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Public Art in Chicago’s Lakeview Neighborhood

As we continue to explore the dimensions of Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood that make it so unique and dynamic, we’re showcasing one of the community’s most significant ongoing projects, a thoughtful offering of public art to the city, the Lakeview Public Art Program

Because the Lakeview creative community has a long history of celebrating art and culture, even the most casual stroll through the neighborhood reveals an abundance of public art installations. And thanks to the Lakeview Public Art Program, the neighborhood is growing its collection of murals and sculptures, while hosting cultural events and other artistic happenings that support emerging artists. 

The Lakeview Public Art Program is run by the Lakeview Public Art Committee, a diverse group of volunteers responsible for finding forward-thinking, culturally-aware artists. Working in collaboration with Lakeview Roscoe Village Chamber of Commerce and Special Service Area (SSA) 27, the Committee supports and advances the non-profit Friends of Lakeview, an organization dedicated to improving and enhancing public streets and spaces, creating memorable experiences, and promoting the neighborhood.

Many of the artists whose work has been commissioned by the Lakeview Public Art Committee are Chicago natives themselves, like Anthony Lewellen; you can see his mural titled Lake View in the geographical heart of the neighborhood, at the corner of 3241 N. Lincoln Ave. For this mural, the artist took inspiration from memories of growing up in Lakeview. This 4,000 square foot wall painting displays a girl holding binoculars looking at Lake Michigan with the rest of Chicago behind her. The girl personifies the neighborhood itself, as she looks toward a horizon of opportunity.

A mural painted on a the side of a brick building depicts a woman gazing onto Lake Michigan with the skyline of Chicago behind her.
Lake View, Anthony Lewellen, Courtesy of Lakeview Public Art Program

Another mural commissioned by the Committee is Felix Maldonado’s Bears on Parade, which can be seen at  3409 N. Ashland Ave. Maldonado drew inspiration from the fact that in the 18th century, this area of Lakeview was once inhabited by the Miami, Ottawa and Winnebago Native American tribes. Featuring a group of bears and cubs walking through a blue forest, this mural celebrates the neighborhood’s culture and history while also subtly referencing the city’s favorite sports teams. 

With Optima’s commitment to thought-provoking, inspiring art in and around our properties, we are proud to join the Lakeview neighborhood, and celebrate its commitment to public art and talented artists.

Ellison Keomaka’s Art at 7140 Optima Kierland

Pairing unique, tasteful works of art with our buildings is an integral part of design expression with Optima projects. We recently sat down with artist Ellison Keomaka, to discuss the process and inspiration for his most recent contributions to 7140 Optima Kierland. – you can read more about our history with Keomaka here

While creating commissioned artwork for 7180 Optima Kierland last year, Keomaka was simultaneously working on pieces for 7140. “Because I was working on these two bodies of work at the same time, much of the inspiration for the 7140 artwork flowed from what I was creating for 7180,” says Keomaka. 

Armed with an understanding of the building’s design, materiality and sense of space, Keomaka decided to explore a grand palette, bold textures, and adventurous methods — “a playground of color and an exciting experiment,” explains Keomaka. 

Letters From Home at 7140 Optima Kierland
Letters From Home at 7140 Optima Kierland

Partially inspired by his own experience in the military, Letters From Home is an “assemblage work” as Keomaka explains, “that speaks to the emotional stories of soldiers receiving letters from home.” The assemblage includes images from issues of Life Magazine that date back to World War II, with two blocks of bright blue and red that meet to form a shape that resembles the back of an envelope.

Some Kind of Sunset at 7140 Optima Kierland
Some Kind of Sunset at 7140 Optima Kierland

Keomaka’s personal favorite, Some Kind of Sunset captures the idea of the endless shifts in the sun’s position. Working over a period of two months, Keomaka used pearlescent and fluorescent paints to animate the surface of the canvas, allowing the colors to adapt and change with changes in the natural light striking the surface throughout the day.

