JUAN WILLIAM CHAVEZ
(AMERICAN, BORN 1977)
Untitled (Sacred Real Estate), 2012
Laumeier Sculpture Park Commission, with funds from Nancy and Ken Kranzberg, gift of the artist
Untitled (Sacred Real Estate), 2012, was part of Laumeier's 2012 Kranzberg Exhibition Series, Juan William Chávez: Living Proposal: Pruitt-Igoe Bee Sanctuary. The exhibition follows the artist’s field research, spanning two years, exploring the empty lot-turned-urban forest where the infamous and immense Pruitt-Igoe tower blocks in north central St. Louis were built and demolished between 1956 and 1973. The exhibition highlighted creative possibilities for the still unoccupied land at Cass and Jefferson that encourages public dialogue and demonstrates the opportunity for the combination of art, nature and public space to provide a platform for reflection and education.
Untitled (Sacred Real Estate), 2012, assembled from 14 recycled street lampposts and arranged to create a 1:1 scale footprint of a Pruitt-Igoe building, is Chávez’s version of the Native American Mississippian’s “Woodhenge.” It replicates the form of the contemporary reconstruction of the henge, providing a monumental, poetic echo of the collapsed civilization. The towering wooden poles compare modern and prehistoric construction, acknowledging St. Louis’ successes and failures, acting as both functional architecture and a living memorial.
Sculpture Interaction Guideline: Walk Through
Juan William Chávez is an artist and cultural activist whose studio practice focuses on the potential of space by developing creative initiatives that address community and cultural issues. He was born in Lima, Peru, received his B.F.A. from the Kansas City Art Institute and received his M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Chávez has exhibited in galleries and museums nationally and internationally, including Art in General, New York; Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis; Gallery 400, Chicago; White Flag Projects, St. Louis; Harris Lieberman Gallery, New York; and Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands. From 2006 to 2010, he co-founded and served as director for the Boots Contemporary Art Space, a nonprofit organization supporting emerging artists and curators. Since 2010, Chávez has focused on developing socially engaged art projects in North St. Louis, including Urban Expression for the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, the Northside Workshop and the Pruitt-Igoe Bee Sanctuary. His awards include the Art Matters Grant, the Missouri Arts Award and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts Grant. Chávez was named a 2012 Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.