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Latina sculptor’s work aims to ‘celebrate life’

Workers install “TabachRibbon” by Yvonne Domenge last month Millennium Park. | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times

Workers install “Tabachin Ribbon” by Yvonne Domenge last month in Millennium Park. | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 8, 2011 12:20AM

Chicagoans love the city’s public sculptures. Not that we sit around and talk about sculpture all the time, but we cherish a handful of pieces that are intrinsically linked to the city and as famous as some of our emblematic buildings.

When family or friends visit from out of town, we parade them along the city’s many public art landmarks, beginning with Picasso’s iconic monumental cubist sculpture. We challenge them to figure out if the Picasso in Daley Plaza is a bird, a horse or a woman — as Picasso’s grandson tried unsuccessfully to explain at one point.

Next, we head over to Alexander Calder’s “Flamingo” in the Federal Plaza, with its intense red contrasting exuberantly with the glass and black steel buildings that surround it.

Most recently, the “Cloud Gate” in Millennium Park became an instant attraction, with its familiar shape and reflections. We affectionately call it “The Bean” despite the insistence of Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor that we call it by its formal — but not necessarily more poetic — name.

Now, Chicagoans and visitors alike have a chance to walk among six amazing sculptures created by internationally renowned Mexican sculptor Yvonne Domenge, the first woman and Latina artist to exhibit at the Boeing Galleries in Millennium Park.

Domenge’s monumental pieces are on display in Millennium Park through October 1st. The exhibition, titled “Interconnected: The Sculptures of Yvonne Domenge,” is presented by the National Museum of Mexican Art and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.

It’s the last event of “Mexico 2010,” a yearlong celebration of the bicentennial of Mexico’s independence and the centennial of its Revolution. “Mexico 2010” included 70 events organized by some of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the city, including the Art Institute, the Goodman Theater and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The series has aimed to connect Chicago’s Latino community with the city at large and to encourage a greater appreciation of the diversity of Mexican culture.

Domenge’s show consists of four monumental pieces. The largest piece, “Tree of Life,” a bronze sculpture painted red is 16 feet tall and displayed in the North Boeing Gallery, along with two smaller companion pieces — or “seeds.” On display in the South Boeing Gallery are three large steel spheres — “Tabachin Ribbon,” “Wind Waves” and “Coral” — that intrigue by means of vibrant colors and intricate and fluid forms.

Domenge’s work seeks beauty as expressed in the universal language of geometry, using diverse materials such as diverse bronze, carbon, steel, silver, stone and cement.

“Geometry provides me with freedom and order. My most important teacher is nature,” Domenge told me in a recent phone interview from Mexico City. “Nature creates wonderful molecular structures in flowers and plants. Geometry surrounds us.”

The spheres, Domenge said, are her attempt to convey the harmony and perfection of the cosmos.

“We are privileged to live within this order and beauty,” she said. “My work celebrates life.”

The Mexican sculptor hopes that visitors to her exhibit will experience a “festival of color and form” and take a break from the seemingly never-ending bad news of late in the world. Domenge is no stranger to chaos, living and working in one of the largest cities in the world.

Now that spring is finally here, take the family for a stroll in Millennium Park and enjoy the work of Yvonne Domenge, which fits quite nicely — if only temporarily — with all of Chicago’s other amazing sculptures.

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