CLEVELAND, Ohio – The lunch crowd picnicking at Toby’s Plaza in University Circle’s Uptown district Monday had some unexpected entertainment when a flatbed from Chicago showed up with a giant silver hand aboard.
To be precise, operators from SVI Themed Construction Solutions in Morton Grove, IL, arrived with three separate pieces of a sculpture by Chicago artist Tony Tasset destined to become a centerpiece of the FRONT International Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art.
The SVI crew used a crane to gently place the pieces on patches of lawn at the plaza, just the east of the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, where they’ll be assembled and mounted.
Tasset, 57, who was on hand for the unloading, said he’d spend the rest of the week with SVI joining together the three fiberglass and metal segments and finishing the joints.
“I can’t quite pop the champagne yet, but so far so good,” he said. “I’m feeling relieved with every move. It looks like the original proposal. Sometimes it’s tricky talking about a piece before it’s actually made, so I feel relieved in that way.”
When finished, the 7-ton work will stand 21 feet high and be visible from Euclid Avenue and Mayfield Road. The hand will function as a shelter while also providing fodder for thoughts on the nature of monumentality and power, and depictions of the human body in art.
FRONT, which runs from July 14 to September 30, is a global exhibition with works by more than 100 contemporary artists on view at more than two-dozen collaborating institutions and outdoor spaces across Northeast Ohio, including major museums and galleries.
In addition to Tasset’s sculpture, FRONT is installing outdoor artworks including a giant abstract sculpture at University Hospitals by New York artist Virginia Overton, and a recreation of a giant Op Art mural by the late Julian Stanczak on the Winton Manor Building downtown.
Tasset’s sculpture is a precise enlargement of a cast taken from the right hand of his wife, painter Judy Ledgerwood.
After FRONT, it will remain at the plaza as part of Case Western Reserve University’s John and Mildred Putnam Sculpture Collection.
Tony Eckert, a production manager for SVI, loved the stir he and his employees were creating Monday.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s a beautiful day, people are freaked out. I love it.”
Mardele Cohen, who lives in Cleveland’s Shaker Square area, said she loved witnessing the arrival of Tasset’s sculpture.
“I think it’s wonderful. I’m very excited to watch this become a complete piece of art and see people come and enjoy it,” she said.
She added that she was especially excited about the idea of taking shelter under the hand when it’s finished.
“You can sneak in and just let your mind run wild,” she said, “and get out of your daily rut.”