As I’ve written before, there is always something good, something exciting, something sublime, something challenging, to see at The Art Institute of Chicago. Since there is such a wealth of riches, if one’s time is limited one must plan on which galleries to visit and where to focus, and be aware one is likely to find welcome distractions and some unexpected treasures along the way. We had the good fortune to visit a few days ago, just before several of the temporary shows were about to change. We found ourselves following a path we have travelled many times before, always finding new works to enjoy and study, seeing and noting changes in galleries we pass through on our way to destinations in some specific galleries.
On the wall in the Griffin Court is a text installation by Kay Rosen, Leak, 1997/2017. Leak was first installed at Galerie Michael Cosar in Dusseldorf.
On this visit, as on others, it was exciting to enter the museum at the Modern Wing off of Millennium Park and to see a show that opened earlier this month, presenting the works of the Brazilian artist Tarsilo do Amaral that runs through January 7, 2018. This exhibition demonstrates how a classically trained artist’s approach changed when she immersed herself in the art world of early 20th century Paris. The link will take you to the museum’s website and information about the artist and exhibit.
As we headed toward the galleries near the Michigan Avenue entrance, we saw many favorites along the way. We arrived at the Prints and Drawings galleries where two of the shows we had gone to see specifically were on view:
Cauleen Smith: Human 3.0 Reading List
Steinberg – It was very refreshing to see this selection of drawings by this master of line, wit, humor, and design. Seeing these works first hand, as opposed to how we usually see Steinberg’s images in magazines and mass media, one is again reminded of the importance of looking, and seeing the directness of the actual art work.
Smith – In the adjacent galleries were Cauleen Smith’s beautiful series of watercolor drawings of covers of books, sometimes including the artist’s hand holding the book. Smith chose 57 books that have shaped late 20th century American culture through today and for future generations. Smith honors these inspiring tools of change, so necessary for a just society.
In the Photography galleries on the lower level is an exhibition honoring the legacy of the museum’s early curator of photography, Hugh Edwards. This exhibit features works by many of the artists who have shaped what we think of and know of contemporary photography. Vintage prints, with some donated from the curator’s personal collection on his death, form a solid foundation of the museum’s collection. While it was exciting to see these many truly beautiful works, I couldn’t help but wonder about who wasn’t included in this exhibition. We know significant works were made before 1970, the year Edwards retired, by more women than just Julia Margaret Cameron. A few women were included in an adjacent exhibition in the hallways in front of the Photography Galleries but represented mostly by one single photo rather than the groupings of photos representing artists in the main galleries. I wondered if I missed a gallery with works by Imogene Cunningham, Diane Arbus, Margaret Bourke White, Lee Miller, Bernice Abbott, Dorothea Lange? To learn more about Edwards, see Elizabeth Siegel’s essay, The Photographer’s Curator.
Our visit was brief but we felt fortunate to see these shows, and as always, they were inspiring. A visit to the museum wouldn’t be complete without using the Woman’s Board Grand Staircase. With each visit I approach it with anticipation, not just because it takes one to different levels, but also to see the varying effects of light and to see which sculpture will be featured on the landing. This season one finds Hero Construction by Chicago sculptor Richard Hunt as one mounts the stairs altered by the work from 1977 by Daniel Buren.