Desert Dance at 7140 Optima Kierland
Desert Dance at 7140 Optima Kierland

As the title suggests, Keomaka created this piece as a kind of dance that responded to music he was listening to while painting. “Working with music is a big part of my artistic practice,” Keomaka states. “For this work, I was listening to a playlist that included Kanye West, Coldplay and movie soundtracks, and I used my brushstrokes and color choices to respond to the eclectic mix,” he shares.

The Space Between at 7140 Optima Kierland
The Space Between at 7140 Optima Kierland

Comprised of vertical bands of bright colors, The Space Between may seem like it is one of the more simple works of art created by Keomaka for 7140 Optima Kierland. However, color and texture are precisely what make this piece stand out. Keomaka mixed primary colors to create unique hues that live in the spaces between yellow, blue and red, while using a squeegee tool to control the flow and texture of the paint on the canvas to add to the sense of flatness and precision.

Keomaka’s bold and experimental artwork echoes the creative brilliance and ingenuity that we care deeply about at Optima. His ability to translate these artistic gestures into works that activate the public spaces at 7140 Optima Kierland add immeasurably to the beauty and warmth of the interior environment — for residents as well as for all who pass through the building.

An Inside Look at Architect Lingo, Part V

Interior of Relic Rock, Optima DCHGlobal, demonstrating the Corbusian principle of the free ground plan
Interior of Relic Rock, Optima DCHGlobal, demonstrating the Corbusian principle of the free ground plan

An intricate and technical field, the world of architecture produces a unique dictionary of jargon all its own. At Optima, our team works in a highly collaborative atmosphere where we all, from architects to property managers to construction superintendents, share ideas and hold conversations across disciplines — so naturally we all encounter the lingo of our architects. As part of our ongoing series “An Inside Look at Architect Lingo,” today we continue to decode the secret language that we’ve all come to know and love.

Corbusian

Just like the word Miesian from our previous installment in this series, Corbusian is a homological word that nearly explains itself. It refers to anything of, pertaining to, or characteristic of the Swiss architect Le Corbusier. Of the many narratives and philosophies he published, Le Corbusier famously published the seminal L’Espirit Nouveau in 1920, revealing his famous “five points of architecture.”

These five points include the pilots (a grid of concrete or steel columns replaces the load-bearing walls), the roof garden (vegetation or landscaping that covers a rooftop), the free ground plan (the absence of load-bearing walls allows flexible use of the living space, which can be divided by screen elements), the horizontal windows (cut through the non-load-bearing walls along the facade and provide the apartment with even light), and the free façade (pen and closed sections on the façade enable the separation and connection of the exterior design from the building structure). Anything including these characteristics, then is Corbusian.

Rendering of Optima Verdana
Rendering of Optima Verdana

Mullion 

As exotic as the word sounds, the definition for mullion is pretty simple. A mullion is any vertical element that forms a division between units of a window, door, or screen. This division can be both functional or purely decorational. When dividing adjacent window units, the primary purpose of a mullion is to provide a rigid support to the glazing of the window. 

In Modernist architecture then, where endless glass curtain walls abound, the mullion becomes an integral part of maintaining the structural integrity of these all-glass fixtures. 

Muntin

Muntin is not to be confused with the above mullion, though the two do share similarities. Muntin refers to a rabbeted (or recessed) member for holding edges of window panes within a window sash. Muntins are also sometimes called glazing bars or sash bars. These days, muntins are often decorative in nature, ranging from the simple to the complex – often a counterintuitive design element in Modernist disciplines.

However, as you might recall from our blog on the history of glass, at one point in time it was extremely rare to obtain large panes of glass. Everything was built by patching very small and very expensive panes of glass together, and in this context, muntins were extremely critical.

Stay tuned for future features on the world of architecture lingo at Optima.

Sculpture Spotlight: Sundance

As devout fans of Modernism, at Optima we love to experiment with form and function. That’s how Optima Co-Founder David Hovey Sr. got into sculpture. Combining his love of art with his interest in materials, David Hovey Sr. began manipulating steel to create striking sculptural pieces that play to Optima’s architectural spaces. Today, we’re examining one of his sculptures: Sundance.

