What is the deal with the art at Cermak Plaza?

The David Bermant Foundation: Color, Light, Motion was established in 1986 to encourage and advocate experimental visual art which draws its form, content and working materials from late twentieth-century technology.

Founded by David W. Bermanthttp://cermakplaza.com/davidbermant who began to build in 1965 a collection that has become the pre-eminent private assemblage of work from this genre, the Foundation is devoted to fostering the efforts of artists working with non– traditional materials. These materials include physical sources of energy, light and sound, which are used in works that question and extend the boundaries of the visual arts.

To make sure the art form he loved should continue to flourish beyond his lifetime, he established and funded the David W. Bermant Foundation: Color, Light, Motion.

You can visit the David W. Bermant Foundation here: http://db.artscicenter.com

Below is a list of art that is currently on display at Cermak Plaza or has been displayed in the past.

Note: Although many of these pieces were loved by patrons of Cermak Plaza: the weather, vandals and the complexity of moving parts conspired against a longer useful life.  Many had to be decommissioned because they were not designed to be exhibited out doors.

Title                                                                                                                                         Artist

Albatross III                                                                                                               Dustin Shuler

Albatross II              

Spindle                                                  Wind-Da-Ma-Jig      Albatross III

Spindle                                                                          Wind-Da-Ma-Jig      Albatross II

Dustin Shuler was born in 1948 in the borough of Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. From 1968 through 1971 Shuler attended evening art classes at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now known as Carnegie Mellon University) while working full time in heavy industry for the Westinghouse Electric Corporation. In 1971 he left Westinghouse to devote fulltime to his art career. In 1973 Shuler migrated to Southern California. Dustin Shuler died of cancer May 4, 2010 in his California studio.

Bee Tree                                                                                 George Rhoads

George Rhoads was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1926 and graduated from the University of Chicago. His work has been shown on national TV shows and is part of the permanent collections of such museums as the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Chicago Art Institute.

Big-Bil-Bored                                                                   Nancy Rubins

 Under Construction                                           Yankee Doodle

Big-Bil-Bored perhaps created the most controversy of any of the sculptures displayed at Cermak Plaza with even Judy Barr-Topinka the future State of Illinois Treasurer weighing in with an opinion.  Some residents in the City of Berwyn saw the piece as an attack by cultural elites on their working class traditions.  An advisory referendum was held in March of 1990, which resulted in 1,662 people voting to keep the sculpture, while 6,379 voted to remove it. David Bermant hired the Gallup Organization to take a pole and it revealed a smaller split for those in favor of removal.  It was installed in 1980 and removed in 1993.  The supporting structure was excellent however the method used to cement the pieces into the whole did not hold up well with the freeze thaw cycle and the vibrations from nearby Harlem Avenue.

Byzantine Solution                                                           Mattie Berhang

Crosswalk & Handicap Parking Stall Designs                                    Maura Sheehan

Picture coming soon.

An imaginative take on crosswalks and handicap stall indicators.  Maura Sheehan painted images within the crosswalks to resemble those on a famous Greek vase “The Panathenaic Amphora Footrace” on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY.

Dancing Trees II (traveling exhibit)                                David Durlach

Dancing Trees was a traveling exhibit that split time between Cermak Plaza in Berwyn, IL; Hamden Plaza in Hamden, CT; Allendale Shopping Center in Pittsfield, MA; West Erie Plaza in Erie, PA and Santa Barbara CA.

“The Dancing Trees sculpture is a kinetic landscape that is controlled so one can compose for it as one composes music or dance.  It is a nine by nine grid of cactus-like objects made of permanent magnetsaffixed to an underlying tray and covered with iron powder.  The invisibility and silence of magnetism causes the viewer to project “life” into the sculpture.  The iron powder is very light, organic looking and has a very fast response time, thus allowing a choreography with a wide range of motions.  It is also self-organizing into thousands of fine strands which look very much like animal fur.”

ARTIST BIO: David Durlach lives and works near Boston Mass.  He attended Princeton University where he learned something about mathematics, physics, electrical engineering, and computer science.  He is an artist, engineer, teacher, inventor, and humanist.  He believes that his scientific training combined with his aesthetic intuition enables him to use rich new expressive mediums to create beauty and thus inextricably link technology and feeling.  He terms the results “Affectionate Technology”.

