Wednesday, December 20, 2023

‘Art can take you to a particular place’

Claes Oldenburg "Ghost Version II" (Art Institute of Chicago)

     “Contemporary art, unlike modernism, is not a style,” said Giampaolo Bianconi, associate curator of modern and contemporary art at the Art Institute of Chicago, as we passed a Claes Oldenburg light switch sculpture. “It simply means things that are happening right now, in the present.”
     We were in an empty gallery on a recent Tuesday. The Art Institute is closed to the public on Tuesdays — thank you COVID! — but I was there on a singular mission: to better understand contemporary art.
     I’d gone to the museum with my wife, younger son and his fiancee. We naturally headed straight to the Impressionists — the museum practically funnels visitors there, through the entrance doors, up the stairs, toward Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.”
     Only the young lady announced she didn’t care for this pointillist nonsense. And off the happy couple went, headed for the Dutch masters. My wife and I were left behind, blinking.
     We met up later in the modern wing, for drumbeat denunciations of the what-kind-of-garbage-is-this? variety. I mustered the best defense I could, then realized reinforcements were needed.
     Bianconi and I paused to admire Alma Thomas’ abstract “Starry Night and the Astronauts.”
     “The artists we’re looking at here have asked themselves in a sense the same question your future daughter-in-law was asking ... ” said Bianconi.

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  1. What a great perspective! All art was contemporary at one time! Seems so obvious when stated, but now I’ll think about it differently. Thanks for making me think at 7:00 am.

  2. I love it! Pointillism and the young ladies feelings about it and that you have the courage to recount this in the newspaper.

    I'm a big fan of art , all the kinds, though to give context to my level of appreciation I had never heard of this technique. Seen it, never noticed . Undereducated about such things. Remember viewing the Ty Twoumbly exhibit when the wing first opened. His stuff looked like the trash in the corner of my garage that he poured a bucket of paint over.
    We bought the book of photos and over the years I have developed an affinity for his work which admittedly has more breadth.

    Over the years I have come to understand more about art and music by welcoming it into my eyes and ears and am glad to have done so. So many things available to experience, so few lives.

  3. Un hunh, exactly. Always remember, earth without art is eh.

    1. Welllll, I'm not going to let that one sail past. As Bernard Pomerance says in "The Elephant Man" — "Art is nothing as to nature."

  4. Noah Cross, from the movie "Chinatown:" Of course I'm respectable. I'm old.

  5. The arts is one of the good things that separates humans from the animal kingdom unlike the bad things like greed, war, and imperialism.
    Although admitting to a great lack of understanding of art, I love going to the Art Institute and get wowed on different levels.
    First, the imagination and skill that went into the creations.
    Second, the monetary values. I'll never get that.

  6. Years ago when I was not retired, a local artist (with an international reputation) wanted to donate a sculpture to our library. The Board approved and it was installed. Some people didn't like it and when they complained, our marketing person (an artist herself) told me to say, "contemporary art can be challenging'. Worked like a charm. Thanks for your excellent explanation.


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