1, 2, 7-4!

A couple of weeks ago I went to Chicago for a class, the point being to broaden our understanding of art and where it sources its inspiration—we’ve been told multiple times how art is not created in a vacuum. Being required to go to two museums, five galleries, public art, and an art store gave us plenty of proof of this.

Overall I’d say the trip was a success for me—I got to see plenty of art without getting too burnt out. To sum up the main points:

STOP NO. 1: ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO

I could’ve spent the whole day here. Unfortunately there was too much to do to spend a lot of time but I did enjoy exploring by myself and hopping onto a couple tours.
There was one point where I caught the end of a tour guide’s talk about Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. She pointed out the simplified picture of it, there being nothing on the street, no trash, and the sense of isolation taken from it. For the hell of it I ask her if there have any been arguments against the theme of isolation in Hopper’s paintings. I recorded her reply:

“No, because…looking at a retrospective of Hopper’s work you’ll see that he’s working with these themes of urban isolation again and again. He’s often depicting people as solitary beings within the city, purposefully not painting early in the morning, for example, when maybe the city itself is apparently like that but the way that he’s sort of observing the city scene gives you the sense that maybe he’s experiencing isolation or loneliness and depicting that. Then again, you know, of course something that you’re being really critical of which makes sense is that a lot of this is contemporary interpretation of his works. Of course with older works like with the Impressionist collection it is a lot more of having to interpret what the artists might have meant so obviously you can speak incorrectly. So I do believe that a lot of interpretation and theorizing of people’s work probably gets back to contemporary theory, speculation. So I think it’s wise to be kind of skeptical of that too.”

Huh. I always wonder what the artist would have said. Who doesn’t? Well, maybe some people…anyway…

STOP NO. 2: Cloud by Anish Kapoor, or The Bean, in Millennium Park
Although Cloud is big and shiny what seemed to really capture the kids’ attention were the pigeons. Ah, to be a kid and see them as pretty birds and not flying sewer rats.

STOP NO. 3-7: Galleries in the River North district
– Expression Galleries of Fine Art
– Addington Gallery
– Vale Craft Gallery
– Lydon Contemporary
– Schneider Gallery

STOP NO. 8: Chicago Cultural Center
Very cool place. I discovered Project Onward, a nonprofit that is a studio/gallery for people with mental and developmental disabilities. In their gallery was one of the most memorable pieces of the trip, a bunch of fucked up (cut and pasted, penises attached in places, hair coming out of the mouth, glue over the eyes, etc.) dolls by Meg McCarville. It wasn’t that the dolls were fucked up and so I thought it was grotesque and they stuck out in my mind. Really they were just fascinating. And what made them darkly hilarious were the notecards that went along with some of them. Sort of character descriptions and how they fit into their world. I wish I had an example to give because I’m not sure there is any way I can give the right sense of what they were. The stories were bizarre, creative, dark, funny.

STOP NO. 9: Buncha Punk Asses On the Street
Really though, they were pretty all right when I talked to them. I think there were about five or six of them, maybe in their late twenties and thirties, sitting on the sidewalk of Michigan Ave with a sign that said “Traveling please help” or something like it. To give a picture: kind of dirty, dressed in dark colors, a few with piercings and tattoos on their faces, all dudes but one girl, plus two dogs.
So I gave them a deal: I’d help them if they’d help me. Five bucks to talk to me and let me record it. I thought I’d give them a prompt to get a starting point, and it was the question, what is it you worry about most? This turned out to be a silly prompt for them, however, and the subject went elsewhere. It reminded me of the process of making art and how I start out with one thing but most of the time end up with something completely different than what I had intended…reminding me to not get so blocked by not knowing where to start because it’ll probably end up changing anyway.
Anyhow here’s part of his rant, which is largely comprised of hating on rich people. But there’s something nice about hearing someone else bitch about authenticity (though not to say there is no one who is both rich and authentic). Also I thought this probably echoes a lot of the Occupy Wall Street sentiment which was sort of coincidental but then again it’s a bit of a common theme…

“I don’t think there’s a whole lot we worry about. Just the essentials, you know- food, shelter…the dogs are always okay. People are more sympathetic towards animals than they are towards people. It kinda makes sense, I mean, they’re domesticated- people are responsible for themselves but if you take on the responsibility of a pet then you’re responsible for it. They can’t take care of themselves.

I don’t really worry about that stuff though because either I find it or it comes to me. And all these rich ass fucking people walking around here are so fucking wasteful and they don’t even think twice about throwing shit away that would make a difference to somebody between being hungry or not being hungry or getting through the day or not getting through the day because they’re so used to having so much shit…These people would drop fucking dead from a heart attack if suddenly their cellphone didn’t work or their laptop or their latte wasn’t hot enough…you know what I mean? It’s true. I sound like kind of a bitch, but it’s true.

You know I could have been a smart ass because people ask me this shit all the time but usually the people who ask don’t really care about the answers, they’re just trying to formulate some sort of…something that makes them look like they give a shit but they don’t do anything about anything…they don’t dedicate themselves to something that’s actually going to change anything…

We travel, we ride freight trains, settle down, work when we can, save money, then we go on the road again. We do this because we want to, not because we’re forced to do it. I see people on the street that don’t want to be and meanwhile the city pumps hundreds of thousands or more into all this shit so all these rich people will come here to spend money and it just goes back into tourism and not into something that will help out the citizens of the city who really need it. I could go on and fucking on…

Most of the homeless people here are probably like they are in any city, a lot of them mentally ill, disabled, or there’s just no work. But all these fucking rich people walking around – they’ve always had money, always had too much of it. Think they’re going to share any of it? You think we’ve made any money sitting here? No. No, they don’t give a fuck. They come over and are like, “oh you’re dog’s so cuuuuuute here’s a dollarrrrr!” but no one’s ever like, “hey, I want to help you out, from the bottom of my heart here’s five bucks,” you know?

