This is the final installment about recent visits to exhibitions in the Chicago area earlier this month, seeing great shows, some now closed, and seeing others that continue into the new year. In my last post we left off on The Nichols Bridgeway, over Monroe as we were about to enter the Art Institute to see a show that was just opening to the public that day, and runs through January 15, 2018.
Revoliutsiia! Demonstratsiia! Soviet Art Put to the Test
This exhibition, one hundred years after the Revolution of 1917, presents a comprehensive overview that, as stated on the museum website, “…explores the trajectory of early Soviet art in all its forms and what it tells us about socially minded art now.” Included in the show are major artists who have influenced modern art movements in film, painting, sculpture, design (including many utilitarian objects), advertising, as well as uses of propaganda; as a friend from graduate school once said, “The Russians really did do it first.” It was compelling to see a room of early experimental films, re-fabricated sculpture, and a reconstructed exhibition room based on a 1926 design that El Lissitzky created for Dresden and later venues. The Art Institute was able to bring together works by the artists El Lissitzky had shown then, Mondrian, Picabia, Klee, Schlemmer, Lissitzky himself, etc. The room itself is intriguing – Lissitzky designed the walls of the room to be changeable for new displays, with some walls having movable panels with grids of holes and other walls having vertical bars whose different colors are revealed depending on one’s point of view.
The density of material in Revoliutsiia, over 500 works of art, is such that it will take several visits to fully grasp the subtleties and richness of all that is presented. I look forward to reading thoughts and perceptions about this exhibition from Chicago-based art writer Susan Snodgrass. You can find Susan’s essays and criticism on her website.
Leaving this show I found myself marveling as I passed by those beautiful Ellsworth Kelly’s for a second time that day. Then, out of the corner of my eye, some classics magnetically drew me into galleries I wasn’t planning to visit that day. I’ve had this experience before, thinking to myself that I “don’t need” to see this or that work as I’ve seen them many times before, and there is just so much to see throughout the museum; but giving in, I was mesmerized at the radiance of light as I stood in front of Hopper’s somber yet glowing, Night Hawks. And once again, it was like seeing old friends, in Albright’s Dorian (Picture of Dorian Gray, 1943/44) and Ida (Into the World There Came a Soul Called Ida, 1929–30). It brought back memories of seeing a major show of Albright’s works at the Art Institute decades ago. For me, one of the most satisfying art experiences is to see a comprehensive exhibition and gain a deeper appreciation of an artist’s life work.
I completed this visit with a final viewing of the photography galleries as it was the last day of the exhibit I wrote about in an earlier post. Before heading outside to explore other things the city has to offer I trekked up the stairs of The Woman’s Board Grand Staircase to see how the light was infusing that classic space.