Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Two Supreme Works at The Art Institute of Chicago

      We wanted to visit The Art Institute of Chicago, a favorite museum of ours, because we hadn’t seen the new contemporary wing.  Karn had visited earlier this year and wasn’t overly enthusiastic, but we wanted to confirm that opinion or not.  If you have a hankering for contemporary art, go to the Museum of Contemporary Art, adjacent to Water Tower Place.  Its content is similar to the Whitney in New York.  

The Modern Wing Designed by Architect Renzo Plano 
Griffin Court in the Modern Wing

Pritzker Garden Bridging the Modern Wing
with the Original Building

The Art Institute is reminiscent of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, which is the museum Americans really want to see because of the Impressionist collection.  The Art Institute has the best Impressionist collection outside of the Musée d’Orsay and because of the new wing, it’s able to be displayed practically by individual artist in each of the galleries.  

The Original Building of the Art Institute of Chicago
Sunday Afternoon on the
Island of La Grande Jatte
by Seurat

That element is welcome, but the architectural style is not very congruent with the original building.  It looks like too much of an update of the International style instead of an update of the Classical Revival.  Regardless of whether new or old, I haven't been to a museum that has been able to solve the issue of how sore and worn out most viewers feet are by the end of their visit.

One of the Monet Galleries

Matisse's Bathers by a River
      I think the greatest painting of the 20th century resides in the Art Institute and, though I love Picasso, it’s not Guernica, but Matisse’s Bathers by a River.  Although it shows five or, possibly, four female figures where one might be metamorphosing into a different version of herself, I think it’s all about the phases of Eve from before she meets the serpent until she has been transformed by knowledge.  

The final figure on the right of the painting faces the viewer, and her future, full on and her face is brightly lit, although she is featureless.  It’s technically astonishing because it’s only in black, white, green, and a little pink.  The bather becomes more vital even as she steps away from Eden.  Yes, it most likely refers to the conflagration and new order that resulted from World War I.  As The Wedding At Cana by Veronese is outshone by the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, so too is Bathers by a River outdone in familiarity to viewers by Picasso’s The Old Guitarist, probably the most well-known work of his Blue Period.   There is a ton of other wonderful works there so it’s more than worth the $18 entrance fee.

      The other supreme work viewable in the contemporary wing is the spectacular view of the Chicago skyline.  Sure, there may be more great buildings in New York, but they’re harder to see because of the overabundance of real estate in a tighter space.  From Daniel Burnham on, Chicago has wonderful examples of every major movement in western architecture of the past one hundred and twenty years.  It’s an ever evolving art work because there’s always another building going up along Lake Michigan or the Chicago River.

Bluhm Family Terrace

Gerhard Richter's Woman Descending the Staircase

This is my portrait by Gerhard Richter but it's part of a private collection.  Who knows, maybe someday it will be seen at the Art Institute in Chicago.

Cat Reclining on Driveway

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