Skylunch 4, in Chicago

A few years back, members of the Chicago Iron Workers local #1 remade the famous “Lunch atop a Skyscraper” photo originally taken in New York in 1932. In 2017 the two photos — which I’ll label Skylunch 4 and Skylunch 1 — were put together in a composite (Skylunch 4+1) on Reddit, which the Chicago Curbed site posted about on 10/17/17.

(#1) Skylunch 4+1: both photos have 11 men, grouped 2, 2, 3, 3, 1; but the tones of the two photos are very different (Skylunch 1 — in b&w, with a hazy Manhattan in the background, with mostly recent immigrant steelworkers — is a piece of magic realism, expressing ambitious dreams of a truly modern Manhattan rising into the sky; Skylunch 4 — in sharp color, with the solid buildings of the 20th century in the Loop constantly in restless revision, with American-born steelworkers, Union guys, in their harnesses and hard hats — is a piece of everyday urban realism, regular guys doing a tough job

I missed Skylunch 4 at the time it first appeared on the net, but in the last few days Skylunch 4+1 has been passed around on Facebook, so I’ve been taken back into the Skylunch world, where the meme has been reworked again and again.

On the Chicago Curbed site, “Chicago iron workers recreate the iconic ‘Lunch atop a Skyscraper’ photograph; The image presents a 21st century take on an American classic” by Jay Kozlarz on 10/17/17:

Eleven members of the Chicago #1 local iron workers took it upon themselves to recreate an iconic image from 20th century pop culture by posing for lunch on a girder dangling hundreds of feet above the Loop. As a modern touch, the recreation swaps out the original photo’s flask of whiskey for a soft drink and has the two men on the far left sharing an image on a smartphone rather than a cigarette.

The image recently [in 2017] reappeared on Reddit’s “Old School Cool” sub accompanied by the original Lunch atop a Skyscraper photo where it quickly climbed the ranks. While the black and white original dates back to the 1932 construction of Manhattan’s 850-foot 30 Rockefeller Plaza (now officially known as the Comcast Building), the re-staging was taken from atop Chicago’s new CNA Center.

Designed by John Ronan Architects, the 35-story Loop office tower will open at 151 N. Franklin next summer [2018]. With the skyscraper now [in 2017] fully enclosed in glass, it is clear the image was taken at an earlier date. The presence of the now-removed yellow crane of River North’s upcoming 3Eleven apartment tower in the distance confirms the photo’s age.

Earlier on this blog.

— from my 6/28/19 posting “Today’s art quiz: Skylunch III”:

a piece of conceptual art (what I’ll call Skylunch III) taking off on a sculpture (Skylunch II) reproducing a photograph (Skylunch I) showing construction workers eating lunch on a girder high in the sky. Skylunch II and III are mounted on trucks so that they can easily move from place to place.

(#2) Skylunch II

(#3) Skylunch III

Skylunch I gives us a remarkable shot of working-class men (most of them immigrants, new to America) in the midst of doing a dirty, difficult, and dangerous job, having an everyday lunch together just as they would on a park bench together on break from a routine job on the ground, except that they’re fuckin’ floating on a girder in the goddam sky.

Ebbets gives us a romantic, ennobling view of the men — the best of the working class, tough but modest — and also of a fantasy New York City and the burst of energy that fired the modern vertical city into being.

Furnari’s Skylunch II is solid, hard, and down to earth, and because it’s crafted with the metal skin of monumental statuary, feels heroic, despite the folksy way the men are presented.

The workers of Skylunch III are three-dimensional but hyper-real, simultaneously solid and ethereal, spirit embodiments of the working class (do these men sweat?).

Three very different ways of presenting these guys as working-class heroes

— from my 7/2/19 posting “The fiberglass men of Skylunchland”, on Skylunch III, also (as it turns out) by Furnari — and in at least two variants:

[Identifying Skyunch III] turned out to be a surprisingly difficult task. [Max Meredith Vasilatos (MMV)] spent quite some time on it, discovering in the process that there are huge numbers (“bazillions”, in MMV’s terms) of reproductions of, transformations of,  homages to, and parodies and burlesques of Skylunch I, almost all in two dimensions. It’s really quite astounding — much like the similar genre of Last Supper reworkings. And just as with the Last Supper reworkings, almost all of which lose the religious content of the original and the internal drama of the event, almost all the reworkings of Skylunch I lose both its passionate celebration of working class heroes and its affectionate astonishment at the creation of modern New York City.

And then on to Skylunch IV, in 21st-century Chicago. The men are — omg (I’m seriously acrophobic) — still up in the sky, but the presentation of them is now much more down to earth. (NOAD: adj. down-to-earth: with no illusions or pretensions; practical and realistic)

2 Responses to “Skylunch 4, in Chicago”

  1. Bill Stewart Says:

    Just lookin at it makes my nuts crawl up inside.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Same for me. Skylunch 4 was hard for me to post about — which involved looking at the image again and again — because it’s so vividly, viscerally realistic. Skylunch 1 is gauzily, dreamily fantastical, and the Furnaris are solidly earthbound, but the Chicago photo!

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