On Sept. 30, 2016, the sculpture processed through the city via flatbed truck, traveling from storage to the Museum of Contemporary Art to its new home, inside the Campus North parking garage at 5525 S. Ellis Ave.
“It’s where a real car can be, the last in a row of parked cars, nearby moving cars and passing pedestrians,” Mehring says of the sculpture’s new site. “That’s what makes for the moment of surprise and shock, of trying to figure out what the heck you are encountering, that is so crucial to this artwork.”
The vehicle’s return also kicked off Concrete Happenings—eight months of free campus exhibitions, performances, film screenings, and symposia that entered a new phase in January 2017, as the University joined the city of Chicago in kicking off the Year of Public Art.
Inserting art into everyday life
A postwar German art specialist, Mehring had often visited an art bookstore near a related sculpture by Wolf Vostell in Cologne. In 1969 the artist had cast concrete around his own Opel Kapitän on a downtown street as a “happening” and then left it parked there. The happening was quintessential Fluxus, an avant-garde art movement that sought to disrupt the ordinary through provocative and participatory performances. “It’s this sense of inserting art into everyday life,” Mehring says, “and having people go, ‘What?’”
Vostell reprised his performance the following year in Chicago, this time encasing a 1957 Cadillac DeVille in concrete on a parking lot near the Museum of Contemporary Art, which had commissioned the “event-sculpture.” Six months later, the museum and the artist gave Concrete Traffic to the University. It lived outside Midway Studios until 2009, when renovation of the studios and construction of the new Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts began.