Exhibition Inquisition

The stuff you look at, but don't see.

Archive for the ‘Art Institute’ Category

Four Facts: Light Years at the AIC

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I’m going to experiment with a new, more regular (hopefully) feature to summarize the exhibitions I come across.  (I still plan on a series of posts about private collectors who build museums for their collections, because “that shit cray.”) Also meet my colleague and art world partner in crime: Bonnie O; she’s going to be blogging about her art adventures (of which she has many).

Trying to get a few more days out of my leather Jacket.

This Week’s Four Facts:

Light Years: Conceptual Art and Photography, 1964-1977
At the Art Institute of Chicago, through March 11

1 – Early Eleanor Antin work is in the show, and it’s great to see something other than her historical tableaus.  Although a personal goal of mine is to be in one of those photo shoots.  I look great in a toga, Eleanor! Read the rest of this entry »

Donors: Swarovski

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J.Lo, Rodarte, and So Much More.

“It’s a new generation of party people.” Yes, yes it is J.Lo.  I’ve been listening to this song non-stop for the past few days, ever since I discovered the video.  Watch it.  You may notice within the first twenty seconds a blatant product placement for Swarovski (see below still taken from the video).  What’s could possibly be inside that box?—A huge-ass crystal earring, which J.Lo puts on, and that opens the flood gates to a crystal-filled club world.  Huge crystal chandeliers and curtains of crystals everywhere!

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Museum Marketing: Kings, Queens, and Courtiers: Art in Early Renaissance France

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Art Institute of Chicago

If you’re like me, you already check out your reflection in the huge windows of ground floor lobbies in downtown.  Don’t lie; it’s impossible not to when faced with such large expanses of glass.  The Art Institute’s marketing campaign for its current temporary exhibition, show Kings, Queens, and Courtiers: Art in Early Renaissance France only makes things worse (or better).  Better.  Museums in Chicago love a creative marketing campaign (see previous post on The Horse at the Field).

Look at yourself, just look at yourself!

Why this campaign is better than the Horse campaign: The campaign uses artwork in the exhibition.  Both Jean Bourdichon’s Louis XII Kneeling in Prayer (1498/99) and Leonardo Da Vinci’s Madonna of the Yarnwinder are used.  (The latter is the clear superstar of the show.)  The marketing campaign pairs these paintings with large, silver, reflective material, on which are printed crowns and scepters.  The idea is to look into these mirrors and picture yourself as a King or Queen, or as a Madonna…

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Home for the Holidays

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Art Institute of Chicago

Lances and chainmail have a lot to do with the holidays…

So I know, the holidays are over, and I missed this occasion slightly, but I still wanted to dish briefly, mostly to focus on the massive amounts of advertising the Art Institute did for this campaign.  If you’ve walked in the Loop past a vacant storefront building, you’ve surely seen the massive ads about what’s going on at the Art Institute for the holidays.  Or if you’ve been in a subway car recently you might have noticed.  You know how sometimes a single advertiser will buy out all the ad space in an entire subway car? You could be in a car with only blackberry ads and find yourself really needing the ability to BBM.  Well the Art institute did the same; one night I found myself overwhelmed with ads about something going on at the Art Institute called “Home for the Holidays”—there was even ads for it on the ceiling of the subway car.

Ads on the red line.

The “Home for the Holidays” campaign was a concise (cost effective?) way of promoting several new things at the museum rolled into one campaign.  Those things being: 1-the wreathing of the lions, 2 – the decorating of the Thorne Miniature rooms in holiday décor, 3 – the reinstallation of Chagall’s American Windows, and 4 – the installation of the museum collection of arms and amour.  And although Chagall’s stained-glass windows aren’t so holiday themed, they sure reek of holiday spirit compared to suits of armor and battle axes.

The curtains match the drapes (the ads match the wreaths)—it’s called branding.

The wreathing of the lions is a tradition now in its nineteenth year.  Last year (2009) the Art Institute mixed tradition up a bit and had a design firm create contemporary wreaths for the lions.  This year, the museum commissioned the Chicago-based firm Materious to design the lions’ holiday garb: giant cranberry wreathes. The rich pinks and reds are a strong punctuation on snow-filled Michigan Ave.  (The wreaths also light up at night, and are solar-powered, oh hey!) The wreaths look a whole lot better than what they do to the lions when any local sports team wins a championship, and a whole lot better than the shoddy decorations over at the Field.  Also notice how the wreaths match the graphics in the “Home for the Holidays” ad campaign.

