Go For It at Market Hall
Go For It at Market Hall Credit: Courtesy Matthew Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a big believer in the power of positive thinking. His text-based work seems to inhabit a category that could be called “affirmational art.” The 35-year-old Chicagoan is the savvy sloganeer behind You Are Beautiful, which began modestly 12 years ago with a packet of 100 stickers and has since grown into an art-world phenomenon; the iconic silver rectangles with black letters have been stuck to walls worldwide, inspiring exhibitions and public installations dedicated to those three impactful words.

The artist’s latest installation is yet another three-word slogan that serves as a sort of visual pat on the back. In Go For It, Hoffman renders the phrase in his distinctly cutesy cursive, with a structure of plywood, two-by-fours, and corrugated plastic standing an imposing 12 feet tall, 36 feet long, and four feet wide in the center of the remains of Pullman’s historic Market Hall, gutted by a fire in 1973. The cosponsorship of the Pullman arts organization Mosnart and the Historic Pullman Foundation allowed Hoffman and a trio of carpenters access to the former company town’s administration building during construction. The hulking sculpture was then carefully wheeled down Champlain Avenue in two pieces—”Go Fo” followed by “r It.”

The work could strike some viewers as pat or suggest a Nike catchphrase castoff. But to Mr. Bright Side, the upbeat simplicity is sort of the point. “There’s enough negativity and ambiguity in the world,” Hoffman says. “There’s no reason to add to it.”