Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Day in Chicago: A Smart place to go

A day in Chicago: Chapter 3 (A 3-part serial post)

After the Art Institute and the Cultural Center, it was 3:30. The Kennedy Expressway was already a parking lot. Our Gallery Guide told us that the Smart Museum of Art is open until 8 pm on Thursdays, giving us another reason to linger. We spent some time browsing the contemporary galleries in the West Loop warehouse district. The icy forms as well as the Hitchkockian installation of squirrels (top) are by Carson Fox at the Linda Warren Gallery. Sparkles rule at the Packer Schopf gallery, where Andréa Stanislav is showing a series of glitter-embedded polymer paintings (above right). The centerpiece is an 8-ft crystalline—headless—horse with mirrored prisms protruding from its torso (detail, below right). Full view at Packergallery.com.) The horse also rotates on its mirrored base; ya gotta love art, eh!

OK, raise your hand if you’ve never been to the Smart Museum of Art. I’ve only been a couple times myself, but they’ve been good times! It is at the University of Chicago in Hyde Park. I was hooked as soon as I walked in the door and saw “Cleave” by Greely Myatt (below). It takes up an entire (large) wall and is made of “cotton plant roots and found object.” His artist’s statement includes: “As an artist, I want you to care about something as much as I care. I make work that is familiar, and a bit strange—mysterious and, I hope, poetic.” It’s all that. It was great at first glance and only got better as I took it all in up close. Art that speaks of our relationships with the environment has particular appeal for me; something I do care about, that inspires me to make art. (See Urban Wilderness.)

The main exhibit (which, sadly, closed yesterday as I post this) was called "The Darker Side of Light: Arts of Privacy, 1850-1900." With themed sections bearing characteristically Victorian titles like “abjection,” it was, as the name implies, a melancholy lot. But the prints by such well know names as Manet, Corot, Lautrec, and Kollwitz, among others, were luscious. Comparing these somber genres with light-filled Impressionism and the lively bustle of streets and cafes, the catalogue describes the show this way: "The Darker Side of Light evokes shadowed interiors and private introspections to tell a far less familiar story of late nineteenth century art."

From a narrative series of prints called "The Glove," by Max Klinger

The few simple, sketch-like prints by Toulouse Lautrec reminded me of his genius. Like Matisse, an exhibition of his work—at the Art Institute many years ago—is among the most memorable I’ve seen. Käthe Kollwitz has long been a personal favorite. No one has expressed pain, loss, and suffering as deeply felt as she. The one at right is titled “Woman with Dead Child.” If I had to choose, I’d put Matisse on my wall any day, but I always keep my Kollwitz book handy as a reality check in moments of “quiet contemplation.”

If you haven’t been to the Smart, it also has a wonderful permanent collection and is reason enough to venture away from the epicenter of art in the loop for a change. Just before closing time, the young guard—probably a student—interrupted my reverie in front of their red above red Rothko to ask with some incredulity if I really liked it. When I assured her I did, she shook her head with finality and claimed that despite all the hours she’d spent there she “just didn’t see it.” I turned back to it thinking this was a particularly nice one.)

(If you missed the first two installments of this 3-part serial post, click on Chap. 1 or Chap. 2. Or scroll down.)

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