Thursday, June 29, 2006

One Day Shy of Two Weeks Silent *

Holy cats, it’s the cover of a Wilco album!

Or maybe it’s just me, sitting under a bridge over the Chicago River, trying not to get rained on, and being the 28,459,002nd person to photograph the Marina City towers. I’ve been in Chicago for about five days now, and while I haven’t yet succeeded in escaping cities in general, simply being in another city has been satisfying; non-urban time will come along soon enough.

Not having been here since well before I moved to New York provides a new perspective, it’s quite a different experience this time around, but an entire post devoted to a NYC/Chi comp/con would be too much of a gimme. It’s more or less what you’d expect: more room to breathe, better air to breathe, markedly inferior public transportation system, markedly superior architecture, cheaper beer, widely accessible- and normal-seeming people (the “L.L. Bean Effect”??), sevvies instead of 24-hr bodegas, less trash, smoky bars, big lake off to the east, numerous unnecessary dipthongs. Michigan Ave and Times Square are both places to avoid 1) if you’ve been there before, or 2) if you’re not a 16 y/o girl with a shopping addiction. “In the loop” actually has a literal meaning. Brooklyn could use a lesson in how to use a waterfront.

The previous two days ended up being museum days — Art Institute of Chicago on Monday, and the Museum of Contemporary Art on Tuesday — and, inadvertently, photography days. At the AIC, I spent two hours peeking through an exhibit of Harry Callahan, whose work and significance I didn’t know in the least beforehand. A pleasant surprise, it’s very powerful in a pure sense (online galleries available here, here, and here). He seems to be a big fan of pure form and patterns, contrast, which seems to clarify the first two, and relatively mundane environments, with or without people. One in particular sticks with me, and I haven’t been successful in locating it online: a multiple exposure of a leafless tree, which somehow implies angular motion, dizzying and physical.

Shift gears to Tuesday at the MCA, Wolfgang Tillmans, of whom I had no previous knowledge either. The exhibit didn’t have quite the same power as Callahan the day before; I think I was just wandering on Monday, whereas Tuesday I was out to “see some art” (dammit!). It would be nice to wander more often, even within a pre-determined path — increase the chance of discovery.

EITHER: Not to imply that nothing had impact, particularly memorable were groups of pictures taken of a certain event (the Concorde taking off and landing, a solar eclipse), aligned in a perfect grid, positioned “randomly,” completely out of sequence, emergent properties of the composition just as striking as the components themselves. Also captivating: several large-format (ie. 8x10 ft) prints, wispy and fibrous-textured, monochromatic yet infinitely-toned, and beautifully balanced, which appeared as if he may have created them by "drawing" on photo-paper with a laser and/or flashlight.

OR: At this point, I’m thinking about a bit of writing I've read recently, and realizing that I can’t really think of an effective, metaphorical way to convey the character of the exhibit in a manner interesting and meaningful to you the reader. Everything I’ve thought of so far sounds like a forced art history paper. And so, on we go.

CONTINUE: About halfway through, this jazz quintet fired up and started playing, rambling reductions of Miles Davis tunes. Imagine a group of that stature in a large, cavernous space with plenty of hard, reflective surfaces. Not only was it loud, but overly reverberant, a soundtrack to a psychedelic-steeped sequence in a irritably disjointed and poorly-composed indy film. It’s so easy to imagine some museum director having his/her own, personal eureka moment:

Deconstructivist Jazz
Avante Photography
Über-Artsy Jeans Cream

But in actuality, not so happening. The reverberant wash coursed through the galleries, a spatial and electrostatic invasion, disorienting and distracting, rendering one’s comprehension of and patience for contemporary art a couple shades shy of worthless. But here’s to good ideas.

All of this high art begged for balance, and balance I did find, in the form of several In Touch magazines scattered around my sister’s A-ville flat. (Elizabeth
attributed these greasy rags to her roommate Jake, conveniently away in Honduras for the week…) For as much as I denounce these trashy parasites in the intestines of journalism, I have to admit, I understand their power of addiction. First of all, it’s hard not to pick it up when the cover screams: “Best Boobs in Hollywood!!” Then, 45 minutes pass, and I'm fully up to date on the reemergence of Lindsay Lohan’s bust line, her ongoing feud with Paris Hilton, Brangeina’s retreat to Namibia, and Britney’s near-dropping of baby Brandon. Chock-full of cultural referents, I can now show my face in the world, unburdened by ignorance. It’s refreshing, really.

Now, only a couple days left… I had hoped to get in some ultra-touristy stuff, maybe an arichitectural boat tour or something, but it looks like laundry and fixing the sister's car must take precedence. Oh responsibility, I thought I'd left you in Brooklyn.

* Ok, I know, at the time of posting, it's officially more than two weeks, but I wrote this on Wednesday at a Starbucks, and they wanted a minimum of $6 for an hour to use the T-Mobile Hot Spot. Are you kidding me!? I haven't received a bill lately for breathing. Anyway, I let it gestate on my lappy until I finally came to access the internet freely. And I like the title, so it stays.


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