Sunday, December 20, 2009

I almost always find out about these exhibits too late.

Case in point? A recent exhibit of Jennifer Angus. I found out about it two days after it closed. An exhibit of design patterns made with insects...although this clip of another exhibit has an additional theme of Victorian children. What's not to like if you happen to be me?

When I saw this image in a magazine review of an art exhibit recently, I made my reservation to see the show immediately since it closes January 3. This was something I did not want to miss.

It definitely looked like the Victorian scrapbook pages I've written about before, the ones I've been researching because the why of their creation is such a mystery. To find an entire exhibit of these things (although mine are American and do not use photos or "cartes de visite"), well, I am still somewhat astonished.

So last Wednesday I flew up to Chicago to see the Playing with Pictures: the Art of Victorian Photocollage show at the Art Institute of Chicago.

I flew up primarily to see this one show but was also hoping I might see the department store Christmas window displays...but um, I never made it out of the museum. Apparently you are allowed to use a camera in the museum (just no flash and you can only photograph objects in the permanent collection)! The novelty of being able to do this took over my day. The freedom to take a picture of almost anything? I've been to some museums where you aren't even allowed to sketch!

When I first got to the museum, I decided to stop for coffee or lunch or something and somehow settled on doing that at the new restaurant in the new modern wing. Oh my. So high in clouds are we that we must make a reservation to be allowed up. I made the reservation at the front desk and then took the elevator up to have lunch all by myself attended to by the entire waitstaff...which was really, really nice. :-)

This is a pumpkin soup garnished with sweet potato chips, some sort of grated cheese at the bottom and micro-herbs that the waiter avowed were tarragon, parsley and chervil....I wasn't convinced...I suspected they were radish sprouts because they were so peppery. The soup was further accented with cayenne pepper. It was divine.

This is a butternut squash filled ravioli with sausage, caramelized onions and micro-herb sage. Again, absolute perfection.

What a nice way to start the day. The waiter recommended I start my museum tour by visiting the third floor of the modern wing, his favorite, because there was a Francis Bacon. Bacon was one of my favorite painters when I was in my 20s too but I could not find his painting...instead I found this installation...

A hanging black man and a sleeping white man. Not the kind of thing I wanted to think about after such a perfect experience in the restaurant, but to see them as a repeat pattern on a wall? Well, how can I not be drawn to a pattern?

Uh, but bags of cat litter on the floor????? Some days you are receptive to what an artist is communicating and some days you are not. Today was one of my "not" days. I just am not drawn into art that is made up of symbols that require an explanation. If you need a written explanation, personally I think your medium should be editorial, not pictorial. Maybe that's the illustrator in me talking because in illustration you have to grab your audience immediately and tell your story as fast as possible.

In the middle of this installation was a wedding dress (to symbolize optimistic hopes, the wallpaper pattern symbolized the United States' past and the cat litter "symbolized absorption of the stench of excrement" from what was depicted on the wallpaper I suppose...oh...political agenda, it is just so darn tedious. Why? Because you are not allowed to think your own thoughts even if you might agree with what's being said).

Anyway, back to the wedding dress, I was talking to one of the guards and she said that a lot of people were taking pictures of themselves behind the wedding dress and heck, that sounded like fun. I got this young woman to pose...

Uh, but my photos didn't quite turn out (hahaha)...

When I walked to the next gallery I noticed a group of women in front of a dramatic apricot and orange painting. I had to tell them they were missing a photo opportunity. They then handed me their I-Phones but dang, handling several I-Phones and a winter coat at one time is hard and whereas those women were formerly an interesting composition of layered silhouettes, they decided to all line up and smile when it came to picture taking time. Oh well. I'm sure they all still looked good.

I wandered off to another gallery and started talking with a guard again (this was another theme of the day because I could never figure out what building I was was hard for me to follow directions to go up the steps on the third floor to get to the second floor!!!). In the middle of a conversation I had to stop and take a photo because you know, how can you not take a photo when you see something like this? The guard gave me a thumbs up when she saw what I had just done. :-)

I was charmed by how this room was set up. The blue of the ceiling light and the blue of the painting in the distance. The symmetrical pose and pretty colors of the Joseph Stella behind the very assured Gaston Lachaise sculpture.