Videos can be seen here:




Drum Yard                                                              Bill & Mary Buchen

Bill and Mary Buchen design public art installations and interactive sound sculptures for parks, schools, science centers, transit stations, children’s museums, playgrounds and Cermak Plaza. Their artworks invite active play and group participation.

Out Of The Fire Into The Frying Pan/Eggbeater                  John Billingham & Norman Culp

A riff on the zoetrope conceptualized by Norman Colp and crafted by John Billingham.  Colp is best known for his installation, Commuter’s Lament, at the Times Square Subway Station. Billingham has had an intriguing career that has included crafting weather vanes and creating professional models for industry and entertainment.

Electricity/High Tide Over Geary                                                        Cork Marcheschi

Cork (Louis) Marcheschi was born in San Mateo, California in 1945 and has had exhibitions in various museums in the United States and Europe. During the past several years he has completed public and corporate commissions in Seattle, St. Paul, Toronto, and Washington, D.C.

The Embrace                                                                                              Gina Gilmour

Gina Gilmour grew up in North Carolina and earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Sarah Lawrence College

Ever Blooming Night & Day Flowers                  James Seawright

James Seawright, celebrates the space-age technology of the early 80s by using it to create sculptures that reflect the forms of nature. These flowers would “bloom” through computer controlled programs. Light emitting diodes (LED) were the means through which the night flowers displayed their patterns of life, while the movement of a daytime flowers are evoked by the use of plastic disks and innovative mechanical devices.

James Seawright was born in 1936 in Jackson, Mississippi, was director of visual arts at Princeton University at the time the work was created. One of the foremost technological artist since the late 1960s, some of his major pieces are in the permanent collection of the museum ofmodern Art, the Whitney Museum, the Guggenheim Museum of New York City, the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, the New Jersey State Museum at Trenton, and other museums throughout the world.

Floating McDonalds                                                                              James Wines

James Wines is principal partner in the architectural firm SITE, an acronym for “Sculpture in the Environment.” SITE has designed buildings, often showrooms for Best Products, all over the United States. Wines was the Chairman of the Department of Environmental Design at New York’s Parsons School of Design.

Additionally, SITE designed the “Ghost Parking Lot”

Ghost Parking Lot                       Hamden Plaza                 Hamden, Connecticut

Good Time Clock                                                                                    George Rhoads

Growing up in Chicago, Rhoads’ had described his childhood fascination with a display of enlarged clock installations at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago’s Jackson Park. He combined that with his interest in the roller coasters at Riverview Park in Chicago. Rhoads hired Robert McGuire to help construct his sculptures in a working relationship that lasted over thirty years.

George Rhoads created at least 5 variations on the “Good Time Clock” for David Bermant including other pieces at Hamden Plaza in Hamden, CT; West Erie Plaza in Erie, PA and one installed at the Santa Barbara Airport in Santa Barbara CA.  A Rhoads rift on the Good Time Clock was installed as the backdrop to the elevator to the lower level of Allendale Shopping Center in Pittsfield MA known as “Having a Ball” which used golf balls as a substitute for the pin balls.  The Cermak Plaza “Good Time Clock” has been completely restored by Mike Helbing Studios.


Helicopter                                                                                               Steve Gerberich

From a pack rat’s treasure trove of motors, toys, and other bric-a-brac, Steve Gerberich builds some of the most entertaining contraptions you’ve ever seen. An alchemist of odds and ends, he’s always searching for possibilities: a plastic dinosaur for this, a lampshade for that. He spins them all together in an elaborate call and response; call it a dialogue between mechanical memories and active imagination.

The Pictures below are of the Gerberator in action completing a restoration of the Helicopter in the former Service Merchandise building before it was redeveloped to accommodate Meijer.

Some of Steve Gerberich’s other work can be seen here:http://www.gerbomatic.com

Kettle Head Choir                           Steve Gerberich

Steve Gerbich is a self-proclaimed lover of hand tools or any useful invention without a power cord, Gerberich turns discarded labor-saving devices into a wealth of fantastical sculptures. It’s ironic that the tasks now assigned to these items are labor intensive and complex. Push a button or spin a crank and these marvels come alive: buzzing, whirring, squeaking, humming, clanking, chugging, flashing, and blinking. From the Kettle Head Choir to the Springs, Sprockets & Pulleys collection, this is analog work for the digital age.

