relation to one another using steel wiring, all of them cantilevering over the people that stand beneath them. The tension of these objects bound together investigates their static nature as sculptures, thus revealing their monumentality and ever-lasting plasticity.
Blooming from its concrete base floats Agrifolia Majoris, recently installed (June 2022) just north of legendary Promontory Point on the lakefront in Hyde Park. To the observer or passerby, the sculpture seems to explode into a vortex of metallic animals fabricated from cast iron, each held together solely by steel wiring. This form multiplies into a variety of animals — alligators, hogs, elk, buffalo, and even a horse, much like the equestrian sculpture we recently covered, Impulsion in Scottsdale.
While completed in 2017, the installation at Promontory Point did not go as smoothly as one may have hoped. A supercell storm, with winds clocking in at 84 mph at O’Hare Airport, bypassed downtown Chicago entirely — but swept through Hyde Park instead, causing the installers to seek shelter. This left Agrifolia Majoris to brave the night ungrounded. One hundred and fifty trees fell that night. Thirty of which were found along the Lakefront near 51st Street, but the Majoris remained intact.
Agrifolia Majoris, brimming with character and charm, isn’t the only Rubins work sharing the Chicago spotlight. Dense Bud, located on the North Side in Edgewater, at roughly 5300 N. DuSable Lake Shore Drive, is made of cast iron and a subdued patina of bronze, hinting towards the passage of time. The heavier animals featured — hippos and wolves — spill out of its concrete base. These two sculptures are part of Rubins’ sculptural series Diversifolia (meaning ‘separated leaves‘), and function as “bookends” to the lakefront.