Celebrating Freedom: 12151791

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McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum, 2006 - Art - 102 pages
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From the American Revolution to the Algerian War of Independence, from the civil rights movement to Tiananmen Square, freedom has driven men and women to commit great and tragic acts. 12151791, the arresting centerpiece sculpture of the newly opened McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum, powerfully embodies the passions engendered by this simple yet potent idea. Celebrating Freedom marks that power, as it explores how 12151791 and the Freedom Museum will transform the way we view our liberties today.


Created by California artists Amy Larimer and Peter Bernheim, 12151791 is the numeric iteration of December 15, 1791, the day that the Bill of Rights was ratified and became part of the Constitution of the United States. A commanding presence in the museum’s entrance hall, 12151791 spirals downward as a tower of suspended steel plates and wire, with 850 engraved quotes woven through it that reflect on the importance of freedom. Drawn from poems, letters, songs, legal documents, and other cultural artifacts, these voices span the landscape of American history, from the first European explorers to the present day.


Celebrating Freedom features vibrant color images of the sculpture, as well as striking photographs that capture historic moments when people assembled to protest, pray, report, and petition. Art historian James Yood declares in his essay that 12151791 “is visual and textual, accessible and elusive, solid and transparent, stable and in motion, historical and contemporary.” The essential guide to a groundbreaking cultural landmark, Celebrating Freedom reveals the value of freedoms past, present, and future.


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About the author (2006)

James Yood teaches contemporary art history and criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he is adjunct professor in the Department of Art History, Theory and Criticism.   Active as an art critic and essayist on contemporary art, he is Chicago correspondent to Artforum and tema celeste, and also writes regularly for GLASS magazine, American Craft, Aperture, and  Art & Auction.

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