Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 12: An Omnibus of Outtakes

Liz #3!

Andy Warhol, Liz #3 (Early Colored Liz), 1963. Part of a series of thirteen.

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 roaming and observing and contemplating and feeling. We barely saw half the museum and will have to return someday for more.

I didn’t mean for this series to run so many chapters, but that’s a tribute to how overwhelming their collection of collections is. Until and unless we can schedule an encore visit, for now we conclude with yet another selection of works from the galleries we’ve already covered, some of whose chapters could’ve been twice as long if I hadn’t arbitrarily saved some of the best (and the rest) for last.

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Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 11: Caveat Sculptor

Pelican!

Emmanuel Fremiet, Pelican, 1896.

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, minds open, heads tilted, and cameras and phones at the ready. We barely saw half the museum and will have to return someday for more.

All around the galleries are sculptures filling the wide gaps of floor between the walls. Some were easy to overlook as we found ourselves transfixed on the two-dimensional classics hanging from the perimeters, but we braked here and there for a few three-dimensional delights — some from famous names; some from anonymous, untraceable antiquity. And yes, there were nudes.

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Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 10: The Last of the Famous International

The Key!

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.

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Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 9: Picasso and the Surreal

The Old Guitarist!

Before he turned to Cubism, Picasso’s Blue Period yielded works such as 1903’s The Old Guitarist, a sympathetic ode to society’s poor and disenfranchised. The longer you stare at it, the more details it reveals.

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, senses activated for deciphering strange shapes and arrangements, and cameras and phones at the ready. We barely saw half the museum and will have to return someday for more.

We concluded our day’s tour on the third floor of the modern wing, labeled “International Modern Art” on their handy map. Though “international” here largely meant “Western European”, we were well beyond the purely representational and into the not-so-straightforward movements and anti-movements of the early 20th century. Much of the collection was the sort that evinces cries of “I don’t get it” or “My kid could paint that” or “You call this art?” from the kind of observers who never list art museums on their vacation itineraries.

Whenever those same non-fans reach for a big name to use as a punchline to mock what they don’t dig, one of the commonest go-to talents is good ol’ Pablo Picasso. Chicago has quite a few of his works composed at varying levels of meaning and times of his life. When I sorted our modern-wing photos into piles according to historical movements, Picasso appears to be the only Cubist who caught our eyes and/or resides in those particular galleries. (We found one artist who apparently dabbled in Cubism later in his career, but not at the time of his paintings we saw here. That means he gets to wait till the next chapter.)

Among the other movements we paid attention to, the highest hit-count fell to the Surrealists — Salvador Dali and his amazing, stubbornly non-conformist peers and aesthetic descendants. As Pablo and those dreamers shared space in the museum, so do they share a gallery here.

(Fair warning: a few of these are vivid reminders that not all old-school paintings are aimed at all ages. Patron discretion is advised.)

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Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 8: Posting Post-Impressionist Impressions

Sunday on La Grande Jatte!

Georges Seurat, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, 1884-1886. This was our least obscured shot of it.

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, intellects engaged, and cameras and phones at the ready. We barely saw half the museum and will have to return someday for more.

The museum’s Impressionist galleries fittingly bump up against the Post-Impressionists, those subsequent rebels who deemphasized contours and rejected natural lighting and coloring, largely opting for creatively juxtapositions and techniques across a number of separate yet related mini-movements. Neo-Impressionism, pointillism, Cloisonnism, Synthetism, and the French clique known as Les Nabis are each represented at the AIC under the Post-Impressionist aegis, some in greater quantities than others.

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Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 7: Monet Growing on Trees

Water Lily Pond!

Monet, The Water Lily Pond, 1899. Usually it’s the name Water Lilies that springs to mind whenever he’s name-checked, but he actually produced some 250 paintings on the same subject, 17 of those featuring this Japanese bridge.

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, intellects engaged, and cameras and phones at the ready. We barely saw half the museum and will have to return someday for more.

