Today I took the train into Chicago. I intended on wandering the Art Institute for a few hours and then going to Skydeck (the observation deck of Sears Willis Tower). I did go to the Art Institute, but I didn’t really want to go to Skydeck alone. Somehow I decided I would go back to Chicago tomorrow and see the other half of the Asian exhibit, which is my favorite. I only saw about half of it today because I wanted to the Modern Art without Kristin who really only likes to point and laugh at modern art, and go to Skydeck then. However, what I really wanted to tell you about, is the modern art wing at the AIC. Believe me people, sometimes art is cool, or challenging, or disturbing, and sometimes it’s just NOT art. Let me explain…
Mortar and Pestle by Janine Antoni-
Disturbing, and weird? Check! Art? I’ll let you decide. Then there was…
Untitled (Portrait of Ross in LA) by Felix Gonzalez-Torres
Sorry, I can’t post an actual picture as it is LITERALLY a pile of wrapped hard candies stacked in the corner of a room.
According to the description posted, the artist also calls it “Ideal weight 175 lbs”. You see his lover died of an AIDS related illness. The candies start out as a pile ideally weighing about 175 lbs (the lover's ideal weight) and instructions are given that adult visitors may eat one piece of candy so that the weight of the pile slowly deteriorates like the artist’s lover did in his final illness. Instructions are also given that the candies should be replenished when they run low, thus “giving the piece and the man [I think the lover] eternal existence”. I can assemble candy in a corner. But can I give it meaning? It did make me think, it challenged my preconceptions of what I was looking at, it even challenged my ideas of what art is. I was tempted to write it off as “not art” but I can’t. At least I’ll still think about this one.
The one I won’t think about (except in outrage that someone deemed it “art") is called Distorted Circle Within A Square by Robert Mangold. It is literally a rough black circle drawn on a plain, grey painted square canvas. I could literally make the exact same thing. Shoot, I have three year olds who have to do the exact same thing (draw a circle, not paint a square) as a test to make sure they are developmentally where they ought to be. NOT ART!
However, there is always my favorite thing in the modern wing to go to when I’m outraged. (Despite my comments above, I have been there before and I do enjoy it.) It’s a painting called White Crucifixion by Chagall.
This is a painting of the crucifixion of Jesus done in 1938 Europe (France). Above Jesus are the Jewish matriarchs and patriarchs, and below him are representations of the pogroms so prevalent at the time. Here Jesus is not murdered by the Jews as in the prevelent, contemporary view, but rather a Jewish martyr like so many others. It is moving, challenging, hard to really look at, and it is art. There is nothing challenging to drawing a misshapen circle inside a square, no reason for me to really look at it and nothing to make me truly think.
Perhaps I really will go back tomorrow (I’m a teacher, so I get free admission and I still have my weekend pass for the train…). If I do you can guarantee I will finish the other half of the Asian exhibit. I might even check out the Chagall again. But I promise you I will skip the plain black canvas with nothing on it someone deemed art. Also if I go, I really am going to Skydeck.