Spring was here again, which meant the annual Chicago Art Department Trip. This would be my first time going to the art museum with Stritch. We rode the bus down to the museum in the rain. When I got off the bus, the first thing I saw was a wire hanger, multiplied to about 500 times its actual size, perched up on the corner of the roof of the museum. This was a pretty cool piece and it added to the building. Now, the Chicago Art Museum looks nothing like the Milwaukee Art Museum, as the Milwaukee Art Museum is a piece of art in itself, the Chicago Art Museum has to add art to it. I also thought that the Chicago museum would have been bigger. It is in Chicago after all, where most things are larger, but it didn’t seem to hold as much art as I thought it would.
Some of the ‘modern art’ these days, I have trouble seeing as actual art at all. It seems to be sloppy and unimaginative; done before. Inside one of the smaller side rooms as you walked up the semi-spiral stairs, was a photography show. Instinctively, I started critiquing the work and looking for inspiration that I could draw from it. I was slightly disappointed. The work was photographs of cut paper, which did create interesting shadowed edges where the paper ended, but you were able to see the tape where the paper was being held together and where it was taped to the wall. This could have been an element left in the photos by the artist, but I just thought it looked like a mistake. The straight, clean edges of the plastic adhesive contrasted the jagged cut edges of the other papers in the photographs and it was too contrasted to really look good, in my opinion. An idea that I had to make it seem as though the tape were supposed to be in the photograph, would have been to use colored transparent tape, as the papers were all white or cream, then a pop of color would have been interesting. Or the artist could have used double sided sticky tape and eliminated the appearance of the adhesive all together.
A few of the more sculptural pieces that were exhibited, I had a hard time seeing them as real art as well. One sculpture was just a bunch of cardboard boxes stacked on top of one another. Anybody could have done that and I am sure other people already have, so why is it considered art? Why was this person’s interpretation of stacked boxes so impressive? In Steve’s class, we had talked about this concept of how something can be so ordinary yet when taken out of its original context and placed in a museum, people see it as art. A concept that I don’t really agree with but it is true.
This concept could be carried over to the museum’s store as well, with its two levels of merchandise. The first level had more traditional art museum store type of things available for purchase; books based on artists, postcards with artwork as the image on the front, and trinkets the depicted key pieces in the museum. They even had a book about Frank Lloyd Wright for the clearance price of $200. The lower level to the store was home to more ‘useless’ items that were for sale. Here they had thinks like magnetic necklaces, pens shaped like dogs and human bones, and a big red button that had ‘PANIC’ stamped across it. All of these things were outrageously overpriced as well. I wrote down a few things that I thought would be neat to have but I didn’t really need: a mini Diana camera that took 35mm film and some KOLA cover lenses, each thing I found to be cheaper when bought online elsewhere.
After our Modern Art Museum experience, we were able to explore the art district of Chicago on our own. It was during this time that I felt that I really saw some art. It was all in the small local galleries in the district. I was able to see photography that I could see a story in, find furniture that was beautifully crafted, and paintings and sculptures that I could find meaning in. The collections were smaller, yes, but they had more substance to them. Some of my favorite pieces were a collection of metal plaques that had some substance melted over them that gave off the look of the rainbows that appear when oil is spilled in water. I also saw a painting of leaves which included actual leaves as the very last layer. There was an exhibit of photographs that were blown up to a decent size and then had thin slabs of wax placed over them to ‘fog’ parts of the photo and to keep other parts crystal clear. It was galleries that held these works that made the day worthwhile to me.