After our lunchtime intermission we returned to the museum through the west entrance to its “classic” half. the side with the two famous lion sculptures out front. Up the stairs and filling the long expanse bridging the train tracks is a wide selection of 19th-century Europeans, beginning with the Impressionists. Regressing a century prior to where we’d left off, once again we found ourselves within the realm of the moderately representational — figures, landscapes, and other nouns hewing somewhat to their intended shapes, but with colors and lightings bearing a more supernormal appearance. Definitely not pretend-photography like the “classic” era that preceded them.

The Art Institute has by far the largest Monet collection we’ve witnessed to date, alongside other peers from the Impressionist movement. Full confession: I gravitate toward works of stark contrast, and too many Monets in a row produced the opposite effect and began to look alike. Please enjoy this selection of what stood out to us before I began to walk a bit more briskly toward the Post-Impressionists…

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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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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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Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 3: Georgia on Her Mind

Blue and Green Music!

Blue and Green Music, 1921. An early attempt, capturing the qualities of sound in pure visuals.

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, imaginations stimulated, and cameras and phones at the ready. We barely saw half the museum and will have to return someday for more.

The museum had an above-average selection of works by Georgia O’Keeffe, logical given her status as a past student. With her unique modernist vision typically comprising stylized nature in bold contrasts, O’Keeffe holds the distinction of being the only artist with a print adorning the walls of our house (Red Hills and Pedernal. 1936). Anne picked it up on one of our past road trips, and seems to gravitate to her works whenever we run across them in our travels.

Between the two of us, we didn’t set out to capture all their O’Keeffe, but we ended up with enough to give her an entry of her own, presented in chronological order for value-added trivia fun.

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Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 2: The Old Modern Americans

America Gothic Farmer!

Never has a simple farmer gazed so deeply into my soul.

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, and cameras and phones at the ready (my camera battery actually ran out). We barely saw half the museum and will have to return someday for more.

Upon entering and paying, we headed directly toward the collective galleries of “Modern American Art 1900-1950” because they hold two of the Institute’s biggest names in classic paintings and, to be candid, I’m a sucker for art celebrities.

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Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 1: The Grounds Alone

Right Lion!

Sculptor Edward Kerneys named this lion “stands in an attitude of defiance”. I just call him Right Lion.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:**

It’s that time again! This week I turned 47 without entering true Midlife Crisis mode yet, and managed not to whine about it. Much. Not out loud, anyway. The more I stare at our recent convention photos, the more gray hairs I see taunting me and trying to convince me I am, in fact, an old adult and not a mature teenager.

For the past several years my wife and I have made a tradition of going somewhere new for each of our birthdays. One-day road trips and events such as last year’s Garfield Quest give me the gift of new experiences and distracts me from the physical decay at hand. As it happens, we’ll spending my birthday weekend helping a relative move, which means we’ve had to postpone my official birthday outing till next weekend. I’m grown-up enough to handle delayed gratification, and am at peace with the notion of serving others this weekend instead of indulging myself…

…and then we were released from service. The following weekend, after a brief overnighter at Fair Oaks Farms, we returned to Chicago for our third time this year after memorable trips for C2E2 and Star Wars Celebration Chicago. (It was our fifth total within the past twelve months. Frankly, we’re growing a little tired of that three-hour drive and are fairly certain 2019 won’t lure us back there yet again. Probably. We think.)

In my defense, this trip was all but preordained months ago. Continue reading

Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 12: Not Just Another New York Art Museum

Number 2 1949!

Jackson Pollock’s “Number 2, 1949”, daring me to fit it into a single shot without walking backward into someone behind me.

Longtime MCC readers know Anne is the history buff in our family, while I’m more like a history Biff. In planning such a history-heavy vacation, Anne was concerned I’d get bored quickly for lack of attractions that speak to any of my interests. Anne dug into the upstate New York research with no small amount of persistence and was proud to find a stop that would resonate with my tastes and connect with a previous experience. In essence she found us a de facto sequel to our 2016 tour of Manhattan’s Guggenheim Museum — same state, some of the same art movements, and the same classiness a mere 240 miles from NYC.

