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The UIC Fine Arts Review Committee chaired by Elise Archias announces Chicago sculptor Christine Tarkowski winner of the EIB public art commission for her proposed work Entropy. The new sculpture will be installed in late 2019.



May 7, 2019

The UIC Fine Arts Review Committee is pleased to announce that Chicago artist Christine Tarkowski has been awarded the Engineering Innovation Building public art commission based on her proposal titled The Second Law of Thermodynamics: ENTROPY. The proposed work consists of a cluster of large glass volumes that will hang on varying lengths of cord from the atrium ceiling above the building’s main entrance, catching the changing light throughout the day and subtly moving in response to air currents through the space. Tarkowski’s process for forging each irregularly shaped volume involves merging glass with metals and other materials using heat, blown expansion, and various acts of physical inscription and embedding. The resulting forms can be organic looking or more geometric and polygonal. They boast a range of colors and surface qualities from green-gray to deep plum and from scaly to shimmering.

The artist’s concept for the work, described in a statement, began with consideration of the ways that “constructing order demands effort” and how “order seems to imperceptibly and irreversibly creep into disorder” as the law of entropy observes. Such thinking is particularly visible in the sculpture in the moments when “steel and copper grids blow out to become in-between geometry, married to the viscous matter” and when the “glass sculptures...become abstracted and less determined, sharp corners evolve into rounded puddles.” Tarkowski’s complex engagement with materials and experimental search for new forms “in between” rational perfection and fluid movement resonates meaningfully with the Engineering research and education that the committee learned will take place in the EIB through extensive interviews with faculty.

The committee felt Tarkowski’s proposal was the most dynamic of the three competitors, with its embrace of both natural-looking components and geometric and industrial ones. Its ornamental qualities, organic-looking textures, and moments of delicacy further provide an aesthetic largely absent from the UIC campus. Such qualities will provide a welcome contrast (without being glaringly disjunctive) to both the modernist steel-and-glass aesthetic of the EIB architecture and the concrete brutalist style of the original Netsch campus built in the 1960s. They might be said to give the campus a welcome bit of jewelry and sparkle, a thought-provoking moment of pleasure, in a place known for hard work and long winters.

Additional strengths of Entropy appreciated by the committee include:

  • The dramatic atrium sculpture will be visible from Taylor Street, and thus more accessible to passersby, contributing to the wealth of public sculpture in the city of Chicago.
  • UIC is pleased to support the success of an emerging local woman artist and provide a role model for female students in Engineering (still a major that predominantly attracts male students.)
  • Tarkowski emphasizes the collaborative nature of her process in an accompanying video. She works closely with a local engineer and a local glassworks.
  • The very high level of craft visible in Tarkowski’s model promises a final work that will be enjoyed for years to come.

The sculpture is scheduled to be installed in late 2019. For further information contact Elise Archias, Assoc. Prof. of Art History and chair, Fine Arts Review committee,