Subourbon Mom


Modern Art

Um...yeah.  I recently went to Chicago to visit a close friend, and we decided to get a little culture and go to the Chicago Art Institute. Back in the day, I took an Art Appreciation class, and have always liked losing myself in a painting or sculpture, letting my imagination run wild – kind of like when I people-watch in airports. There’s always an interesting story line in my head, and I love how everyone reacts viscerally to various artists and styles, how some works resonate with the anger, sadness, joy, fear or any other emotions we have. But I swear if I ever wear a beret in public, somebody lock me up.

At the museum that weekend there was a Degas exhibit and an exhibit on the artwork from the last 2000 years celebrating Dionysus, the Greek god of fertility and partying. I quickly realized a few things.  True Blood and the special effects folks for Lord of the Rings must have also seen the exhibit – the orgy scenes from True Blood could have come directly from some of those drawings and engravings, and there as a sculpture of a creature that looked eerily like Golum. I also noticed that most of the art pertained to the hedonism and exploits of men. The only women in the scenes were either being used for pleasure or were maenads, Dionysus’s female helpers – regular women, as usual, were not considered to be big partyers. My, how things have changed – can we say “Girls gone Wild?”

Since I also occasionally like to pry open my mind and do something that makes me uncomfortable, we went to the Museum of Contemporary Art. The people there were a little different from the visitors at the more traditional Art Institute. There were skinny jeans everywhere, coupled with ski hats shoved half way up Hipsters’ heads, and an assortment of folks meaningfully staring at walls filled with household objects dangling from strings or just glued there. Some, like me, were racing through the exhibits in a mild panic, trying to find something recognizable as art.

Of course it’s probably due to my lack of education, but I just don’t get Modern Art. I understand that the genre turned traditional art on its head with new ways of looking at objects, social norms and politics. But there were three exhibits at the museum that made me question the, er, validity of modern art:campbells soup

  1. I thought the Pop Art exhibit would be cool. What I didn’t expect were the baby dolls stuck on a piece of wood and painted solid white, hanging on the wall – WTF? Or the multiple canvases portraying Campbell’s Soup cans and logos – um, Hello, People, there were a lot of other iconic food labels around – why puck on Campbell’s? (Yes, I know it was Andy Worhol, but I don’t care who painted them. It’s soup cans.) At one point, I was walking through the exhibit and saw a woman in regular street clothes standing there staring at a blank wall…for at least two minutes. I actually thought she was part of the exhibit until she moved left to look at a mirror on the wall next to her. She’d been staring at a tiny plaque, which I later realized explained that the mirror had a bullet casing on it from a James Bond movie. Um….yeah. I don’t get it. I would just call that a souvenir.
  2. The next exhibit was in a small room. The walls, ceiling and carpet were all painted black. In the room were several pieces all painted black. According to the accompanying sign that was way too dark to see without squinting and wishing I could shine my phone light on it without embarrassing myself, each piece represented how we function in society – the velvet ropes apparently signified how we keep people in and out of our lives; the wooden sign that said “Here” signified that we are always seeking to establish our place the world. I never found out what the other two pieces were symbolic of because as I was reading, two young men walked up to read the plaque too. They both had the requisite black skinny jeans and ski hats, but one had on a distractingly vibrant, purple-feathered cape. I couldn’t look away, and I definitely couldn’t look at my friend because I knew I would start laughing. David Bowie may have been able to pull that off because of his innate coolness, but that 20-something hipster looked like a pterodactyl Barney.
  3. So we left that area, and went upstairs to a room that resembled those student exhibits you see on airport walls or in other public places. There were un-labeled pieces that could have been done by a preschooler or a high-schooler – the pieces had no labels to identify anything, so you couldn’t tell. This room was also painted black with a little bit of ambient lighting. On a screen at the back was a movie playing, perhaps explaining all of the artwork on the floors below, but I wouldn’t have known because it was all spoken in very soft, slow German. Two men dressed in black sat amid the 20 chairs, arms crossed, watching the movie. I looked at my friend and said, “You have to be high to understand what was going on here.” Of course I got glared at, but maybe it was because they were thinking, “How are you NOT?”

I wish someone could explain Modern Art to me so that I could truly appreciate what was happening.  I like Picasso and Munch and sometimes even Pollack, but the babies on the wall thing? And the plastic chairs from the 1960’s just sitting in a room? Um…I got nothing but creeped out and annoyed. Now, I understand that the Pop Art exhibit was meant to visually be snarky about our culture (at least that’s what the brochure explained), but I can tell you it was the best $12 I’ve ever spent to be verbally snarky for a straight 45 minutes.

 


1 Comment so far
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Thank goodness for your 45 minutes of snarky comments as pretty much made the modern art exhibit fun… and don’t forget we were in our mom jeans and hiking boots gawking at the art 😉 with all those hipsters.

Comment by lynchburggal70




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