Letter from the Midwest differs from my previous “Letters.” It is a quick romp through parts of the Midwest where there have been interesting exhibitions. While “there is good art everywhere” to quote myself, we can’t get everywhere, so I hope this snapshot gives you an impression of some of the exhibitions, or it inspires you to make a trip to Chicago or Indianapolis where I am highlighting several venues.
Chicago: the only North American venue for “David Bowie Is”
First, I have to cover the “David Bowie Is” which opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art on September 23, 2014 and continues through January 4, 2015. Go see this exhibition even if you are not a rock and roll fan. It is a stunning presentation that marries rock, art history (ancient and recent), film documentation, Bowie’s costumes, videos of live performances and his sketches, drawing and paintings. His paintings aren’t great, but he paints better than I sing.
Everyone knows the lyrics “Ground control to Major Tom” from Bowie’s Space Oddity album. The song was written when he was 22. How about the song “Modern Love” from Let’s Dance (1983), “Young Americans” from his 1977 “heroes” album, “Ziggy Stardust” and “Moonage Daydreams” from his Ziggy Stardust album (1972) and “Changes” from the 1971 “Hunky Dory” album? These songs and albums are in the rock and roll lexicon.
But Bowie is much, much more than a songwriter and singer. The Victoria and Albert Museum, London organized the exhibition, “David Bowie Is”.
Michael Darling, the MCA James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator says it best: “This exhibition portrays an artist in control of his practice who recognizes that the smallest details contribute to the overall aesthetic experience of the audience. Bowie’s peerless understanding of the importance of image cultivation and reinvention make him a comfortable fit with others in the MCA Collection and exhibition history, such as Cindy Sherman and Andy Warhol—and similar to many artists working today, he has never limited himself to one area of cultural production.
The exhibition “focuses on his creative processes and collaborative work with artists and designers, and demonstrates how his work has both influenced and been influenced by wider movements in art, design, music, and theater. The exhibition’s multimedia design introduces advanced sound technology by Sennheiser and video installations to create an immersive journey through Bowie’s artistic life.
Art Chicago: the Oldest contemporary art fair in America
From September 17-20, EXPO CHICAGO, the International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, hosted over 120 leading international galleries at Festival Hall at Navy Pier. Expo Chicago represents 16 different countries and 35 different cities. Navy Pier was the site of the original fairs, beginning in about 1980 and it is, in my opinion, the best place to host this important fair. It is not Art Basel Miami, which is the chic, upscale venue, featured caustically in a Vanity Fair article last year. Oh those Russian oligarchs in search of the hippest most illusive new art….
Here, it may not be as exciting, but it is near at hand and there were a lot of alternative spaces and special projects, which made it tremendously interesting. Some highlights: the huge paper-maiche-like Bagdad city walls at the entrance to the venue and miniatures of artifacts lost, stolen, looted or destroyed during the first days of the wars in Iraq. Each artifact is accompanied by a touching or sober quote from an Iraqi museum curator or historian, pointing to the rarity of the object that is gone. In some case, objects were recovered.
Then there was “Shaq Loves People.” Where have I been? Shaq has been an art curator for some time now apparently. Artists submitted figural art works, which he personally selected for viewing. The works are charming. If Shaq spends a lot of money collecting original art, I am all for this.
“Jumping Bananas” is one of the alternative performances which is simply fun, with underlying questions about how easily we mishear/misread/misunderstand, not to mention jump to conclusions. Alberto Aguilar is a Chicago-based artist who creates provocative installations, interventions and performances. I managed to get the most salient parts of his piece in my photographs.
Bill Viola at Chicago’s Art Expo and at the Indianapolis Museum of Art