Word doesn’t recognize the word “dreidel,” is word being anti-Semitic?

Be prepared to be underwhelmed with the holiday decoration of the Thorne Rooms.  (Full disclosure, I’ve always disliked the Thorne Rooms, but I know that a lot of people love them.)  Only a measly six of the rooms were decorated this year; the museum says it’s going to make this a tradition so eventually maybe all the rooms will be dressed up. The decorations are tiny (duh) but also very hard to see, the English Victorian Era room has a Christmas tree, and someone decided the rich people who own the midcentury modern California room are Jewish.

Smells like holiday spirit.

The Chagall windows really did come “Home for the Holidays;” they haven’t been seen for five years during the construction of the Modern Wing.  The museum also organized a small exhibition about the legacy of public art in Chicago with models and projects to accompany the windows’ return. The windows also went in for some heavy cleaning, shown in the video below.

The other things that came home (for the holidays) was a selection of the museum’s George F. Harding Jr. Arms and Armor Collection.  The installation is complete with a fully-armed knight on horseback, massive tapestries, and cannon.  While this installation has nothing to do with the holidays (come on, you know it doesn’t), the wall text gives a hint about to exciting things.  It reads: “This temporary installation of arms and armor […] Plans are underway for a larger permanent installation […] This new gallery will be part of a series of galleries that feature the museum’s important collection of medieval and Renaissance Art.”  Clearly some large-scale reinstallations are afoot at the Art Institute, ones that are probably going to affect large portions of its well-loved and loved-to-be-seen permanent collection of European art.  I wonder how this will affect the museum in the coming years.

Nothing says “Merry Christmas!” like a medieval battleaxe.

- H.I.

P.S. This story piqued my interest today.  Starting in June, the Art Institute is getting rid of its free Thursday evening hours, quoting low attendance as a factor.  Ahem, I have class on Thursday evenings across the street and know that the line to get in wraps around the building.  Okay, I’ll be fair: the museum spokesperson said not enough Chicago residents were coming on those evenings and that it was mostly out-of-towners. AKA people the museum wants visiting during regular hours and paying full ticket price.  “Taking free hours off the table was never an option,” said a spokeswoman—well legally you can’t (all museums in Chicago are required to offer 52 free days), so don’t pretend like you do this out of the goodness of your heart.

P.P.S  I’m on break in LA, so expect a full report from the West Coast in upcoming posts.

Richard Hawkins – Third Mind

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Art Institute of Chicago

Gay desire isn’t just about pretty boys.

We haven’t posted in forever; we’re going to make it up to you with a gay show! Everyone is slapping the National Portrait Gallery’s ass for being oh-so-brave for tackling the controversial topic of gay desire in American art. Because no one has dared go gay lately.  Oh wait, yes they have, here, here, and here.  And that’s just at one museum East Coasters.  Museums in the middle of the country have gone gay too; here in Chicago, Richard Hawkins – Third Mind is currently on view at the Art Institute.

This is what we gleaned from the intro walltext:   The Andy Warhol Foundation awarded a grant for this show, which is a not-so-unobvious clue that this show is going to be gay gay gay.  Third Mind, is Hawkins’s first museum survey, but NOT A RETROSPECTIVE, he’s a mid-career artist and isn’t going anywhere so let’s make that clear.   According to the text, the subtitle (Third Mind) “serves as a testament to the duplicity and ambiguity that characterizes his work,” but is probably more a play on this.  I don’t know if Hawkins work is as duplicitous and ambiguous as the curators are claiming; to me it’s not that unclear…more on that later.  Also the organization of the show is addressed:

Due to the decidedly circuitous nature of Hawkins’s art, linear chronology alone is an insufficient mode of presentation. Thus, this exhibition is laid out in a sequence of ‘rooms’ made up of visual and thematic comparisons that provide just one of many possible bases for comprehending and appreciating the complexities of Hawkins’s practice within the larger historical context provided by the encyclopedic setting of the Art Institute.

What a revelation!—Not. I love it when museums explain themselves, but here there doesn’t really seem to be anything to explain; the curators grouped works from various series of Hawkins work together, aaaand done.

From this first grouping of works (a collage series from 2000) two things are very clear: one, Hawkins excels in collages (paintings not so much, and sculptures sometimes). Two, the majority of people who love to buy Hawkins are from New York, Miami (not a shocker), LA (not shocking), and also Chicago, since apparently someone has been on a spending spree on behalf of the Art Institute.

