Sunday, October 9, 2016

August travels - pt 2 (Chicago)

The Chicago leg of the trip was marginally more relaxed.  At one point, we had planned to run up to Milwaukee, but my cousin and his family were not in town (we missed each other by about 2 days).  So we had a day of just chillin' in Chicago.

Getting to Chicago itself was just a bit fraught.  Fortunately, I had gotten there on the early side (and I didn't have any checked luggage).  There were some weather delays affecting many flights.  I managed to go stand by on the flight ahead of mine.  (I haven't managed to go stand by (without paying extra) for ages.)  While that flight left 30 to 45 minutes late, my original flight was considerably delayed.  I really can't recall much about that evening, though I think I ended up doing some work and emailing it in.

The next morning, I set off to the Chicago Cultural Center.  While I usually like the exhibits there (and am quite stoked to see Norman Lewis exhibit in just a few more weeks), it was definitely underwhelming this time around.  I also don't like the changes they have to made to the main floor.  It just didn't feel welcoming at all, and just in general Chicago felt very depressing to me on this visit.

The rest of Sunday was devoted to theatre.  I saw Sister Cities and stuck around for a while to participate in the talk-back with the playwright.  Then I took the CTA up to catch Fefu and Her Friends.  I blogged about both plays a while back.

Monday there were not that many museums open (though I suppose the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry were).  In any case, I took the kids to the Art Institute.  My daughter really wanted to see the miniature rooms in the basement, so we started there.

I was not expecting to see this Romare Bearden piece in the basement, but it was a nice surprise.

Romare Bearden, The Street, 1964

This time around, the main draw were the exhibits in the Modern Wing.  They had a photography exhibit featuring Gordon Parks and his work in Harlem with a special focus on his efforts to illustrate Ellison's Invisible Man.

Gordon Parks. Untitled (Harlem, New York), 1952

I might have riffed on Jeff Wall's slightly more overwhelming take on the book already.  While in some ways I prefer Wall's version, Parks was working directly with Ellison, so there is no question which is closer to what Ellison had in mind.

The other exhibit was focused on U.S. paintings from the 1930s.  There were of course several Hopper and O'Keeffe paintings, as well as Archibald Motley's Saturday Night (on loan from Howard University).

Archibald J. Motley Jr., Saturday Night, 1935

Once again, I think the Art Institute sort of dropped the ball, by not having a short note telling visitors to go look at Motley's Nightlife in the appropriate gallery.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., Nightlife, 1943

Since Nightlife was painted in the 1940s it couldn't be part of the show, but I still don't know why they didn't loan it out to the Motley exhibit the year prior.*

I think the 2nd most interesting painting they brought in (as opposed to being drawn from their collections, which constituted the the bulk of the show) was this fairly creepy piece on loan from MoMA.

Peter Blume, The Eternal City, 1934-37

We did have to sort of cut the museum trip short a bit after seeing the Modern Wing, as the children were getting a bit restless.

Tuesday, I went downtown and had lunch with a colleague from a previous job.  Then I took the kids off my wife's hands and took them to the MCA.  I had wanted them to check out the Kerry James Marshall exhibit.  The exhibit is very comprehensive with basically all his masterworks in one place.  It will be opening soon at the Met and will run through Jan. 2017, and then will transfer to MOCA in Los Angeles in the spring.  I would certainly encourage interested folks to check it out, as I did come away with a deeper respect for his work.

I'll post a couple of paintings that I thought worked particularly well, but due to the way that Marshall represents Black people, his paintings are quite difficult to actually reproduce and are better seen in person.

Kerry James Marshall, Campfire Girls, 1995

Kerry James Marshall, Souvenir I, 1997

We stayed downtown and had just a bit of time to explore Millennium Park and Maggie Daley Park before heading off to Midway.  I was very burdened by a heavy suitcase filled with all kinds of books and CDs (including the Motley catalog), but somehow we got on the plane and then through customs without any snags.  I was glad to be back in Toronto, though I did feel that I could definitely have used another day or two of actual vacation...

* Actually, Nightlife was technically in the Motley show (and thus it is in the catalogue) but only was shown at 1 of the 5 locations, and it was definitely not on view at the Chicago Cultural Center.  So strange.

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