˘ ˘ ˘
Since it a snowless Saturday, and it's free admission all month to the Art Institute of Chicago, I hopped on the El (which is now $2.25) and traveled down there. I was very glad to see that many Chicagoans, including many brown and black ones, were also taking advantage of the free admission; it was packed. I hadn't seen the new Renzo Piano extension, which sits behind the famous Michigan Avenue Beaux Arts façade, but it really is impressive, airy, bursting with light, easy to navigate, and almost cinematographic in the dramatic views it offers of
Yves Tanguy's "Untitled"(screen), 1928
On this trip, I decided to drift forward through the museum to see what I might come across. My first stops were at the architectural artifacts from historic Chicago, which included various pediments, spandrels, caryatids, gratings, and so forth, from buildings by important Chicago architects like Dankmar Adler, Louis Sullivan, and Frank Lloyd Wright. I found myself repeatedly impressed by the workmanship and intricacy, the delicacy and beauty, of many of these pieces, especially those by Wright, who was, as I need not tell anyone, a visionary. From there, I kept walking forward, into what turned out to the 1800-1900 European art galleries, which included furniture and other material artifacts, as well as many of the Museum's best and widely known treasures. I must say, it's one thing to see reproductions of Gustave Caillebotte's iconic 1877 painting "Paris Street, Rainy Day," or Georges Seurat's giant masterwork, "A Sunday on la Grand Jatte - 1884" (1884-86), for example, or Monet's various later paintings, such as the ones in London, or the haystacks, or the water lilies at Giverny, but it's another thing altogether to be able to look closely and deeply at them, to engage them and truly take them in, at length. Time really does fall away, and some opens up in the encounter, the exchange.
I went forward into the 20th century, which is to say, via a passageway (featuring Georgia O'Keefe's immense, talismanic abstract 1965 painting "Sky Above the Clouds IV," to Piano's Modern Wing, which has similar, but distinct, spatial dynamics to the Museum of Modern Art's addition, and on to 20th century American artworks, which stamped a smile from one of my cheeks to the other; Martin Puryear's 1982 sculpture, "Sanctuary" (at right), comprising two long, thin, high branches, attached at the bottom to a wheel's axle, like a unicycle, and signifying movement, and at the top to a box, nailed to the wall and out of even a baller's reach, signifying permanence, winked at me as I entered one of the galleries. A Lawrence Weiner wall text, "TAKEN FROM HERE TO WHERE IT CAME FROM AND TAKEN TO A PLACE AND USED IN SUCH A MANNER THAT IT CAN ONLY REMAIN AS A REPRESENTAION OF WHAT IT WAS WHERE IT CAME FROM," spanned the white wall between this entryway and the chronologically earlier (and thus correct) one. I wandered back through the Modern Wing to the Asian Art galleries, and was beginning to settle in when the announcement came that the galleries were closing, and we all had to leave. Four hours flew by like that.
I'll have to go back as soon as I can, but I also thought once again, and I know it'll never happen, but what if the entire way in which the art was displayed were overturned? What if it were more poetic, lyrical, associative? What if sculptures from Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, sat side by side with paintings by Picasso, Sam Francis, Barnett Newman, Yves Klein (at left, "Blue Sponge Relief," 1959), the "folk" artists? What if all the hierarchies and barriers were eliminated? What if, alongside the permanent curators, artists like Fred Wilson or Marina Abramovic were regularly, as part of the museum's mission, Of course I know it certainly wouldn't happen at such an august institution, because neither the curators nor the wealthy patrons would stand for it, but what would it mean to view art in such a radically different way, in the sort of way that Albert Barnes, for example, imagined it? Or that people--many people who aren't rich but make or collect art--display it in their homes, their work places, their everyday lives?
I also thought, given that it's Black History Month, and given that this museum sits right at the downtown heart of Chicago, wouldn't it be nice, especially with admission being free, to have an exhibit of black artists and artworks inspired by African, African-American and African Diasporic peoples and cultures, in some central spaces in the museum? Just some thoughts.
˘ ˘ ˘
New York Times, you need to quit. Or at least acknowledge that sometimes you present sheer bunkum in the pages of your paper. Rarely, however, is it so blatant and so close to home. Take Edward McClelland's recent article, "An Ethnic Mix Keeps in Funky in Chicago," on (East) Rogers Park (beach at right), the neighborhood where I live in Chicago, which is presented as a Third Coast Hipsterville--which it truly was threatening to turn into, oh, about 5 years ago--despite the fact that many of its main streets (Clark, Morse, Sheridan) now sport rows of shuttered, empty storefronts. The Times piece, however, picks out a few surviving gems (including three on Jarvis, which has an unfinished condo building, a perfect emblem of the insane prior decade, just down the street, though he doesn't mention the longstanding politically engaged standby, the Heartland Café, or even the less famous, vegetarian-friendly Lakeside Café) and attempts to make a narrative out of them. But it it isn't working.
The author could have written about how many businesses are struggling to stay in business. Or how, when as I learned when I returned in December to search for a new apartment, many of the near-vacant condo buildings that were thrown up (and the interiors of some really did look as though they'd been vomited up by some development monster) were desperate to find renters and were nearly matching the apartment buildings in rent prices, since buyers were about as scarce as loans. Or how there are political refugees from sub-Saharan Africa here, or that one of the major Iraqi-American foundations is in the neighborhood, or how faculty and students from the university and Loyola who find it more economical than living in Evanston (which does have far superior schools) or anything that hugs the lake heading south, or that there are quite a few people struggling to stay in homes and apartments they can no longer afford. Funky, all right.
On Morse Street, between Greenview and Sheridan, which used to be an open-air drug bazaar despite endless pleas to City Hall and the local alderman, and the cops who made sure the dealers didn't stroll one block north or south, a wonderful music club is now empty; several galleries have been cashiered; chunks of the El trestle tumble onto the sidewalk below; and the convenience store whose proprietor in 2008 gave me his last copy of a local rag that featured the then newly-elected President Obama, is now just a dusty interior behind a dusty pane.
˘ ˘ ˘
Rod 2.0 got here a while ago, but I have to say I'm sorry I wasn't in New York to see Calvin Klein's new and giant David Agbodji-fresh ads initally loom over Soho and now gleam from the windows of the Madison Avenue flagship store. As Racked.com says, "we can only imagine that their current windows are causing some serious pearl-clutching over on Madison Avenue." Trust.
Image via the Copyranter
˘ ˘ ˘
My Super Bowl prediction is Indianapolis will win, perhaps 27-13, but I'd love to see New Orleans take home the trophy, even if by a squeaker.