Bottom - Urbis-Paganus-IV.9.1, (2009)

The next series of collages is funny as hell, and pretty gay.  The series combines various cutouts of Greek and Roman sculptures with texts praising this or that dick or ass of the sculptures.  Hawkins has no problem pointing out which Greek derriere he prefers most; his sassy comments on men’s physiques are the definition of being a bitchy gay.  Take that National Portrait Gallery with your “codified” signs of homosexual desire.

Zombies are the new vampires – Disembodies Zombie Head(s) (1997)

In the next room are several more series.  The Hawkins work I knew previously is the Disembodied Zombie Heads series.  Look here’s one from a MOCA show, how considerate of MOCA to lend it.  And if one Disembodied Zombie Head weren’t enough, and if three Disembodied Zombie Heads weren’t enough (the Hammer loaned not one, but two), the Art Institute has gathered six total (the other three come from LA too).  I think six Disembodied Zombie Heads is just overkill (but zombies are hot in Hollywood right now).

Some newly acquired Hawkins sculptures.

Several sculptures are scattered earlier on in the show, but the last room is mostly devoted to them.  House of Mad Professor (2008) from the Hammer, Crepuscule #1 & #3(1994), Dilapidarian Tower, (2010) and some other haunted houses litter the space.  The sculptures are engaging, mostly because they have elements of Hawkins’s collage practice in them.  And don’t forget, this show continues in Gallery 291…

If you want to see some of Hawkins’s paintings you have to go to the other side of the Modern Wing, up a flight of stairs, and navigate to the correct room.  It seems like the curators were trying to hide Hawkins paintings, and personally I think it’s because these paintings aren’t Hawkins’s best work. Organizing the exhibition with this divide only makes this fact more obvious to me.   (Apparently they do sell; they’re still listed on Hawkins’s LA gallery’s website.)   Had the curators chosen only 10 butt sculpture collages, and only three zombie heads, maybe there would have been room to put Hawkins’s paintings in with the rest of the show.

Customized of Readymade (2005) & Burberry Schoolgirl (2005) - In gallery 291 for a reason?

The many similar examples from the same collage series are excessive and unneeded; the effect makes this seem more like a gallery show and less like a thoughtfully curated museum exhibition.  Proof of this is in the pictures.  The below installation shots aren’t from the Art Institute, but from several recent gallery shows.  This is pretty much what the show at the Art Institute looks like.

Installation shots, but of what?

Maybe the curators wanted to show how widely Hawkins is collected, or maybe they wanted to showcase the shopping spree someone has been on. Many of the works in the show are labeled as newly acquired for the museum, proving that museums are active in the contemporary art market world (although perhaps only as recipients of works that a donor chooses to acquire).  Speaking of donors, let’s take a look at the lenders, there are a lot of them, and most of them are from New York, Miami and LA:

Craig Robins – Miami developer (and CE’mO) who loves artistic projects
Blake Byrne – Former-MOCA-board-member-‘mo
Kourosh Larizadeh & Luis Pardo – donate to ‘MOCA in LA
Goetz Collection – Munich, collection of Ingvild Goetz, who is a lady (exception to the trend)
John Morace & Tom Kennedy – New York ‘mos who sponsor a lot of shows
David Campbell – I hope this is the right old guy
Greene Naftali Gallery – Hawkins’s New York Gallery
Paul Chan – New York artist, also represented by Greene Naftali
Robert Lade & Richard Telles – LA ‘mos(?) and one half of Hawkins’s LA gallery, Richard Telles
Jim Isermann – LA artist, also represented by Richard Telles Gallery…
Tiffany Tuttle & Richard Lidinsky – Un-goggle-able couple
Dennis Cooper – LA, writer-of-Closer-‘mo
Barry Sloane – Big-shot LA realtor, who’s sold a Frank Lloyd Wright
Peter Norton – Gold-shitting heterosexual, of the Peter Norton Family foundation, and Norton Antivirus
And some Private Collection(s) in Chicago

So a bunch of ‘mo are buying Hawkins work, which isn’t surprising since the work is very generous (saturated even) with homosexual desire.  Let’s talk about desire:  When I was taking notes on my blackberry, I overheard a gallery walkthrough in progress.  A young museum educator talking with some silver-haired ladies, and I thought, wow this must be awkward.  But she handled it amazing well.  She recounted how she had given a tour to a highschool group and asked them to consider the idea of desire, how it is what you want and sometimes what you can’t have, and to question what is keeping you from having it.  Sources confirm that Hawkins is not dealing with unfulfilled desires.  After covering the subject matter of Greek and Roman sculptures, Hawkins began to focus on images on Asian boys.  Hawkins does indeed have a little Asian manfriend, so to his desires seem more fulfilled than un, mostly because little Asian men love him back.

