Many of Chicago’s iconic buildings are white today, because of an unknown artist working today. This artist has managed to keep his identity relatively unknown for the past hundreds of years. He’s also managed to stay alive for the past hundreds of years because… he’s monster.
This mythical creature regularly visits the city of Chicago and contributes to public projects and architecture. In the underground art world, he’s known by the descriptive moniker “White-out Monster” for he himself is entirely white. Early 21st century records capture him wearing a “White-out” or “Liquid paper” t-shirt.
Recently, White-out Monster returned to Chicago to check up on some of his projects and also to create new projects. We were granted an exclusive interview with the White-out Monster through a proxy agent. Through this interview White-out Monster reveals how certain buildings and public artworks would have looked like if it were not for his influence years ago.
Matt Maldre: What is one of the buildings where we can see your influence today?
White-out Monster: Back in 1920, there were no office buildings north of the Chicago River. Why, there wasn’t even a bridge at Michigan Avenue yet. A great new fad was recently invented, chewing gum. People loved it. This chap, William Wrigley Jr, built a chewing gum empire; and he wanted to have his headquarters anchored just north of the Chicago River.
Nobody knows this, but originally his plans for the building had it all in Indiana limestone. What a joke. The plans for the Wrigley Building were so beautiful that I knew it just had to be set in all white. The architects for this building was an eight-year-old firm named GAP&W, which stands for Graham, Anderson, Probst & White. You can guess which of the four architects I decided to have a talk with…
MM: The fellow named “White”?
WOM: You got it! Howard Judson White. Naturally, he loved the idea of the building being set in all white-glazed terra cotta. The original limestone that was purchased was instead used for the Michigan Avenue bridetowers.
MM: How do you feel about the limestone bridgehouses not being done in all white?
WOM: Yeah, I would have loved for those to be all white. But William Wrigley had all this limestone, so yeah. But hey, watch this, I’ll paint these flowers on the Michigan Avenue medians white.
MM: Wow, that’s amazing! You just turned those flowers white. How did you do that?
WOM: I’m a mythical artist-monster. I got my ways.
MM: Have you used your “ways” with any other public artworks?
WOM: Initially, the Chicago Bean comes to mind, but of course that would make no sense to have the bean be all white, because it would simply be a white bean. However, when I look at the bean, I do see myself, and thus I paint the bean white every time I encounter it. That very concept is one to be celebrated by everyone who looks into the Chicago Bean‚Äîwalk up to the bean, and you paint it with the colors of yourself.
MM: How about Crown Fountain with the faces that spit out water?
WOM: Heh, funny story about those. The artist is Jaume Plensa erected those towers. I visited him in his hometown of Barcelona about those towers with giant heads. Actually, the visit was via a dream where I suggested to him that he create a giant white marble head. Guess what was just installed a month ago by Plensa in Millennium Park? A giant white marble head. And he named it “Looking into my Dreams, Awilda.” I’ll let you connect the dots there.
MM: Any other public artworks that you’d love to see painted white?
WOM: Naturally the Art Institute lions would be fantastic in white. However, their bronze patina is a great site to behold. Back in 1893, I suggested to sculptor Edward Kemeys that they be done in marble, but he insisted on bronze. Through many years of lobbying the Art Institute for a pure presence of white, they hired Pritzker Prize‚Äìwinning architect Renzo Piano. Heh, well‚Ä
take a look at the Modern Wing now. Beautiful pure white cathedral of art that I’m going to– +poof+
MM: White-out Monster? White-out Monster? Where did you go? Well, it seems that White-out Monster has disappeared back into his mythos. Thank you, White-out Monster wherever you may be now. We appreciate how you have influenced Chicago’s great landmarks. Maybe we’ll be able to see more of your work in the future, and uncover more of your influence in the past.