Oh I just love that sculpture and her little feet.

But who was she looking at way in the distance?

Another formidable chick. I wouldn't mess with either one of them.

It was such a fun day. Everyone I met was so friendly... why is there an "unfriendly" edition of The Chicago Sun-Times? Seriously. :-/

Although photography was allowed in most of the galleries, it wasn't allowed in the special the one I specifically flew up for. I'm waiting for a few books from Amazon to arrive so I can post some images. When you see these things in person, there is so much detail that can't be picked up by the camera anyway, but then, it is even more difficult to see what you're really looking at once the artwork has been reproduced and printed. Those ladies (and one gentleman) were extraordinary cut and pasters. Even with a magnifying glass I think I'd have a hard time finding the pieces that were cut out and applied. There were many albums exhibited under glass and you cannot imagine the frustration I had because I could not turn the pages to get to the really good ones. >:-\ I'm hoping there are some surprise images when I get the catalog. :-)


Leenie said...

Amazing art exhibit! Very super restaurant and meal! Glad you found out about it in time this time. Thanks for the virtual tour! I didn't understand the kitty litter/wallpaper thing either.

Rural Rambler said...

As I read this I hoped that Shelly from MoBugs would make her way here. I so enjoyed the video of Jennifer Angus and her insect exhibit. I mean how cool is that? This is a wonderful interesting post. A great capture with the monsignor/priest?. Think I would have to frame that one. The butternut squash and sausage filled ravs. Yum.

Maria said...

Leenie-Uh yeah, the kitty litter. Well, I have to say, the wallpaper did make for a pretty room despite the mission statement of the artist. :-)

Rural-I confess I have some mixed feelings about the use of all those insects but you can tell the artist has a lot of respect for them and she reuses her insects for future exhibits for years and years and years. Despite all that, aren't those bugs amazing?

I'm sure Shelly will find this post one of these days. I've had quite a blogposting slump so it might take her a short time to figure out I'm writing again. Whew! I'm glad the slump is over. That little trip was the kick in the pants I needed to get refreshed about just about everything.

And yes about the butternut squash ravioli. It was incredible and soooooo pretty the way it was arranged. I certainly like patterns, even when it comes to food. Ha ha ha.

Anonymous said...

This is one of your best posts ever! We totally appreciate the whole cat litter thing. If we were let loose in there, we'd give the onlookers a little taste of some performance art:)

Maria said...

T&C-OMG, you guys always make me laugh out loud. Well of course, I can't think of a better sort of art installation for a cat critic (or cat artiste) than one with so many bags of fresh kitty litter just waiting to be opened. Think of the performance. I can just imagine the earnest faces of the cat performers while they concentrated to synchronize their kicks.

Ellyn O. said...

Hi Maria. I really enjoyed your trip to Chicago and all the photos. You are impressive with your artistic narratives and I am glad that you are back....also I am glad that you and your friend didn't kill each other, and that you are still breathing and writing so beautifully. I may even get inspired myself soon, and visit my blog now that I have a few days off, but I have to get out of this Christmas funk that has descended. Anyhow, it must have been a truly amazing day for you.

Country Girl said...

Oh my, Maria. Such a lot in this post. How exciting to fly into Chicago to see this museum. Can't agree more with your description of the kitty litter piece. Ridiculous.

But the video?!! Wow. I'd never heard of this artist before but can tell she has a lot of respect for the little critters she uses in her work. So interesting.

Maria said...

Aunt Ellyn-It WAS fun. I'm glad I was able to do it-the finding the review, the decision to go, the booking of the flight and then to go up and come back.....all in less than a week-ME! And all for less than 200 bucks, including the fancy pants restaurant in the modern wing.

Kate-Yeah. I think I'm getting a lot of agreement with that kitty litter part of the installation. My sister Colleen says she has an art installation in her house too, just that's it's big bags of dog food.

And yes, isn't that artist amazing? If you go to Flickr and look up her name, there is even more to see.