Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Day of Art in Chicago: the Cultural Center Rocks!

A day in Chicago: Chapter 2 (A 3-part serial post)

I rarely visit the Art Institute without also walking the few blocks north on Michigan it takes to see the Chicago Cultural Center. If this isn’t part of your routine, I recommend it. And if you haven’t been there lately, now (through June 27) is a great time. “From Process to Print: Graphic Works by Romare Bearden” is installed in the immense Sidney R. Yates Gallery. The gallery itself, decorated in Venetian ostentation, seems an unlikely setting for Bearden’s work, which characteristically depict humble subjects with a social conscience. For me, the masterpiece of the exhibit, with its earthy colors and complex interpretation of its subject, is “The Family,” shown below.

Bearden is most well known for his collage, but this show demonstrates his mastery of a variety of print media, including etchings, lithographs, screen prints, and collagraphs. One outstanding feature of this exhibit is the presentation of the same image in several different states and even in different print media. As with the Matisse show (see Chap. 1), one can clearly see not only the technical processes but the progress of creative experimentation.

The Family, by Romare Bearden

The Bearden show is just the jewel of several good shows. In the equally immense but austere adjacent gallery is “Diane Simpson: Sculpture + Drawing 1978-2009.” She has a knack for transforming simple, culturally specific items of clothing, such as aprons, hats, and undergarments, into monumental architectonic sculptures.

Underskirt, by Diane Simpson

The more modest ground floor galleries included a delightful collaborative project called “Pride of Paper/Orgullo en Papel: Arte Papel Oaxaca & Kiff Slemmons.” Even before entering the gallery I detected the pervasive, pulpy aroma of papermaking. Chicagoan Slemmons spent 10 years working with artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico to create colorful paper jewelry that looks more like abstract sculpture. (I’d show you the installation but I was scolded when I took out my camera and shot this one detail - above right- of a series of wall prints of the work. The blue bracelets - below - are from their website.)

And, by the way, if you haven’t been to the Cultural Center before, make sure you hike up the grand staircase from the south lobby to see the largest Tiffany dome in the world: worth the visit all by itself. (detail below)

(For more on my art discoveries of Thursday, June 8, see Chapter 3. If you missed Chap. 1, click here.)

(If you’re wondering why a serial post, I promised myself when I started this blog that I would keep each post under one page long—not counting images. Maybe this is cheating, but it works for me!)

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