Celestial Chaos No. 1

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As we exited the Art Institute following a member morning at the now-concluded “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms” (my images here), Tai Xiangzhou’s “Celestial Chaos No. 1” commanded my attention. It reminded me of Anselm Kiefer’s “Midgard,” which we had seen at the Milwaukee Art Museum over winter break.
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Read more about “Midgard” here.

Rooted as they are in their respective mythologies (Chinese and Norse), don’t the paintings each evoke a sense of cosmic mystery? I was reminded of their similarity when reading the recent Member Magazine, which features a short article about the Art Institute’s acquisition of “Celestial Chaos No. 1” (no link available). The painting will be exhibited in Gallery 130 through the end of August.

“This time it’s just simply my bedroom…”

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I took the images above at the Art Institute’s “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms” exhibit, which runs through May 10.

■ “Parisian Novels” (1887)
■ “A Pair of Shows” (1887)
■ A letter to Theo
■ An early sketch of the bedroom from a letter to Theo
■ “Self-Portrait” (1889)
■ “A Corner of the Asylum and the Garden with a Heavy, Sawed-Off Tree” (1889)
■ “Thatched-Roofed Cottages of Jorgus” (1890)
■ “Hospital at Saint-Rémy” (1889)

Back to the Art Institute

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■ Todros Geller’s “Strange World” (1928)
■ Entertainer (Tomb Figure), Northern dynasties (6th century)
Two Images Salado branch of the Mogollon; Southeastern Arizona, United States: Ritual Cache (1300/1400)
Two Images Chupícuaro, Guanajuato or Michoacán, Mexico: Female Figurines (200/100 B.C.)

The New Contemporary

The Art Institute exhibition “The New Contemporary” (re)opened in mid-December. Once we had made our way through, I was glad to climb the stairs to the modern galleries — some Picasso, Ernst, Dali, Beckman, et al. to clear my head. Oh, there were some high points in “The New Contemporary“: The Hockney that looks like an Updike novel to me (“American Collectors“) has a wonderful space, for example. But Pollock’s “The Key” is off-exhibit, and its replacements don’t interest me as much. The underlying narrative of many of the featured works in the contemporary galleries isn’t as clear or, when it is clear, as compelling to me, as, say, the modern galleries.

To me. Those two words explain, of course, why it is impossible to define art. “To me” varies so widely. One man’s sculpture, book, movie, play (see below), etc. is another’s bit of rubbish, and all that. There are some who say that primitive pieces, like the Venus of Willendorf, aren’t art, for example, or the Chauvet Cave paintings. I’d heartily disagree, but then who am I? I had trouble seeing the art in “The New Contemporary” but have absolutely no trouble seeing how typeface could be described as art. Shrug and chuckle. There is so much to see. No need to get hung up on what doesn’t speak to me. I just climbed some stairs and (re)discovered something that does.

I keep meaning to return to Cynthia Freeland’s short treatise But Is It Art, but then I remember that it sort of annoyed me when I first began it, and I’m really more of a Sister Wendy or Simon Schama sort of gal. So it mocks me from the art bookcase.

Speaking of rubbish, one man’s and not another’s, I disliked The Heir Apparent. David Ives drew from Moliere’s The Misanthrope for The School for Lies, both of which delighted me two seasons ago. He drew from a contemporary of Moliere for Heir, but the results were just not my cuppa. Too much potty humor and too thin a plot, which was actually a damned shame because the cast they assembled was superb — comedic timing and delightful verbal gymnastics galore. And the set was stunning. Oh, well. Not every play can be four stars.

The following images include detail from works seen during my most recent visit to the Art Institute of Chicago.

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■ Jackson Pollock’s “Number 17A” (1948)
■ Jackson Pollock’s “Greyed Rainbow” (1953)
■ David Hockney’s “American Collectors” (1968)
■ Jasper Johns’ “Alphabet” (1959)
■ Jean Dubuffet’s “Head of a Man” (1945)
■ Alberto Giacometti’s “Couple” (1926)
■ Fernand Léger’s “Reclining Woman” (1922)

Milwaukee Art Museum

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The images in this post were captured with my iPad. The above are details from

■ Yinka Shonibare’s “The Age of Enlightenment — Immanuel Kant” (2008)
■ Philippe de Champaigne’s “Moses Presenting the Tablets of the Law” (ca. 1648)
■ Roy Lichtenstein’s “Crying Girl” (1964)
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■ Paul Klee’s “Hot-Blooded Girl” (1938)
■ Anselm Kiefer’s “Midgard” (1982-85)

Yesterday we visited the Milwaukee Art Museum for the first time since its “grand reopening” following the expansion and redesign. My “discovery” this time was the mental juxtaposition of two St. Francis portraits separated by three centuries: Franciso de Zurbarán’s “Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb” (1630/34) and Préfète Duffaut’s “Sen Franswa” (1955).

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