His famed Brooklyn studio – a Williamsburg laboratory of thingamabobs whose compatibility is always being tested – holds a vast and odd collection of recycled resources. From moose heads to hand beaters he finds magical uses for all. And his processes aren’t secret. He leaves an open invitation for friends to join him in his experiments. Come on in and get Gerbo-ized. There’s always work in progress.


Below Steve inspects his creation after installation at Cermak Plaza:

Lunatic                                                                                   George Rhoads

Lunatics was an assemblage of clock movements with reflective white circles on the end of each hand.  The hands ticked around in different positions and at different speeds to make looking at the whole seem like a crazy collection of dots moving around in a box.

George Rhoads was born on January 27, 1926. George began drawing birds and trains at the age of 2 and as he aged he was constantly building or inventing new things. An exhibit of clock escapements at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago first inspired him to take watches apart. When George Rhoads was a little boy, he took clocks apart to see how they worked. By 10, he was making calendar clocks of his own out of wood, pennies, and soldered bits of metal sheeting.  As a teen, he took apart watches and clocks and made some of his own.   In 1943, at the age of 17, Rhoads studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago and then in Paris.

Millennium Fountain/Garden                                                                          Joy Wulke

Mirror I                                                                                James Seawright

James Seawright, born in 1936 in Jackson, Mississippi, is Director of Visual Arts at Princeton University. Recognized as one of the foremost technological artists since the late 1960s, his works are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum and the Guggenheim Museum of New York, the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, the New Jersey State Museum at Trenton, and other museums throughout the world.

Moon Bells II                                                                              Barry Miller

Moonstone-Rosetta Series                                                           Clyde Lynds

Clyde Lynds, whose work incorporates fiber optics, was born in 1936 in Jersey City, New Jersey. He has participated in numerous solo and group gallery and museum shows throughout the world including New York, Toronto, London, Basel and Tokyo. He is included in numerous public and private collections and has received many awards, the most recent of which was a 1984 fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

Morton Art Department Mural                                Morton High School, Berwyn, IL

Moving Rock #21                          Rikuro Okamoto

All of Mr. Okamoto’s “Moving Rock” pieces were based on an actual rock from New York City’s Central Park.  David Bermant commissioned at least 4 “Moving Rock” works and each time he went with Mr. Okamoto to Central Park.  Together they chose the original on which to base each art piece.

Born in Tokyo in 1943, Rikuro Okamoto has taken part in exhibitions at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art and other museums and galleries. His work is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The Next One                                                            Jeff Zimmermann

Mural on rear wall at Harlem Avenue: 120′ X 20′

Next One Jeff Zimmerman Mural

A native of Chicago, Jeff Zimmermann has achieved national and international recognition for his large scale murals featuring painted images of contemporary pop culture and sensitively rendered portraits. Zimmermann’s pop-culture references range from innocuous consumer products such as beer cans, hard candy rings, and high heeled shoes, to more symbolically charged images like pistols and portraits of political figures. The images are discrete and floating, knitted together by geometric areas of flat color. The overall aesthetic is smooth and sensual: shiny metal and glossy surfaces, rendered in saturated colors. Zimmermann’s paintings have the sex appeal of commercial art, and any irony surrounding that connection is light and playful. The artist’s background as a graphic designer explains his shrewd use of flashy and graphic forms which also permeate the mass media (Zimmermann’s self-proclaimed competition), operating on the theory that we all deeply love flashy stuff.

Presenting his subjects with something that borders on reverence, their humanity remains intact. In the end, the artist’s process of culling the communities surrounding the sites for his public artworks communicates ideas that are bigger than any one person.

Some of Jeff Zimmerman’s other art can be seen here:http://www.jazim.com/nextone.html

Yellow Pinto Pelt                                                                             Dustin Shuler

The Pinto Pelt needing a paint job.

Dustin Shuler created many car themed art works including the world famous Spindle at Cermak Plaza.  A lot of the creations car creations were part of the Skinned Car Series including: Auto Pelt 1964 356C Porsche; Auto Pelt 63 VW; Green Pinto Pelt at Hamden Plaza in Hamden Connecticut; Bumper to Bumper; Vehicles Transcending the Millenium and Pacer Pelt

And also a The Sea Bee previously installed at Allendale Shopping Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

See Bee                            Dustin Shuler

Plane Crystals                                                                                              Clyde Lynds

Spindle                                                                                          Dustin Shuler

Rivers of ink and forests of trees have been sacrificed on the topic of The Spindle a car kabob that was located at Cermak Plaza between 1989 and 2009.  Shuler’s idea came from a phone message spindle where you spiked the paper message on the spindle after the call had been returned.   The Spindle was a major roadside attraction and controversial piece of publicly displayed art when it was first constructed.  However, the event that really put the Spindle on the map (and Dustin Shuler) was the movie Wayne’s World and the music video to Queen’s re-release of Bohemian Rhapsody.  As with everything related to the Spindle, this created friction between Dustin Shuler who did not approved of all the publicity and David Bermant who welcomed the extra traffic from people making pilgrimages to the shopping center from all over the world.  David and Dustin smoothed out their differences with a new fax machine for Dustin and more art for David.

As with some of the other art pieces at Cermak Plaza exposed to the elements, the Spindle suffered deterioration, rusting and the acid in the pigeon poop especially corroded the metal on the cars.   Discussions with Dustin about the deteriorating condition of the cars and structural concerns regarding the collapsed frame on the Ford (2nd car from the bottom) started in 2006.  Initially plans were vetted for moving the entire structure with a crane however the piece would not have been able to withstand the stresses.  Then analysis was made for replacing the piece with an updated version however the $250,000 price tag and issues with allowing the piece to be used in more films and other media eventually quashed the project.

In 2006 the Berwyn Arts Council held its first art car celebration: CARTOPIA

Spindle Cartopia

Spindle Cartopia

Critical Mass “Save the Spindle” ride on July 27, 2007

Spindle Tattoo

Spindle Save The Spindle Rally

Chicago Critical Mass “Save The Spindle” Ride video:https://youtu.be/lEH8MfoJNX0?t=3m34s

Spindle Demolition https://youtu.be/bfo80S2kvbY

Snake Dancers                                                                            Joy Wulke

Susan’s Garden                                                        Susan Hopmans

Susan’s Garden Mural                                              Susan Hopmans

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Mills College, with Yale Art School training and a Masters in Art from Hunter College, New York, Susan Hopmans worked as a professional artist in New York for four years. She returned to California in 1976 to begin a new career as a nursery school teacher. In 1980 she also received her state certification as a Marriage, Family and Child Counselor.

Tempus Fugit                                                 Kristin Jones and Andrew Ginzel

Picture coming soon

Kristin Jones and Andrew Ginzel have worked collaboratively since 1985 on many commissioned private and public projects, as well museum and gallery exhibitions internationally.Kristin is a graduate of the Art School of Yale University, while Andrew is self-taught.

Tree of Life                                                                               Milton Komisar

Urban Light & Time Field                                                                              Dale Eldred

Wheel to Live By                                                                  Layne Redman

Windamajig                                                                  George Rhoads

David W. Bermant Bio

A cum laude graduate of Yale University, Bermant earned a bronze star in the Army. He witnessed fellow soldiers die, and swore, “If I ever make enough money that I can be free to do what I want to do, I’m going to try and make the country that I live in a better place.” He had four children from his first marriage—Ann, Jeffrey, Wendy and Andrew Bermant—and one from his second marriage—Bess Rochlitzer, the current president of David Bermant Foundation. Rochlitzer relates how Bermant took a personal interest in artists, “He would make commissions so the artists could pay their rent, pay their bills and have the time to create pieces they envisioned.”

Born in 1919, Bermant passed away in 2000—his life spanning a period of tremendous progress in technology. Traditionally, fine art was created with oils or bronze, not fiber optics, computers or television, but Bermant believed experimental art using the latter was “the art of our time which will endure.” He placed more than 100 pieces in public view, mostly in malls he owned.

Dave Bermant Commentary on Movement Art

45 years ago, F.S.C. Northrop, Sterling Professor (Emeritus) of Philosophy and Jurisprudence of Yale University, convinced me, as well as others, that the most vital art of one’s time was that art which incorporated the underlying reality of the world as discovered by the science of one’s time.

