10 Questions About…

Harold Washington, Art Institute of Chicago and Magnetic Fields!! by Ann Treacy
November 19, 2021, 7:44 pm
Filed under: Chicago

We worked our magic so that we could have a full day of fun in Chicago. Lily and I stayed downtown so we were close to lots of art. We found some bonus art at the Harold Washington Library. (Where I used to take classes!) First, the library is beautiful and it’s always fun to get a sneak peek into a city through the local library. We ran into Above and Beyond, a Vietnam War Memorial that is comprised of 58,307 dog tags hanging from the ceiling above the staircase in the library. Each represents someone from the armed forces who was killed in Vietnam and each dog tag shows their name, casualty date and military branch. There is one black dog tag for those who have died after the war from conditions related to the war. It’s moving. We did wonder about they might include or represent everyone who died or was left victim. (We have some ideas.)

Then we headed to the Art Institute of Chicago! We especially loved Thinking of You I Mean Me by Barbara Kruger. The art is in your face. It’s as much text and audio as imagery. The messages are loud and bold and contorted in a way that makes you feel a little queasy and disoriented. Then a creepy “I love you” chirps in the gallery. Aarggh. There’s a battle between love of oneself and love from another and how to attract each other and learn to live with ourselves and media.

The images say it all, yet don’t touch the impact. The size of messages of the wall are overwhelming. Some of the images are grotesque and shocking, yet every day. The challenge is recognizing the difference between the naturally grotesque and the artificially beautiful.  There’s something very human in recognizing the dehumanization we all ascribe to for ourselves and our loved ones. And there’s something empowering about recognizing it for what it is.

And then we saw so many of our favorites. Lily is a big fan of American Gothic. I’m always a sucker for Cindy Sherman. The Institute provides a quick list of their most popular, which we always try to check out. And the work that caught my attention for the first time (thanks to Lily) was Stamford after Brunch by John Currin; the three women on the couch with drinks. Amazingly creepy example of uncanny valley – that line between human and not quite.

We took a break by visiting a comic store (Lily’s passion) and resting until a lovely dinner with Katie and dad (aka grandpa) at Fremento’s. They were so accommodating and the food was delicious.

Then finally the raison d’etre – Magnet Fields at City Winery. I have to admit I was nervous at first because it was a seated/tabled event but felt like an airplane – but dark and where you aren’t allowed to talk. Fortunately for us the people behind Katie were not adhering to the no talking so she asked if we could move and scored us an amazing table with lots of space. Yay Katie! They didn’t play a long set but they played many of my favorites from 69 Love Songs. And played a new favorite, My Stupid Boyfriend. The Magnet Fields are able to capture the humor of our darkest thoughts and there’s comfort in hearing them saying out loud something you might feel guilty about even thinking. Lily and I both love them. I’ve seen Stephin Merritt but never the whole band. So this was definitely a bucket list event. Katie had not seen them but their music is so good, she loved it too.

The Bean, CMA and Christmas windows in Chicago by Ann Treacy
November 19, 2021, 3:42 pm
Filed under: Chicago

We arrived in Chicago on Wednesday for our mini-vacation to see Magnetic Fields but we budgeted a couple of days of fun too. Lily and I are stayed downtown for the night. First thing we did, ran out to see The Bean. It was rainy and coldish but it’s always fun to see it.

Then we took a walk down Michigan Avenue.

We got into the Museum of Contemporary Art downtown Chicago for free. We were there less than 30 minutes before close and we were going to give it a miss and they kindly invited us in. We saw the two roving exhibits. Christina Quarles was interesting and Lily’s favorite. She focuses on bodies entwined and often mashed up. I love her hands and feet feel like they are reaching out from somewhere much deeper than the painting. Some of her work has a political backdrop – mostly because anything done in the last four or five years is political if you’re a women or BIPOC. I loved the way she used song lyrics in the works.

I also enjoyed Bani Abidi, which is overtly political. His work, The Man Who Talked Until He Disappeared, looks at the clash between power and media and our view of ourselves and what we’ll do to change our view or the view of others. Sometimes that means going the extra yard to hope that people outside of your community see you and sometimes it’s going an extra year to be more than you are.

Back to Michigan Avenue we got a glimpse at Christmas Windows, which may actually be on State Street – either way we were impressed with the bold move to a new holiday story.

And finally Lily picked out our nighttime venue. We went to the Empty Bottle to see Idle Ray and the Dry cleaning. Idle Ray had an interesting thing where all of their banter was pre-recorded. Very intriguing. The Dry Cleaning are from London, with a less cheerful Courtney Barnett feel. Really like them!

%d bloggers like this: