Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Rainy Weekend in Chicago

The Most American of Cities

I have always had a soft spot for Chicago. 

This is a brash city that works hard, is not afraid to eat meat and loves its architecture. I'd honestly classify Chicago as the most American of cities.

So, en route to Toronto Monday, I arranged a weekend detour to Chicago. I was hoping for a couple of lovely spring days before the annual arrival of another humidity laden Midwest summer.

What Chicago delivered was a bunch of NFL fans (the NFL draft), spring flowers, a smidgen of sunshine and a lot of rain. 

Friday included stops at the Harold Washington Library, architectural sights in The Loop, a German lunch at the Berghoff all capped off with a walk through Millennium Park.

Since the weatherman only offered a single day of "partly sunny" weather it was spent walking beginning with a quick stop to admire some Mies and Calder.

Mies And Calder

Then it was a brief stop at Chicago's magnificent library. The take away this trip was how this library affords access across a wide spectrum of media (including technology labs full of etching machines, 3D Printers and lasers).

The library is hosting an emotional ceiling installation comprised of over 58,000 GI dog tags (representing American casualties in Viet Nam). I had seen a similar version at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin a few years back. It still delivers a punch.

The Price of War

Poster for an Upcoming Library Photographic Exhibition by David Gremps

Departing the library and the Loop, the next stop was Millennium Park and the pure joy induced by Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate (which everyone simply calls "The Bean").

Chicago Reflections in Cloud Gate 

Spring Blooms in Millennium Park

The Serpentine Bridge
(Viewing from the lake back from Maggie Daley Park to Michigan Ave.) 

With Saturday came the rain and a full day meandering through the Art Institute of Chicago and its new Modern wing.  Happily, it allowed me to experience artwork missed on previous visits.

 Viewing A Rainy Chicago
From the Art Institute

A perfect rainy day introduction to the Art Institute is the Caillebotte's monumental painting of a rainy street scene in Paris in 1877. He was only 29 when he created this painting.   

 Paris Street; Rainy Day
Gustave Caillebotte 1877

In no particular order here are some of my other favorites. First a Picasso painted after a stint working on set and costume designs in Rome for the Ballet Russes.

Mother and Child
Pablo Picasso 1921

Next up was Charles Ray's strangely mannequin like 6' tall figure "Boy". Boy assumes a confrontational pose in clothes one critic described as somewhere between "Baby and Hitler Youth". Ray is the same Los Angeles artist that created the stark white "Boy With Frog" sculpture showcased at Venice's 53rd Biennale and later (currently) displayed the Getty Center.

Charles Ray 1992

I found a series of photographs by Cindy Sherman to be both engaging and unsettling. The pose in this particular photo conjures up what the other side of Christina would look like in Andrew Wyeth's 1948 masterwork "Christina's World".

Untitled #92 Photograph
Cindy Sherman 1981

During my teens, when art was abstract, pop and op, the world worshipped Warhol. 

So Alan Katz' colorful and realistic painting "Vincent and Tony" stands out.  I found myself completely drawn to the seemingly distracted, vacant and confused faces Katz painted of his son and his son's best friend in 1969. 

In 1969 I was about their age and I think I felt the same way.

 Vincent and Tony
 Alan Katz 1969

In my previous visits to the Art Institute I specifically went to see Edward Hopper's strangely lonely, iconic and ambiguous New York scene "Nighthawks". However, it was on loan somewhere else in the world. So it was especially nice to be able to see it on this visit.

Edward Hopper 1942

Enlarged Detail - Nighthawks

Arguably the most recognizable piece in the museum is Grant Woods "American Gothic". This painting is etched in our popular culture and it draws crowds trying to discern the story behind the spare an unhappy father and, his daughter and that pitchfork. 

Woods recruited his sister Nan as the woman. He modeled the farmer on his dentist Dr. Bryan McKeeby from Cedar Rapids Iowa.

American Gothic
Grant Woods 1930

Next up is Andy Warhol's portrait of Elizabeth Taylor. While not personally a big Warhol fan. This piece is sought out and adored by throngs of museum visitors. The fact that various "Elizabeth's" have fetched $20-$30,000,000 each at auction recently is also pretty breathtaking.

Elizabeth Taylor
 Andy Warhol 1963

I found Gerhard Richter's "Hunting Party" to be intriguing. Richter transferred an image from a photograph then ran a dry paint brush across the photos wet pigment to create this image.

 Hunting Party
Gerhard Richter 1966

While certainly not his best portrait I loved seeing John Singer Sargent's portrait of Chicago native Charles Deering after a recent visit to his brother (James) Deering's Miami estate Vizcaya. Sargent was a friend of James and likely painted this while a guest at James Deering's Florida Estate (for more information Click here for Roadboy's Vizcaya).

Charles Deering 
(Brother of James Deering / Heir to Deering Harvester)
James Singer Sargent 1917

The Institute understands that artistic expression may be exemplified through furniture, jewelry and other functional items such as this spectacular silver decanter by Thomas Muir. 

Cycladic Figure With Hair in a Roller
Thomas Muir 1985

Another favorite museum stop for me are the Thorne Miniatures. The Art Instititute collection of these meticulously crafted miniature rooms is the largest anywhere.

Mrs. Thorne (an heir to the Montgomery Ward department store chain) created the miniatures as a mainly personal interest. In doing so she hired a crew of underemployed craftsmen during the depression. The miniatures were displayed at two World's Fairs. 

About 100 were produced. Chicago has 68, Phoenix 20 and Knoxville 9. The rest were auctioned for charities.

The level of detail belies their tiny size.

The Actual Size of a Typical Miniature
(In this case the interior of an 1893 Pullman Rail Car)

A View Into the Pullman Miniature

As the galleries began to close, we viewed the mesmerizing windows Marc Chagall created for the Institute. After a recent restored they just glow.

 America Windows
Marc Chagall / Charles Marq 1975-77

Ferris Buehler Visiting the Windows 
on His "Day Off"

An inspiring day in an inspiring place.

Saturday evening also delivered an inspiring dinner! That came at a wonderful restaurant named Beatrix. There was a carmelized Pork Shank over Yukon gold mash and roasted Michigan peaches and an entree of organic chicken crusted in parmesan with roasted asparagus. Then came a generous rectangle of blueberry slab pie.

OMG. Very highly recommended!

Roadboy's Travels © 2016

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