Saturday, August 29, 2015

Buffalo (art) on the move

I believe I discussed this a while back, but we had attempted to visit the Albright-Knox Museum in Buffalo on the trip we made to Niagara/Buffalo to deal with our permanent resident paperwork (which had to be processed at a border crossing).  Due to unusually long border delays and bad Google directions, we weren't able to make it to the museum.  That was particularly unfortunate as they had temporarily reinstalled 80 of their masterworks, which were about to go back on tour.  In Dec., I made it to the museum on my own and found that they still had some amazing pieces.  I wrote about that here.

To kick off this long trip, I decided I would go through Buffalo en route to St. Louis.  Not only would the plane fare be cheaper, but I could visit the Albright-Knox again.  I also knew that their traveling exhibition would be in Milwaukee, which we planned to visit before returning to Chicago.  So I'll combine both of these museum visits into one longish post, and write about the other museums I visited separately.

The bus down wasn't too bad, though the promised wireless wasn't working.  I was totally beat from preparing for the trip (not just packing but doing some cleaning as well).  I had planned to do a fair bit of reading, but just didn't have the energy so I mostly slept on the way down.

Downtown Buffalo was depressing as ever, but it didn't take too long to get to the museum on the local bus system.  They had a massive exhibit on video art take over the special collections side, and some were quite interesting, including 3 full pieces by William Kentridge (I sat through two of them).  I think my problem with video art is that you have so little control over them; you so frequently come in during the middle and have to wait for the piece to loop through.  That's not so bad for a 5 minute piece, but some of these pieces were substantially longer.  (In a different gallery they were playing these long-form pieces that were very similar to the Krewmaster cycle (including in length) but were animated.)  I did spend a fair bit of time inspecting the different pieces before I went back to the main gallery.

I have to admit that this time wasn't as good as the previous visit.  Quite a number of the pieces I'd seen were packed away (possibly to make space for the masterworks which should be returning in October).  Generally, the abstract expressionists were still there and a few others I remembered, like Milton Avery's Bucolic Landscape.  However, the large room filled with Clyfford Still was now filled with much lower quality paintings.  On the other hand, they had a few solid pieces from the Pop era and beyond.

I was pleased to see George Segal's Cinema and pieces by Rauschenberg and Rosenquist.

James Rosenquist, Nomad, 1963

The Nomad piece is particularly multi-media with a plastic bag of some type hanging from the top and a broken chair at the bottom.  It put me in mind of a balloonist having a very, very bad day...  I don't even know that I've ever seen or heard of this piece before, since I am unaware of Rosenquist doing the multi-media thing, whereas it is quite expected from Rauschenberg, though his piece in the museum (Ace) was actually fairly restrained.  Anyway, those new Pop-era pieces were basically the highlight of the Buffalo leg of the trip, and I will definitely want to hold off on another trip to the Albright-Knox until they reintegrate the masterworks which were on view in Milwaukee.

With that, I will skip over more than a week of calendar time to get to the Milwaukee trip.  I had no end of trouble trying to book the tickets on the Amtrak website, but this isn't a route that gets oversold, so we just walked over in the morning and bought tickets for the 10:30 train.  This dropped us off just before noon, and we were met by my cousin who lives in Wisconsin.  We drove over to the Milwaukee Art Museum and ended up eating there in the cafe.

I was somewhat surprised and a bit disappointed to learn that the entire main collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum was offline with the galleries being renovated and the art then being reinstalled at some point in the late fall.  Well, it may just mean that if we are in Chicago for more than a week next summer, we'll make another trip up.

It also meant that we focused our attention on the special exhibit, i.e. the paintings on loan from the Albright-Knox.  This was an impressive core collection, and I do hope that most of it is on display the next time I visit Buffalo.

The best way to get a sense of the paintings on loan from the collection is to buy or borrow the catalog titled The Long Curve (some details here).   (Obviously it is better to go in person if that is an option...)  I was pleased that because the Albright-Knox allows photography, they didn't put any restrictions on photography in the special exhibit (other than no flash photos), which I thought was very generous of them.  I will post just a few that struck me, but really all the pieces were quite nice.

Wassily Kandinsky, Fragment I for Composition VII, 1913

Stuart Davis, New York Waterfront, 1938

Max Beckmann, Hotel Lobby, 1950
Helen Frankenthaler, Tutti-Fruitti, 1966

After viewing the exhibit, my cousin drove back home and we went to do some art of our own, which I've memorialized here.  Then we met another friend who lives in Milwaukee at the Public Market to catch up a bit, and then walked back to the Amtrak station.  A pleasant & not overwhelming day trip to Milwaukee.  I'll have to keep this in mind to not try to overload the kids on these various trips, even though it cuts against my nature.

At any rate, this wasn't the end of my museum going, as I managed to sneak one more quick peek at the Chicago Cultural Center on Monday and a very short trip to the MCA on Tuesday.  I'll be discussing these trips, as well as the longer trips to the St. Louis Art Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago, in the near future.  But for now, I'll think I'll end with my son pondering the ineffable in the form of Rothko's Orange and Yellow.

Mark Rothko, Orange and Yellow, 1956

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