Anyways, that’s my answer.

Stay in school and don’t do drugs.”

Yes, he really did end with that.

STOP NO. 10: Utrecht art store
Like being in a candy store. I bought a watercolor pad and a paint marker and learned the difference between a couple fixatives.

STOP NO. 11: Museum of Contemporary Art
One piece that I remember distinctly is by Oscar Tuazon with Vito Acconci. Really I was just excited to see Vito Acconci’s name after a some of my friends had recently talked about a couple of his works, including Seedbed where he lay hidden beneath a gallery masturbating while vocalizing over a loudspeaker his fantasies about the viewers above him. The work that really interests me though is, I’m not sure what he titled it, but he hired a photographer to document him following random people around. The work in the museum was My Flesh to Your Bare Bones which was two speakers, one projecting a piece by Acconci originally titled Antarctica of the Mind where he speaks of an unrealized architectural project. The other speaker projected Tuazon’s own written score in reaction to Acconci’s piece. A short article on the piece can be found here.

And after all of that I was able to relax on the train and head home. More writing about my experience can be found in the photo post and sketch + rant.

Disposable Cameras, Disposable Memories?

I took a couple disposable cameras with me on the trip. Part of me kind of wishes I would’ve taken my digital camera so I could have taken more pictures and had more to choose from. But part of me still liked the loss of control the disposable cameras sprung on me. It made me just take the pictures and get on with my day instead of looking at each picture right after taking it and  judging it and worrying about it.

I found that since I did have limited exposures I only took pictures of what I thought might turn out to be interesting and show my experience of the city. I have one picture of inside a museum. The rest are little things I noticed when walking around, whether those things are of any importance, if they are things I am “supposed” to be paying attention to, I think is up to me. I guess it’s always what you manage to make of the things you pay attention to that counts.

I think at least half the people who got off the bus took a similar picture right away of the trains.

I would have liked to be up there.

Felix Gonzalez Torres’ Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.). More about him and my reaction in “Artists.”

Cloud by Anish Kapoor

Some buildings, a dimly lit underground hallway.

The deserted bathroom of Millennium Park, clean but dirty. I don’t know why I took this. They remind me of little apartments, something you can retreat into, hide, be away from everyone even though all that is there to separate you is a thin wall. They just look very industrial, mass produced, simple and boxy.

Everyone is the same height but at different times.

We’re gonna need money for this to work.

Another life on the other side of a glass panel, going somewhere.

They were holding hands. It was too much.

A part of Chicago Ideas Week.

Making improvements sometimes requires roughing things up a bit.

It was empty and someone didn’t want it.

Reminded me of Jeanne-Claude and Christo’s wrapped buildlings.

Here I start to notice I am having a tendency of photographing things in limbo. Kind of broken down, but not just left for dead. With signs of rebuilding.

I liked that I photographed this and the next day saw Christo’s Orange Store Front in the Contemporary Art Museum. Here is a photo of that.

A bit of nature, a lot of city.

I like the way wires can look like a wreck. It is like how tangled we get just to communicate with each other.

Choices.

I wonder what made him give up panhandling above.

Relevant to people in a city.

His hat flew off and was ran over by several cars. This is his vicotory run back after picking it up.

It is useless in that position.

This is where Friday turned into Friday night and I went out with my cousin, who is going to grad school in Chicago. I had had a few drinks and am not sure why I wanted to take this photo. Look how shiny that toilet bowl looks though.

Again, like the bathroom stalls. Like little apartments, caves, manufactured.

My cousin.

Seemingly irrelevant.

The Contemporary Art Museum of Chicago. I like the hanger sculpture.

At a standstill.

Waiting for the train. Looking at trash.

Waiting for the bus after the train. I think this draws similarities to the bathroom stalls and mailboxes.

Place

The different venues I visited each had a different feel to them. They definitely each gave an air of different importance, perhaps with the Art Institute being the highest, then the Museum of Contemporary Art, Millennium Park, the Chicago Cultural Center, and the galleries. Though I don’t actually think that was where the most important artworks were in that order. The most important things to me were spread out among the venues.

I liked the spaciousness of the museums and the Cultural Center. Because there was already so much art in those places it made things seem a little less overwhelming and allowed the viewer to separate the pieces from each other. It’s also a little weird viewing something in those settings; it is like they are all taken out of context and jammed into this one space and you are supposed to be able to view it and only it. You have to try to forget where you are, that you are standing in a place where someone has chosen it, chosen where it goes, and by choosing it has deemed it art. What if you saw the painting in someone’s living room? You have to think about those things and catch yourself with any bias if you have it. Differences come into play when looking at things in a museum; I realized I had been more focused in museums because the paintings were “museum-worthy;” also the air was official and I told myself, there must be a reason why these things are in here. Although hopefully there is good reason in most cases, I am sure there are all kinds of politics behind museums and what goes in.