28 years of freedom on the wall – Chicago Reader

What do Cesar Chavez, Ayn Rand, and Harold Washington have in common? They are among the 69 people featured in Adam Brooks’s public art project Freedom Wall, which has been installed on the building at 325 W. Huron since 1994. The text-based installation, which is viewable from the Brown Line’s Chicago stop, has undoubtedly been viewed by many thousands of people over the years—but not for much longer. The parking lot in front of the wall is being developed, which means the project will soon be hidden by another building.

In the lead up to the 1992 U.S. presidential election, Brooks, a longtime professor at Columbia College Chicago and one-half of the collaborative conceptual art duo Industry of the Ordinary, began thinking about putting together a project around the idea of freedom. “Obviously in America in particular, it’s the land of the free,” he says. “The word ‘freedom’ gets bandied around so much, you know, who’s going to be against freedom? But the idea of what freedom was was really interesting to me, because obviously there are as many interpretations of that as there are people.”

He was inspired by the work of conceptual artists like Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer, who often make text-based, public works. He was especially drawn to the way Holzer’s use of text seemed to have multiple voices. “I was interested in that notion of not taking one particular stance, but actually opening up a project to multiple participants with multiple viewpoints,” he says.

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