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Our 2010 Road Trip, Part 13: Streets of Philadelphia

Art Museum + Horseman!

The Philadelphia Museum of Art looked fabulous from a distance on a trolley that wasn’t stopping.

Some of our road trips simply needed more days that what we allotted. We thought we’d learned that lesson on our 2005 drive to San Antonio, when we spent more time in the car than we did on foot in Texas, because their state is like a separate continent compared to home. Our trip to Philadelphia encountered similar issues but for a different reason. We’d found so many interesting sights to see near Philly that we barely left any time for the city itself. We’re considering making up some of that lost time in this summer’s vacation. At the time, though, we did what we could with the moments we had.

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Our 2011 Road Trip #18: A Day at the Met

Chinese Tapestry!

After spending some time resting and admiring this Chinese mural, a trio of young European girls asked me to take their photo for them. One tourist to another, it was the least I could do.

[The very special miniseries continues! See Part One for the official intro and context.]

After the Sony Wonder Tech Lab, we returned to the subway, rode to 86th Street, and walked due west to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Seeing this entire ZIP-code-sized labyrinth of a museum would take months and require camping gear. In gracious deference to the member of our party with the shortest attention span, we kept a narrow focus on the Asian sections. On our next NYC trip someday before I die, it’ll be my turn to see what I want.

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Running an Art Museum for Fun and Profit, Part II: When It’s Time to Slash and Burn

Indianapolis Museum of Art

Most of this decorative frippery could be dismantled and sold as scrap metal. (photo credit: Valerie Everett via photopin cc)

Last weekend’s suggestion-box entry regarding possible economic improvement measures at the Indianapolis Museum of Art wasn’t intended as the launch of a new MCC series, merely a one-off, tongue-in-cheek response to other online reactions. Then again, I wasn’t expecting to see the IMA recapture the headlines this soon.

On Monday local news sources confirmed that our city’s largest art museum has eliminated twenty-nine employees (11% of the total staff) as part of their ongoing efforts to stem the losses from previous years’ shortfalls, and as part of new director/CEO Charles Venable’s plan to minimize budgetary dependence on the museum’s endowment fund, which weathered considerable battle damage during the 2008 recession. I don’t envy the position in which Venable and his survivors now find themselves, though I’m a little bitter that they didn’t even try any of my awesome ideas before swinging the axe of doom.

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Tips for Running an Art Museum for Fun and Profit

Indianapolis Museum of Art

The Indianapolis Museum of Art, which would make an awesome small-vehicle stunt-racing track. (Photo credit: Serge Melki via photopin cc)

In an era when taxpayers are overprotective of their disposable income and unappreciative of any art beyond the confines of their smartphone apps, I don’t envy the complicated role of the museum curator. Your purpose in society is to sort through millennia of art history, negotiate the opportunities to host the cream of the crop, settle for what’s available, and present the results to an audience that hopefully finds it all enlightening and engaging enough to leave behind some dollars on their way out. Best-case scenario: their donations and gift shop purchases are just enough to fund the next exhibit, cover the staff’s wages, and maybe even buy yourself a new tie.

Sadly, not all museums are enjoying the best of times today. Here in my hometown, our very own Indianapolis Museum of Art has struggled to recover after $89 million evaporated from their endowment in the 2008 recession. A recent Indianapolis Star interview with its new director, Charles Venable, revealed a few ideas the museum hopes to implement in order to recover lost ground, some of which have raised eyebrows of local patrons: a Matisse exhibit with a sizable surcharge (admission to IMA is normally free); late-night cocktail parties; and possibly an exotic car show. A few cost-cutting measures have already been taken, but financial stability can’t be achieved merely by clicking your heels three times and repeating the mantra, “Do more with less! Do more with less! Do more with less!” That way lies not wish fulfillment, but bankruptcy.

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