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.

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