Hope this post was as good for you as it was for me.  Why are the gay posts the best posts?

- H.I.

P.S. To my LA readers, Third Mind is headed to Los Angeles (shock of all shocks) after it closes in Chicago, so head over to the Hammer in February.

Urbis Paganus III (2009)– So many things you love all in one artwork Keith.

Public Notice 3

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Art Institute of Chicago

Not-so-coincidentally Public Notice 3, by Jitish Kallat opened on September 11, 2010.  You probably remember what happened on September 11, 2001, but September 11, 1893 is also intrinsically important to this piece.  The words from a speech given by the Indian monk and social reformer Swami Vivekananda on September 11, 1893 have been illuminated in thousands of colored LED lights and set into the risers of the Woman’s Board Grand Staircase in the Art Institute.  The “landmark speech delivered at the first World’s Parliament of Religions, in what is now the Art Institute’s Fullerton Hall, by Vivekananda, who called for an end to all “bigotry and fanaticism.”” Another major element of this piece is therefore site-specificity.

Danger, danger, high voltage.

Vivekananda’s words are illuminated in five significant colors taken from the United States’ Homeland Security Advisory System.  It’s been a while since I thought about this color system, so I needed to refresh myself on the meaning/terminology.  Red = severe risk of terrorist attack, orange = high risk, yellow= elevated risk, blue = general risk, and green = low risk.  I kinda forgot about this institutionalized system of fear, and being reminded of it, I realize I can totally live without it.

I wonder what security level the Art Institute is operating at right now.

The message in this work is profound, meaningful, and especially timely—too bad the execution of the work is lacking.  What could have looked high-tech and modern, ended up looking like a cheap lite brite from the 90s.  I will concede that spending a lot of cash on something expensive placed at foot level also wouldn’t fly with me, so I forgive those responsible, and shall consider them frugal and realistic.  One well executed element is that no matter which of the four entrances up the stairs you enter (or exit) you read the same text; you read the whole speech regardless of the path you take.

Standart, they came up with that not me.

A colleague of mine stated Public Notice 3, looked like a cheap version of Jenny Holzer, and this seemed like a tired (done and done better) idea.  I know all about Jenny Holzer, mostly from the installation of her work in the Standard Hotel in downtown LA.  The medium might be similar, but the impact is totally different (mainly because of context: Museum vs. swanky hipster hotel).  To say that Holzer is completely original in using LED lights would also be incorrect; Baldessari was using scrolling LED light messages as early as 1968 in his Lighted Moving Message.

Vintage LED lights, in Pure Beauty.

And if you were wondering, there is indeed a Public Notice 2, and even an original Public Notice.  Number 1 was created in2003, and is made up of five mirrored panels and uses text from a speech given by Jawaharlal Nehru on the occasion of Indian independence from British rule on 15 August 1947.  Number 2, was created in 2008, and is also a physical manifestation of another historic speech, this one delivered by Mahatma Gandhi, on the eve of the epic Salt March to Dandi.  Kallat is an Indian artist, which is probably why he uses speeches from important Indian orators, but the themes in these speeches are (as corny as it sounds) universal, and very topical for an American audience.

Bad ad and small advertising budget.

Chicago art-going audiences might be over art installations on stairs.  Right now, just a few blocks away at the MCA, is another installation on their front stairs.  For the life of me (and almost a half hour of googling it) I couldn’t figure out who this installation was by. And then I read the words again; it says “form, balance, joy” in bubbely, bouncing letters—so it might just be a bad attempt at advertising their recent Calder show.   Apparently the MCA really likes doing the whole installation on the stairs thing and has done a few in the past.  I hope that people in Chicago aren’t bored of stair installations, because this one at the Art Institute is way different (and way cooler) the ones I’ve seen so far at the MCA.

- H.I.

P.S. here are some more photos of Public Notice 3, via the Art Institute’s Flickr, yes they have a Flickr, and yes I approve of them using social media in this way.  And look a blog post too!

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