While many of our sculptures manifest in a variety of sizes and colors, Sundance is notable because of its goliath frame. Standing at thirteen feet tall, this impressive structure and its bold angles make a lasting first impression. The piece expresses the nature of the thin steel plate from which it was fabricated, showcasing structural potential with three-dimensional, dynamic components and an inviting sense of openness.

It’s no coincidence that Sundance is nestled in the landscaped courtyard of Optima Camelview Village. Sundance is built literally and metaphorically to connect to the ground, giving the sculpture context and roots within space. Meanwhile, being swathed in vibrant primary hues, the sculpture plays complement to the property’s red architectural details and the vibrant color palette displayed throughout the gardens.

Another perspective of Sundance sculpture

Whether we’re experimenting with form, function, size or color — at Optima we love to playfully implement sculpture as yet another component of thoughtful design.

The Life and Work of Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse is often regarded as the most important French painter of the 20th century. Leader of the Fauvist movement, his work was expressive, colorful and rigorous, often depicting flattened forms and decorative pattern. He operated with a unique way of seeing, stating, “I don’t paint things, I only paint the difference between things.” To understand the influential work of one of art history’s greatest minds, we first examine his life.

Henri Matisse working on a cut paper collage, a preferred medium in his later years after falling ill.
Henri Matisse working on a cut paper collage, a preferred medium in his later years after falling ill.

Matisse’s Early Life

Henri Émile Benoît Matisse (1869 to 1954) was a draughtsman, printmaker and sculptor, most renowned for his work as a painter. Born to a wealthy grain merchant in Northern France, he first studied law before finding his calling as an artist. His mother gifted him art supplies during his recovery from appendicitis. Through the gift, Matisse discovered “a kind of paradise” in creation, and made the decision to abandon law for a lifelong pursuit in art. 

In the last decade of the 19th century, Matisse studied art in Paris, and was influenced by the work of early masters and modern artists such as Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin and Éduoard Manet. However, an 1896 trip to the island of Belle Île introduced Matisse to Australian painter John Russell, who then introduced Mattisse to Impressionism and the work of Vincent van Gogh, Russell’s dear friend. Seeing the vibrancy of Impressionism and van Gogh’s work, Mattisse’s style transformed with brilliant hues. Of his experience with Russell, Matisse said he, “explained colour theory to me.” 

The Red Room (1908), Henri Matisse.
The Red Room (1908), Henri Matisse.

The Art of Matisse

After time spent learning from Russell, Matisse was plunged into the world of Fauvism at the turn of the century. The style began around 1900, continuing beyond the first decade. Part of an innovative group later dubbed “Fauves,” Matisse explored his new understanding of color through paintings with tones bright, clashing and dissonant from those natural to their subject. Even though he helped to pioneer Fauvism, Matisse never really fit in with the crowd due to his conservative appearance and strict bourgeois work habits. And although the radical movement eventually declined, Matisse nevertheless forged on. 

The work that Matisse created during this period set the stage for the work he would create for the rest of his career. His focus on color continued, explored through what he called “construction by colored surfaces.” Even as his style and subject matter changed from abstract, to decorative interiors, to cut-out paper collages at the end of his life, this approach remained the same.

We are lucky to hang the work of Henri Matisse in our own communities. His consideration of form and color is reflective of our own thought process, and serves as a reminder that while style may change over time, a well-formed approach will always shine through.

 

The Work of Joan Miró

It’s no secret that we love color. We believe that color, like art, brings a new dimension to the beautiful spaces that we design. That’s why the colorful and surrealist work of the Spanish painter, Joan Miró, is a natural fit to enliven the walls of our communities.

Portrait of Joan Miró
Portrait of Joan Miró

The Life of Joan Miró

Miró was born in 1893 in the seaside town of Barcelona. He grew up influenced by the beauty and culture of his city, and surrounded by the arts with a watchmaker father and goldsmith mother. His began drawing as a young child, though he diverted from his true calling when he went to business school for college. After school, Miró worked as a clerk, but quickly found his way back to art, evolving through several styles and artists’ circles and leaving an influential mark in his wake. 

