Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chicago Vacation: Day 1

Day one ended up being unexpectedly busy! If I do this again, I need to schedule more time to make sure I can relax.

While I waited for the room to be ready for check-in, I walked a couple blocks over to the Museum of Contemporary Art to check what they had up. The thing that always strikes me about that building is that it seems like there's an awful lot of wasted room/space that could go to displaying art. One of the exhibitions was called Lost and Found and it was various sculptures on display. Of course, I didn't memorize any of the artists names, and the museum website doesn't list them. And the few images they show on the website give you the message: "image protected by copyright laws" if you try to copy it. Yeah, it's all about the art, isn't it? I mean, I know I don't have a zillion people reading this blog, but why would an artist not want people posting examples of their work on blogs? Artists do make work to be SEEN, right? I mean isn't that the point? To have as many people see your work as possible?

This exhibition was very interesting. There was one work call "Weeds" that looked like a plant, but it was made of scraps of newspaper and magazine. Very visual comment on the media. Another piece I liked was called "Dialectic" (I think), and it was a wall of cinder blocks with the holes filled with material that was very simplistically rendered to look like faces. The eyes and mouths were holes that went all the way through to the back of the wall. Then there were two light sources, one shining on the front of the wall and the other backlighting it. They alternated slowly coming on and off, so that the faces were first illuminated and then back lit with light coming through the eye and mouth holes. All sorts of images went through my mind from the obvious: we're all just bricks in the wall, to stuff more specific to this work: illuminated face equals being communicated to while the back lit face is the individual thinking/reacting what they hear and all of us separated from one another. Very evocative work.

Another piece was two buddhist statues kneeling and facing one another in prayer position. Between them a string hung taught from one statue's hand to the others. In the middle of the string, a safety pin was suspended. Again this is an extremely evocative image. Is it some kind of statement about how we build these grand edifices called 'religions' merely to provide ourselves with tiny little comforts or is it a statement that two two praying people are in complicity to make each other feel safe and secure through shared religious belief, which isn't a particularly savory comment on religion overall.

Another exhibition was a single artist retrospective. The artist was Luc Tuymans, who creates simplified paintings (not minimalistic per se) of everyday objects based on photographed objects which he uses as his reference material. His approach (and pallette) really left me cold, with its unvarying and amateurish-looking approach. Too often, the pieces were so drained of anything that would compel serious introspection or engagement that you'd have to know the artist's objectives for the works to resonate, rather than having them stand on their own and speak on their own. He did have several pieces that justified the approach (and I was able to snag one off the web for this posting!). It's called "Within". It's a jail or gate with nothing back darkness beyond. This piece really makes you ponder some serious questions while you're trying to figure it out. Am I within? Or am I standing outside and looking at what is within? If I'm outside what does that say about that perspective; if inside the same question holds. Does my interpretation of the painting perspective say something about how I feel in general? Plus Tuymans' pallette really works here, creating a very ominous mood.

Another exhibit was called Contested Territory which, according to the MCA website "explores the continued conversation between history and present as well as the artist's ongoing duel with tradition as they test themselves, their materials, and the tradition of painting to keep it relevant and alive." One artist, in particular, from this collection really interested me: Leon Golub. Just glad the MCA mentioned him on the website or I would not have remembered his name at all! I snagged a pic of one of the works shown ("Reclining Youth"), which I really liked a lot. Apparently, he lays down paint and then (I think) uses chemicals or turpentine or something to corrode or chip it away and then relayers it to create a sort of eroded look. Some of his work using classical period themes (as in "Reclining Youth" which is layout is very much ancient Greek). I felt like his approach replicated in painting the passage of time around these images, almost creating the same ancient, worn appearance in his modern painting as we see in distressed sculpture from ancient societies.  Interesting way to rethink depicting standard artistic themes as well as paying homage to ancient works.

The last exhibition was around urban China, but it felt a little to cutesy-kiddie for me. Probably an 'outreach' thing of some sort. So I had a very good time at the musueum. In a way, I guess I didn't realize how much I saw in this visit. There's something positive about a musuem that doens't have so much stuff that you can't possible react to it all. I probably spent more time with the pieces here because I knew that I was going to see the whole museum so why rush?

After checking in and getting settled, I went out to have dinner with my old friend Ray. Should have got a pic to show here!!! Nice long conversation over a much needed burger/tater tot meal. Then I went to my old haunt Reckless Records and picked up Thievery Corporation's CD The Cosmic Game, which I cited in an earlier post as being sort of 'more of the same' and I skipped buying it. Well, Radio Retaliation has continued to impress me with its power and craft, so I thought I better give the Thievery boys the benefit of th doubt and grab this one. Came home quite tired and pleased with my first half day of this Chicago adventure.

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