Yesterday was a fabulous day of art. Not only did I get to spend the day in my favorite art city (Chicago), but I got to spend it with my friend Amanda who was in town from Scotland. We decided to take in as much art in the loop that we could in 3 hours.
First we headed over to the Jim Nutt show at the MCA, which is quite a collection of portrait work. Sadly, I don’t share the excited impact of the Chicago Imagists artwork that was done by the Hairy Who group in the 60’s as much as others. Not that I don’t appreciate the movement and the embodiment of the artwork, because I DO. However, the imagery (while fun and courageous) doesn’t leave a lasting impression on me. But to see Jim Nutt’s painted heads is another story. These pieces are amazing with fine detail work that you have to see in person and up close. The colors (albeit acrylic) are luscious with undulating colors that from a distance look one way, but from up close question what you saw from afar.
There is also a companion exhibition that was thrilling to me, to say the least. You can see artworks by Wangechi Mutu, Francis Bacon, and a piece from Carol Dunham that I would have never thought he had done. There is also artwork in the companion piece from some of Mr. Nutt’s peers such as Ted Halkin and Gladys Nilsson. On some of the companion artwork, the artists write about how Jim Nutt’s work has personally influence their own work.
Don’t forget to see the haunting piece on the same floor by Susan Phillipsz.
After that we treaded over to a gallery that I never even knew existed in the loop. The James R. Thompson Center has a gallery named the Illinois State Museum – Chicago Gallery. We learned that it has various exhibitions that range from artistic to historic. Amanda had heard of the current exhibition titled “Luminous Ground – Artists With History”. This features Ralph Arnold, Morris Barazani, Fred Berger, Gerda Meyer Bernstein, William Frederick, Ted Halkin, Thomas Kapsalis, Vera Klement, Ellen Lanyon, Elizabeth Ruprecht, and Leopold Segedin. These eleven artists have created artwork for over 50 years and while creating have influenced generations of other artists with their insight and their work.
In this show (open until 8/26) you can witness the mesmerizing color usage of Elizabeth Ruprecht, be moved by the vast empathy and voice of Gerda Meyer Bernstein, be swept away by the gorgeous figurative work of Fred Berger, and jump inside the small assemblage boxes of Ralph Arnold. This show is such a feast for the eyes and the soul…you have to get there if possible. If for no other reason, than just to see the vast work of these amazing figures in Chicago’s rich artistic history and bask in the amount of experience and knowledge these artists possess.
Lastly we galloped over to the Chicago Cultural Center to see the “Off the Beaten Path” – exhibition focusing on Violence, Women, and Art. While I found this artwork to be moving and disturbing, I was a tad disappointed in the continual slap in the face some of the images caused to me. I believe this show is a cathartic exercise for some of the artists in view. There were some disturbing images, so be aware, however there were also some amazing pieces that will inspire you and stay with you with positive impacts. The one I felt had the greatest impact was a two video installation by Yoko Ono. The first one was done in 1965 at Carnegie Hall in New York. She sat on a stage with a black dress on and invited others to come up and cut pieces of it off of her. It was beautiful and poignant. There was also another version of the same performance, but done in 2006 with a much older Yoko Ono. For me this one seemed to have more impact, perhaps because she wears the lines of fame and loss on her face more than from 1965. For me, it appears as though the “cutters” are like vultures taking pieces of her away. Pretty great stuff. The exhibition features artists from all across the world and consist of varying ages. It is rich in what it offers, but personally I would rather see women portrayed as stronger individuals rather than victims.
I was really hoping to get to the Wangechi Mutu lecture last evening at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I am fascinated by Mutu’s artwork as I believe it relates to my own work of questioning what exactly makes a woman a woman. I am disappointed to say that I missed it, but instead I chose to spend that time with a friend talking about our art and the things we were feeling from all that artwork we had seen in that one day.