I’ll be honest. It doesn’t take me as long to go through a contemporary art museum as a traditional one. I like a lot of contemporary art, much more so than Ruth who gets impatient with, say, black squares on white canvasses and waits for me at the exit. A black square on a white canvas just doesn’t take as long, for me, to view and evaluate as a Rembrandt. So that’s why I was surprised by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. We were in it for well over an hour, and even Ruth liked what she saw, mostly. At least she was in the gift shop later than usual.
I’m not promoting the shows we saw at 220 East Chicago Avenue. Most of them either have already closed or are going away soon. But I’m going to refer to them to illustrate my belief that this contemporary museum is different. Many years ago when Chicago’s museum of contemporary art was in a smaller building in the same neighborhood, Ruth and I saw a display of Gerhard Richter’s work there. Even though we knew nothing about him, we both thought he was a contemporary painter worth paying attention to. He is now pretty much recognized as a major artist. This museum has vision.
We took the elevator to MCA’s top floor. The first exhibit, which has since closed, was several works by Alexander Calder. Ruth & I both love his quirky mobiles, stabiles, etc. like the cat below.
Calder could play with an old coffee can and some copper wire and create a work of art.
We went down to 3 via the unusual staircase seen above that ended a few levels below at a koi pool. The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s building, in other words, is as interesting as the art it displays. Also, MCA allows non-flash photography throughout, which is unusual in museums showing living artists, who generally don’t want their stuff photographed. On 3 we saw the quirky works of Lilli Carré, who has an impressive résumé, cofounder of the Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation, for example.
On 2 was MCA DNA: Warhol and Marisol, which is still at MCA until June 15, 2014. Andy Warhol is my least favorite favored artist, and I had never heard of Marisol. These 2 were friends. She made a portrait of him titled Andy, appeared in many of his early films, and they partied together. An MCA Chicago booklet I picked up called her, “…one of the few women to reach the same heights of critical, popular, and commercial attention as her male counterparts…”. So, I learned about a new and excellent artist and developed greater understanding of another, one who has made his way into almost every museum in the world.
On the same level was William J. O’B (b)rien. Ruth found his over-the-top, glittery works too much and headed for the gift shop. I looked at everything and judged him tomorrow’s Gerhard Richter.
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago…5 Compass.