Jackson Pollock, The Key, 1946. Yes, that’s Pollock making the charts in two different sections in the Institute. And we’ve got more Pollock on tap for the outtakes! Pollock Pollock Pollock Pollock Pollock!
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, heads tilted, and cameras and phones at the ready. We barely saw half the museum and will have to return someday for more.
By the time we were halfway through the “International Modern Art” section on the third floor, we were losing steam. Hours of winding through labyrinthine galleries within galleries were overloading our senses and wearing us middle-agers down. We persevered nonetheless and hopefully laid eyes on everything hung on those walls as of that very Saturday.
The museum frequently rotates its works, often loaning pieces of their permanent collections to other art museums nationwide. Chances are some of these once spent a few months in your town near you. Or maybe they will in the future. Even if they don’t, one of these pieces was in a motion picture blockbuster you may have watched in your youth.
If Pollock is too free form for you, try Piet Mondrian’s 1912 Landscape with Two Poplars. A rare sample of the Dutch artist’s brief dabbling in Cubism.
Mondrian is better known for going fully abstract and most likelyb using more rulers than any other peer. 1921’s Lozenge Composition with Yellow, Black, Blue, Red, and Gray comes from his “lozenge” series, whose canvases were all tilted to mess with heads and defy easy framing.
Mondrian again obviously, Composition (No. 1) Gray-Red, 1935. As the AIC’s placard sums it up, his line of thinking (no pun intended) was that “abstract art could contribute to a more harmonious society by communicating in a universal, visual language.” So it’s like those sci-fi stories where scientists try to communicate with aliens using math.
Wasily Kandinsky, Painting with Troika, 1911. From the Russian artist’s Blue Period, which came a few years after Picasso’s Blue Period and took on different form. Also a rare instance of a painting still in its original, distinctively decorated frame.
Arshile Gorky, The Plough and the Song, 1946. Born in Armenia, as a kid he fled with his family to escape genocide. The title here faintly hints at thoughts and memories of a time before.
Henri Rousseau, The Waterfall, 1910. The French artists is generally grouped with his Post-Impressionist peers, though this is a bit more primitive than what we saw in their dedicated galleries.
Gino Severini, Festival in Montmartre, 1913. Hailing from the Futurist movement, the Italian’s motifs embraced modern technology and speed lines, effectively making him a forefather of manga.
Albert Bloch, Harlequin and Three Pierrots, 1914. Like Sargent and Cassatt, Bloch was an American who found his calling in Europe. Here he crosses World War I with Commedia dell’Arte, which I first learned about from an episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.
Henri Matisse, Laurette with Cup of Coffee, 1916-17. Representing for the Fauvists with simple shapes and bold colors. And yes, this is right-side-up.
Suzanne Duchamp, Broken and Restored Multiplication, 1918-19. Dadaism has fascinated me ever since the movement factored into the best college seminar I ever took. Sadly, Ms. Duchamp tends to be overshadowed in art history by her older brother Marcel.
Three sculptures by Romania’s influential Constantin Brancusi: White Negress II, 1928; Leda, ca. 1920 (inspired by the Greek myth); and Golden Bird, 1919-20.
Marc Chagall, The Praying Jew, 1923. Chagall hailed from a shtetl in what is now Belarus, and explored Hasidic Judaism in his works even as he later leaned toward Cubism.
1938’s White Crucifixion was Chagall’s attempt to alert the world beyond Europe about Jewish persecution as it was happening in all its early horrors, before things got even worse.
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy; Nuclear I, CH; 1943. The Hungarian Constructivist who once taught at the original Bauhaus in Germany would later move to Chicago and become an integral part of another collegiate institution in town.
Francis Bacon, Figure with Meat, 1954. The Irishman’s savage satire of a specific Papal painting has a special place in pop culture: in Tim Burton’s Batman it’s the only work in the Gotham City Museum that Jack Nicholson’s Joker refuses to let his henchmen deface in his first scene with Vicki Vale.
More to come! Other chapters in this very special MCC maxiseries:
Gallery 1: The Grounds Alone
Gallery 2: The Old Modern Americans
Gallery 3: Georgia on Her Mind
Gallery 4: Two Americans Abroad
Gallery 5: Ye Olde Tyme America
Gallery 6: Very Contemporary
Gallery 7: Monet Growing on Trees
Gallery 8: Posting Post-Impressionist Impressions
Gallery 9: Picasso and the Surreal
Gallery 11: Caveat Sculptor
Gallery 12: An Omnibus of Outtakes