This reality, as revealed by science and verified by experiment, has primary concepts or principles. Philosophy formulates these primary principles into a metaphysical system. This system’s intellectual concepts, understandable but to a few, is converted by religion and art into concrete symbols which convey emotion and feeling to everyone.

For example, Aristotle’s discovery of the foundation of biological organization was incorporated by St. Thomas of Aquinas into a metaphysical system which became the basic principles ofCatholicism. These principles were clothed by Catholic religion and the art inspired by it into emotion filled symbols and metaphors.

The primary concept or underlying reality, of the science of our day is Relativity. Einstein added the fourth dimension to those of Newtonian physics: time. Therefore, the art of our day that incorporates time, or movement, motion, change, is the most vital of all arts being created. It is the art of our time which will endure.

In addition, this art of movement uses the technology of its day as a tool in creating its aesthetic effect. It uses technology’s materials, theories and by-products; it celebrates it, criticizes it, even pokes fun at it. And how appropriate, since technology is surely the one feature unique to our society which distinguishes it from every other society heretofore.

Two thousand three hundred years ago, Aristotle urged his countrymen to place art in the ordinary, daily environment of their communities. Thus in the “agoras” or market places of ancient Greece, art was located along with commercial products.

Twenty years ago, based on the above principles, I began placing the art of movement and technology into the shopping centers which I own in partnership with others. They are located east of the Mississippi, and range in size from community centers of an open “strip” nature to large regional enclosed malls. My objective was to make my centers more pleasant places to visit. Since most shopping centers look alike to me, I also feel that by adding an aesthetic dimension to an ordinary space, I am giving a special identity to my centers. I believe that, as a result, my centers will endure longer as viable economic entities. But why? What is it about art — and in particular this form of art — that endows in everyday public space with longevity.

Well, something strange has happened “on the way to the marketplace”: the American public actually enjoys this form of art.  It amuses; it amazes; in Ivan Karp’s words “it engages the interest of the average person”, thus widening the audience for the visual arts. The non-traditional materials it uses widen the scope of the subject matter of the visual arts — incorporating the very “stuff” of everyday living.

Why does the public respond to it? By “respond” I mean love it, hate it, laugh at or with it, but seldom ignore it. Al Nodal, Director of the Washington (D.C.) Project for the Arts wrote recently: “New Public Art communicates a variety of information. It relates both its essence and content in a recognizable way to a wide range of people. It addresses a vast and broad audience, from the pedestrian to the connoisseur. It socializes, evokes recognition, and many times enhances the environment in a purely aesthetic sense.”

Or read Howard Wise’s words: “some of your associates are unduly concerned about the matter of height of the sculpture in the atrium-like courtyard. The sculpture is not primarily related to the surrounding areas and functions of the shopping center but is related to the individual shopper who will pass through the courtyard on his way from one place to another. It will enable the individual to relate to the space by providing him with a point of reference to the human figure.

It is not antagonistic to the architectural character of the space but on the contrary, complements it. ‘Think of a cathedral.  It is beautiful space and yet without the embellishments of sarcophagi, chapels, altars, stained glass windows, paintings, etc. the space would seem sterile and cold. It is this human figure-related embellishments, as it were, which complement the majestic space of the interior that really gives the cathedral its sense of warmth and majesty.’”

Finally, Robert Irwin is quoted by Calvin Thompkins as saying: “Public Art provides the context for the necessary redefinition of art in our time. In this increasingly computerized society, the artist’s essential job is to maintain the human scale to assert individual values in the midst of high-tech decision making.”

However, most of the art placed in public places in America up until now has been architecturally oriented (i.e. abstract art that relates to the architecture). If not actually chosen by the architect, its choice certainly has been influenced by him. In the case of the General Services Administration, he is the initiating element and is a member of every panel. Certainly there is nothing wrong with architectural art, per se, except for certain factors — too often it’s what Calvin Tomkins has termed “plop art” (“….the artist has simply taken one of his existing ideas or designs, blown it up in the scale, and plopped it down in the lobby or plaza assigned to him..”) It is infrequent that anyone responds to it outside of the architect, the owner, and the artist. I question its almost exclusive use in public buildings and plazas.

I propose that the art to be placed in public places be expanded to contain other forms of art — including, hardly incidentally, the art of movement that stems from the science and technology of our day.

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