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Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 6: Very Contemporary

Woman III!

Roy Lichtenstein. Woman III, 1982. Lichtenstein has fascinated me since high school Many comics fans deride him for his comic-book art swipes as if he were a plagiarist aspiring to launch his own line of romance titles. Kinda misses the point of Pop Art.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: as part of my 47th birthday celebration, my wife Anne and I drove from Indianapolis up to the Art Institute of Chicago and spent four hours with our eyes wide, heads tilted, curiosities aroused, and cameras and phones at the ready. We barely saw half the museum and will have to return someday for more.

Finished with the old standards of the early-20th-century Americana, we moved on to the second-floor galleries under the broad umbrella title “Contemporary Art”. Among the movements and styles encompassed were abstract expressionism, postminimal sculpture, photomontage, Chicago Imagists, and one of my personal favorites, Pop Art. Some were Chicago natives; some were big names you’re likely to recognize without Googling. A significant portion of their collection were gifted from two donors a few years ago. So much of it was a surprising delight to behold in person.

We went a bit enthusiastic with our cameras in this section. For the sake of time and space conservation, I’ve limited myself to one painting per artist in this entry. If demand or mood dictate, additional outtake collections are possible and entirely likely.

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Kid Dungeon Master’s Neighborhood Reign: Nostalgic Confession Inspired by “Die”

Die 1!

Teen RPG fan Solomon brings foreboding gameplay setup to Die #1. Art by Stephanie Hans, words by Kieron Gillen, letters by Clayton Cowles.

1. A Long-expected Party.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: my annual comic book reviews included a promise of a future entry inspired by Die, the new Image Comics series by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans that I encapsulated like so:

What if you took the structure of Stephen King’s It, but instead of fighting a murderous super-clown, the kids and adults in their respective eras were reliving the ’80s Dungeons and Dragons cartoon as a horror story, and the Big Bad was Tom Hanks from Mazes and Monsters turned into a truly mystical, manipulative interdimensional overlord?

Painted art by Stephanie Hans is like a high-end gallery showing on every page, while writer Kieron Gillen is engaging in ambitious, phenomenally detailed world-building, worrisome in its six-digit word count and rising. He’s exploring fantasy tropes and toying with them from within, but he’s also designed an entire RPG from the ground up to facilitate his vision, one that’s dredging up so many childhood memories for me — some I would dare label “definitive” in regard to my personal backstory — that I’ll need to devote a separate entry to this series in the near future. I have a lot of baggage to unpack here, and I blame Gillen for wheeling the baggage cart right up next to me.

I had the pleasure of meeting painter Stephanie Hans at this year’s C2E2, where I gave her the elevator-pitch version of this entry and she encouraged me to share it. I got a kick out of meeting Kieron Gillen at C2E2 2013, where we briefly chatted about his Britpop-magic fantasy Phonogram and he asked me which character I identified with most. I honestly hadn’t given much thought to it and was ashamed to have no answer, either prepared or improvised. I’m not used to pros at a con asking me a question beyond “Where are you from?”

(Having had time to think later, my answer came to me, obvious if twofold. As a young adult from 1989 to 2000 I imagined myself Seth Bingo, self-anointed tastemaker and DJ, bringing my boom-box and tapes/CDs to entertain at work after-hours — no requests allowed, sharing my collection with peers who just didn’t get me or my nightly playlist. For my life 2000-present I’ve been closer to Lloyd, engaging with music intellectually via long thinkpieces written only for the audiences in my head, but rarely physically and never socially, thus arguably denying its greatest powers. If only I could’ve written all that on an index card before approaching Gillen’s table. Or narrowed my answer down to just one of those two alienating dudes.)

The farther I’ve read into Die, the more I’ve found myself reflecting on my own experiences with Dungeons and Dragons, an integral part of my preteen years. It was a compelling confluence of entertainment and imagination. It was a big hit with the other kids who joined in. It also ushered in the end of my circle of childhood friends.

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Shrimp ‘n’ Grits and a Biscuit Burger Brunch

Shrimp & Grits!

Anne’s breakfast got more Facebook Likes and therefore gets to go first. Cajun-spiced sautéed shrimp atop grits with white cheddar and whatever “sauce Américaine” is.

Every so often when we’re not overindulging in weekend events or buried in adult chores, my wife Anne and I like to spend a Saturday morning driving to some other part of Indianapolis or central Indiana and finding breakfast at someplace that serves dishes more varied than scrambled eggs or McMuffins. We do this often enough that I could mine them for smaller MCC entries, but the thought never occurs to me. That changes right now, at least for tonight.

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Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 5: Ye Olde Tyme America

Lincoln statue!

Daniel Chester French, Abraham Lincoln, 1912. French has previously graced our travels with Beneficence in Muncie, IN; the Wendell Phillips memorial in Boston’s Public Garden; and a roadside attraction called the Lincoln Memorial in DC.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: as part of my 47th birthday celebration, my wife Anne and I drove from Indianapolis up to the Art Institute of Chicago and spent four hours with our eyes wide, jaws dropped, curiosities aroused, and cameras and phones at the ready. We barely saw half the museum and will have to return someday for more.

The exhibit hall one level below “Modern American Art” is labeled “American Art Before 1900”. It’s not entirely accurate, as we saw works that clearly disregarded the numerical boundaries (including a few of the Sargent paintings). The groupings did work in terms of like-minded sensibilities, which is my way of saying the “Modern” section engaged me more than the other, lower floor did. A few pieces caught our eyes — Anne’s more than mine, to an extent.

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Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 4: Two Americans Abroad

On a Balcony!

Before folks spent six hours a day scrolling through their social media feeds, they had morning newspapers to bore or disgust them.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: as part of my 47th birthday celebration, my wife Anne and I drove from Indianapolis up to the Art Institute of Chicago and spent four hours with our eyes wide, jaws dropped, memories of past images awakened, and cameras and phones at the ready. We barely saw half the museum and will have to return someday for more.

As we walked along the many halls and galleries, Anne spotted two names in particular she’d encountered before. Among the many books she’s read by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough was one called The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, which explored the uncommon subject of the wave of 19th-century personalities with family ties to the relatively new country of America, who later spent a significant part of their lives in Europe, and who not only saw their lives changed, but who also brought those changes back home with them.

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Yes, There’s a Scene After the “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” End Credits

Godzilla King of the Monsters!

Turn on your heartlight! Let it shine wherever you go!

Previously on the Godzilla and Friends Cinematic Universe: in 2014’s Godzilla reboot we got seven (7) minutes of Our Hero and two hours of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch hiding and moping. 2017 brought us Kong: Skull Island, the big ape’s cheesy yet awesome comeback that delivered on its promises of MONSTERS FIGHT! though any human actors who didn’t arrive tongue-in-cheek looked pretty lost.

Now it’s sort of a trilogy as Legendary Pictures perpetuates the American GFCU with Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Hopefully this time Toho isn’t ashamed of what our country has done to its favorite native superlizard.

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