The Joy of Visitors - Part Two

On Sunday, we got an earlier start to our day, hoping to avoid the morning brunch crowds, but our efforts were to no avail. We still had to wait almost a half hour at Yolk, but at least Joy greatly enjoyed her eggs Benedict, and Nicole was entertained by her choice of green eggs and ham (made with pesto). When our appetites were sated, we headed over to the Art Institute to check out the new Modern Wing, where I was able to get everyone in for free on our family membership, thereby skirting the controversial increased admission rate.

Joy and I in the Modern Wing at the Art Institute.

Like just about everything else in life, I wasn't sure that the Modern Wing lived up to all the hype. Given the size of the structure from the outside, I was expecting the gallery space to be much larger, but much of the interior space was dedicated to the spacious, light-filled atrium, which the Art Institute will be renting out for tony private events. The first floor contained a small gallery for special exhibits, currently featuring recent paintings by Cy Twombly, and a dedicated Modern Wing gift shop, featuring the sort of design gifts that have always been the hallmark of the MoMA and Museum of Contemporary Art stores.

The second floor housed the largest exhibition space, with separate galleries for art from 1945-1960, art from 1960-present, and architecture and design. Not surprisingly, I found the works from 1945-1960 to be the most accessible, consisting of works by Jackson Pollack, Yves Klein, and Willem De Kooning, many of which were on display before the move to the new wing. Mark Rothko was also represented in that gallery, and of course, I still failed to sense the emotions supposedly evoked by his juxtaposition of colors. I can't help but think of the song "Nothing" from A Chorus Line -- no matter how hard I try to feel something from his paintings, there is often nothing, although the one at the Art Institute makes me slightly nauseous, because it is so orange. The only time I have ever cried in front of a Rothko was at the Milwaukee Art Museum, and it was solely because my eyes started to water from not blinking enough when I was staring at it.

Joy was particularly enamored of the architecture and design section, considering she is going back to school for industrial design. There were some pretty fabulous pieces of furniture in there that I wouldn't mind having in my apartment, if I had unlimited resources. The highlight though, was an interactive exhibit demonstrating motion sensing technology, in which your motions manipulated the movements of a spiderweb digitally projected onto the wall. It was very cool, and very popular.

I did enjoy some of the pieces in the 1960-present section, which I think was perhaps the greatest beneficiary of the move to the Modern Wing. Although many of the pieces were uncannily similar to the collections displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Milwaukee Art Museum, I still enjoyed seeing works that had not previously been displayed at the Art Institute, such as an entire room dedicated to Gerhard Richter, who produced a series of texturally fascinating paintings during the late 1980s, and a brilliantly staged Jeff Koons sculpture of a woman surprised in the bath which was housed next to a window to accentuate the themes of voyeurism running through the work.

The second floor contained a whole room dedicated to Gerhard Richter, whose abstract works I particularly admire (above). Also newly on display on the third floor was this fantastic Le Corbusier (below).

The third floor hadthe smallest amount of exhibition space, but contained probably the most popular works in the entire wing: European art from 1900-1950. There can be found the Picassos, the Dalis, the Magrittes, and sculptures by Brancusi and Joseph Cornell. My initial impression was that there was not much more space dedicated to these works than there was before the renovation, but there was a greater balance of artists than previously, and there were a number of new works, such as an astounding collection of works by Cornell, donated entirely by one donor, and completely absent from the museum's previous incarnation.

I was particularly impressed, and delighted, to discover for the first time the works of Matta, a Chilean painter whose pieces I greatly enjoyed. As many museums as I have been to, and as many art history classes I have taken, I found it so refreshing to have my eyes opened to something that I hadn't seen before. All in all, that singular experience made the whole excursion worthwhile, and would have been worth the $18 price of admission alone. What more can you really hope for from an art museum, but to expand your knowlege and appreciation of art?

Matta, The Earth Is a Man, 1942.

I also can't express enough how great it was to have an opportunity to go to the Modern Wing with Joy, who is an artist herself, and has much the same background in art history that I do. Although I enjoy visiting the Art Institute with all manner of people, and sharing my love of art and my tidbits of knowlege about the famous artworks with pretty much anyone who is willing to go, it was really satisfying to get to have a high-level discussion about the theory and practice of art with someone just as passionate (if not more) as myself. It was the perfect inaugural visit to the Modern Wing.

When we had seen all there was to be seen in that part of the museum, we met up with Nicole (whom we had long-since bored to death), and headed over to the Park Grill for some light refreshments. The weather was cooperative on every front (not too hot, not rainy, not too windy), so I even allowed myself to be persuaded to sit outside on the patio to do some people watching.

We then headed home for some R&R, and some research on routes for Joy and Nicole to take to the Vic Theater, where Sonic Youth was playing that night. My visitors also took advantage of some cable television viewing, before we headed back out for yet more food - this time deep dish pizza at Giordano's. I was glad that they let me choose the pizza; I have never understood all the hype surrounding Lou Malnati's. I think they must have the best marketing department of all the Chicago pizza heavyweights, because they are on every Food Network, Travel Channel, you-name-it special on Chicago that gets made, and their crust is terrible. When you're eating deep-dish, the crust is important, and it should be bready and buttery, not dense and hard. I just don't understand how they have won such legions of fans. There's no accounting for taste.

After eating, Joy and Nicole headed off for the concert, and I closed out the weekend on a quiet note. I was glad to have them up for a visit; it's always nice to reconnect with old friends, and every time I get together with one of my friends from college, it sparks my hope that we can overcome all of the distance that separates us to stay in touch. Call me naive, but I firmly believe it can be done, with enough determination.

1 comment:

  1. Mmmm.....YOLK! I love breakfast, and loved it there!