The Art Institvte of Chicago (don’t blame me — that’s the way they spell it on the visitor guide)

Several of my friends from the Graphics Department at work spent last Thursday evening at the Art Institute to see the new Modern Wing. Knowing that I am pretending to learn about art, they invited me along. Since I was heading to the city anyway, I decided to make a day of it. I arrived downtown around 10:30 and spent five hours or so doing various and sundry things (which will be the subject of future posts) before meeting up with the group at Corner Bakery for supper.

The new building is directly across the street from Millennium Park, and a walkway — The Nichols Bridgeway — leads from the park to the upper floor of the museum. I took this pan earlier in the afternoon while it was raining. I was standing at the midway point of the bridgeway facing east towards Lake Michigan. The mysterious circles that show up all over the place are raindrops on my camera lens — since the pan is made up of eight photos, the drops repeat across the image. I thought about trying to eliminate them, but then I decided just to leave it as it is and call it modern art.

I found the building rather stark and institutional. Here’s another shot from the base of the bridgeway.

June 11, 2009

The inside was as stark as the outside. Bits of art were scattered about in galleries and at the end of hallways. Here’s an example.

I wandered through the galleries of contemporary art by myself for a little while and found myself perplexed. I ran into Karen and we walked about chatting about why she liked the pieces she liked and why I liked the piece (note the use of the singular) that I liked (which she didn’t, by the way). Then I fell in with Alicia, Michayla and John. It wasn’t long before one of us suggested we head toward the Galleries of American Art where the “real” art was. I heartily agreed.

I quickly found Nighthawks, by Edward Hopper (1942), which was on loan the only other time I’ve been in the museum.

We strolled around for perhaps 45 minutes. I saw a lot of paintings I liked, but I’ll get to them eventually in my Great Paintings series, so I won’t get into them here. Here’s a shot of John — he’s the official photographer at work, so he doesn’t usually appear in photos. Alicia and Michayla are in the background.

Alicia and Michayla contemplate Mrs. George Swinton, painted by John Singer Sargent in 1897.

The piece that interested me the most wasn’t a painting but a table. The top was inlaid in an incredibly-detailed pattern of flowers using five or six types of wood and mother of pearl. While it was more ornate than I care for, the craftsmanship that went into the top amazed me.

After a while, I decided I’d had as much art as I could take in one day. I wandered through the Architecture and Design galleries for a bit. Some pieces of furniture were on display which didn’t seem to belong in the same museum as the table above. I’m not sure they even belong on the same planet.

I took photos of several individual pieces of contemporary art which I will give studious and serious consideration to in future posts under the heading of “Is It Art If … “

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