Jan 7, 2024 - News

A walking tour of Richard Hunt's sculptures in Chicago

Close-up portrait of Richard Hunt.

Richard Hunt in 2021 at the dedication of his monument to Ida B. Wells in Bronzeville. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

We're celebrating the life and work of Chicago sculptor Richard Hunt, who died last month at 88.

The big picture:
Hunt is among the most important American artists of the 20th century, and his sculptures of bronze, copper and found objects often tell stories of African American history.

Context: Hunt grew up in Woodlawn and Englewood and studied at the South Side Community Art Center and Art Institute of Chicago, where his "Hero Construction" greets visitors at the grand staircase.

  • In 1971, Hunt became the first African American sculptor to have a retrospective at MoMA in New York.

What he said: "Sculpture is all about hard work and delayed gratification, and mysterious, harmonious, pleasantly jarring, revelatory spatial structures — having good times and bad times at the same time," Hunt wrote in 2021, according to his website.

Zoom in:
Hunt's influence is global, but it's especially embedded in Chicago's public art landscape.

  • Here are some of Hunt's publicly displayed works:

"Eagle Columns"

📍 1001 W. Wrightwood Ave.

🚈 Red, Brown, Purple to Fullerton 🚌 74

three bronze statues with bare trees behind.
Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

"Eagle Columns" memorializes former Illinois Gov. John Peter Altgeld and poet Vachel Lindsay. Altgeld's career was marred by his pardoning of three men convicted of murder for their role in the Haymarket Riot of 1886.

Of note:
Hunt's longtime Lincoln Park studio is near where the statues sit in Jonquil Park.

Light of Truth: Ida B. Wells National Monument

📍3729 S. Langley Ave.

🚈 Red, Green to 35th 🚌 3

Bronze monuments with people standing in front of it.
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The bronze monument dedicated to the journalist and human rights activist was unveiled in 2021. It sits on the land in Bronzeville where the Ida B. Wells Homes housing project was once located.

"Eternal Flame of Hope"

📍 Soldier Field on East McFetridge Drive

🚈 Red, Orange, Green to Roosevelt 🚌 128 and 146

Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

The steel structure near Soldier Field was created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics, which were first hosted in Chicago in 1968.

"Jacob's Ladder"

📍 9525 S. Halsted St.

🚈 Red to 95th 🚌 95 and 108

Glass atrium with bronze sculpture on a pedestal with one sculpture hanging from the ceiling.
Photos courtesy of Chicago Public Library

Hunt once said the inspiration for the two-piece sculpture at the South Side library was from the "Negro spiritual about Jacob's dream" that leaves "wings and angels more to the imagination."

"Flight Forms"

📍 Midway Airport – 5700 S. Cicero Ave.

🚈 Orange to Midway 🚌 55 and 47

Large bronze statue with highway in the background.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Pyszka at the City of Chicago

Hunt's stainless steel creation greets travelers at Midway Airport and somewhat resembles a bird.

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