The Art of Joan Miró

Miró’s early work was inspired by Vincent van Goh and Paul Cezanne. By 1919 and his first trip to Paris, Miró began to dabble in geometric, patterned art inspired by the Cubists. In the early 1920s, Miró began to draw inspiration from Sigmund Freud and the Marxists, joining the ranks of the groundbreaking surrealists with work marked by lines, organic shapes and color. Miró himself once said, “I try to apply colors like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music.”

The Red Sun, 1950, Joan Miró at Optima Sonoran Village
The Red Sun, 1950, Joan Miró at Optima Sonoran Village

We are proud to enliven our interior spaces with the art of Joan Miró, and are deeply moved by the power of his works and words. Miró’s work adorns the walls of a handful of units at Optima Sonoran Village, playing off the lively interiors and lush outside landscape. Like Miró, we too, try to apply colors, and art, to shape the beautiful spaces that we design.

Isamu Noguchi Spotlight

For our projects, design doesn’t stop on the outside of our buildings. We carefully curate each and every interior to be an activating space that is at once beautiful and inviting. As part of that careful curation, many of our spaces feature furniture designed by Isamu Noguchi, a Japanese American artist, landscape architect, sculptor and furniture designer.

The Mid-century Modern “Airplane” Bimorphic Coffee Table, designed by Isamu Noguchi, at 7120 Optima Kierland.
The Mid-century Modern “Airplane” Bimorphic Coffee Table, designed by Isamu Noguchi, at 7120 Optima Kierland.

The Style of Isamu Noguchi

Born in 1904, Isamu Noguchi became one of the 20th century’s most critically acclaimed and important sculptors. His sculptural work covered a wide range of creations, spanning from sculptures, gardens, furniture and lighting designs, ceramics, architecture and set designs. Midway through his career, Noguchi became inspired by the idea of a more reduced form, focusing on an abstract and Modernist approach to create intriguing designs that elicited emotional reactions.  

“Everything is sculpture,” Isamu Noguchi once said. “Any material, any idea without hindrance born into space, I consider sculpture.” Noguchi believed that as a sculptor, he could shape space to give it order and meaning, contextualized by the surroundings in which it existed. 

It was only natural that furniture fell into his wheelhouse. Perhaps his most popular work, Noguchi designed a glass-topped table in 1947 to be produced by Herman Miller. The base of the table is made up of two identical wooden pieces, reversed and connected, and topped with a heavy plate glass top. When first sold, the table was marketed in the Herman Miller catalogue as “sculpture-for-use” and “design for production.” Noguchi strongly believed in producing his designs for mass market in order to bring fine art into the home. 

At Optima, we are proud to showcase Noguchi’s furniture within our own spaces, designs which serve to amplify and activate the evocative Modernist exteriors and interiors of our buildings.

 

The Playful Work of Alexander Calder

It’s no secret that we love color at Optima, and we carefully curate our interior furniture, textures and designs to reflect the vibrancy of our spaces. Our curated artwork is no exception, and throughout the halls of projects such as Optima Signature, Alexander Calder’s bright works greet residents with bold tones and distinct shape. A multimedia artist whose influence spans across decades, Calder’s work creates a meaningful connection to a rich piece of art history.

Alexander Calder holds up one of his mobiles.
Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Calder’s Past

Born in Pennsylvania in 1898, Calder came from a family of artists; his grandfather and father both had rich careers as sculptors and his mother was a professional portrait artist. Though his family had artistic roots, they supposedly did not want him to follow in their footsteps. Calder began studying mechanical engineering in New Jersey, bouncing between jobs all while still being inspired by create. By the 1920s, Calder had moved back to New York to pursue a career as an artist. 

Calder’s Artistic Career

After studying in New York, Calder moved to Paris where he studied, established a studio and met his future wife. While living in Paris, Calder joined the ever-growing network of avant-garde artists, including Fernand Léger, Jean Arp and Marcel Duchamp. Throughout his life, Calder maintained a strong connection to France, naming many of his works in French regardless of their location. After a lifetime of impactful creativity and exploration, Calder died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1976, leaving behind an expansive and far-reaching legacy. 

