“Forgotten Forms” is a collaborative art exhibit presented by members of the Chicago Cultural Alliance, the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture and the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art. This exhibit, currently on display at the Chicago Cultural Center, is a celebration of the forgotten pieces of urban neighborhoods. “Forgotten Forms” is the work of two emerging Chicago artists, Yhelena Hall and Edra Soto.
Hall and Soto’s “Forgotten Forms” is a clever composition of seemingly everyday objects that play off of each other’s vibrant colors and visual architecture in order to paint a vivid image of neighborhood identity.
Soto pays tribute to her native Puerto Rico by centering the exhibit around the coral-pink patterned concrete blocks or “quiebrasoles,” used as bus shelters in urban areas to shield waiting passengers from the sun. Additionally, the exhibit contains a massive series of pink “rejas,” or iron fences, another colorful feature of urban Puerto Rico.
The exhibit is centered around repurposed concrete found throughout industrial Chicago as the artists seek to “highlight its forgotten presence in city life.” Urban areas, such as Chicago, continue to tear down buildings which carry a historical significance to the development of a city’s culture. Throughout this exhibit, Hall and Soto encourage viewers to question these forgotten items’ importance within the context of neighborhood identity, and place a responsibility on urban residents to recreate these everyday objects as a means of preserving neighborhood identity.
Tucked into a corner of the gallery lies a chunk of repurposed concrete, and this is reminiscent of a time when early urban architecture was comprised of massive concrete structures rather than towering glass skyscrapers. According to author Shelley Moore, “in 1874, the Frear Stone Manufacturing Co. of Chicago began manufacturing G.A. Frear’s patented concrete blocks,” and that, “many of these blocks survived the 1871 Chicago fire.” These concrete blocks not only persisted through the destruction of urban Chicago, but helped to develop the physical reconstruction of urban neighborhoods. This established concrete as an often ignored material of neighborhood identity, both a tool of reconstruction and a reminder of Chicago’s history.
Through its almost nostalgic use of the materials and structures that once dominated urban design and culture, “Forgotten Forms” gives viewers a unique perspective of neighborhood identity in relation to industrialization.
“Forgotten Forms” is presently ongoing at the Chicago Cultural Center through April 7. It is open seven days a week, and admission is free to all guests.