Calder’s Legacy

Over his career, Calder produced a wide range of work, spanning from sculpture, to stage sets, paintings, prints and jewelry. Like previous generations of Calders, he was also a recognized large-scale sculptor. Flamingo, one of his more notable works in Chicago, adorns the Federal Plaza with beautiful form and the famous “Calder Red” color. We’re thrilled and honored to have the works of Alexander Calder throughout our buildings, and hope they bring a bright source of inspiration to those who view and enjoy them. 

 

Optima Sculpture Spotlight: Kiwi

A subtle but enhancing feature of many Optima projects, our sculptures adorn courtyards, amenity floors and common spaces. David Hovey Sr’s devotion to space and form translates from architecture to three-dimensional pieces, which are placed throughout our buildings to add a distinct aesthetic flair to our Modernist spaces. 

Greeting both residents and visitors at the entrance of Optima Signature, the sculpture Kiwi was named after the same bird native to New Zealand, where David Hovey Sr was born. Although the sculpture is reminiscent of an animal, Hovey’s vision was something much more abstract. Starting out as a handful of freehand drawings, the sculpture was layered until it formed a tall, stacked piece. Set against the bold red of Optima Signature, Kiwi’s bright yellow color pops amidst the neutral-toned buildings within downtown Chicago. 

A yellow abstract sculpture, Kiwi, stands before Optima Signature.

The finishing touch on Kiwi’s Optima Signature location was installation; the base was carefully cemented into the ground to protect it from the bustle of downtown and the intense Chicago weather. Aside from its prominent location at Optima Signature, Kiwi is also featured at Relic Rock and Whale Bay House

David Hovey Sr’s passion for sculpture reflects our collective passion for enhancing the spaces we build and exploring new interpretations of form, color and design. Stay tuned for more features on our other sculpture pieces. 

Live Colorfully: How Color Influences Design

Optima buildings are distinguished by our Modernist design, and by our signature pops of color. Because color can influence design, and in turn, influence those that experience our design, the color decisions we make are purposeful and serve to enhance and activate our architecture and the spaces around it. 

Theory and Psychology

Color is fundamental to the Modernist tradition. Much of color theory was born out of the Bauhaus modernist art school, where four artists changed the way we talk about color today: Johannes Itten, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Josef Albers. Itten, particularly, created the color sphere with primary, secondary and tertiary tones, was the first to determine warm and cool tones, and was a pioneer in associating different colors with emotions. 

Today, the study of color and their relationship to human emotion is called color psychology. In the first 30 seconds of viewing an object, our brains make a quick judgment and react to what we see. Color plays a large part in this response; for people, tones and hues are tied to specific emotions and feelings. On a biological/physical level, when we see colors, that vision is transferred over to the brain, which in turn signals to our endocrine system to release specific hormones that create a correlating feeling or mood to what we’ve seen. Armed with this insight, we integrate color into our design solutions to create an emotional impact. But our use of color goes beyond.

Because color can influence design, and in turn, influence those that experience our design, the color decisions we make are purposeful and serve to enhance and activate our architecture and the spaces around it. 

Color in Optima Design

In our Arizonian desert residences, we select hues to complement the vegetation of the desert, seamlessly blending our architecture with its environs; indoor with outdoor. At Sterling Ridge, concrete walls merge with the earth, making the home an extension of the land. The result is a harmonious design, one that enhances our building and the land around it. Orange and red color details serve to give an exciting pop of color against a cohesive, blended pallet.

Because color can influence design, and in turn, influence those that experience our design, the color decisions we make are purposeful and serve to enhance and activate our architecture and the spaces around it. 

In many of our condos and multifamily residences, we use color in the exterior facade to compliment the surroundings of the building. At Optima Sonoran Village, orange, yellow and green details are drawn from actual colors found in the surrounding lush landscaping. The hues were inspired by the area’s desert flowers, serving to draw out the naturally occurring colors of the terrain.  

Color isn’t just important in our building design we incorporate color into all of our design practices, including experimental color play with our sculptures. Often executed in different colors depending on the surrounding space, sculpture is another facet to Optima in which we experiment with shades and hues. Color has a long and storied history, but for us, it’s a continuing exploration that has us learning more each day.

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