My Kinda Town

Frank Gehry's workOn the way to St Louis, we stopped in Chicago for a couple of days. I always liked that city and wanted to show AussieGirl around (real reason: Geno’s Deep Dish Pizza, baby). The lakeshore city was always a great place to visit (I still have my Mother’s t-shirt from, like, the 80s) and now they’ve got the added bonus of the new Millennium Park downtown. It’s very well done with some very original architectural elements. I love metal and glass in sculpture and design, and there was a lot of it here. Frank Gehry designed a beautiful, serpentine bridge and a stainless steel, wing-like pavilion/amphitheater. The design is such that you wonder if it might take flight in the famous Chicago wind.

beforeafterThere’s also a unique fountain made out of two 50 foot glass block towers that “spit” water out at intervals. They each project movie images of regular Chicagoans and face each other. At some point, they pucker so that a flow of water comes gushing out of their mouths, to the enjoyment of the kids. There’s a shallow reflecting pool between the two towers as well.

Anish Kapoor's BeanIt’s hard to pick a favorite, but mine was probably the Anish Kapoor “metal bean” sculpture. It’s really striking against the backdrop of Chicago, reflecting the skyline and blue sky. The architectural beauty of the city was evident everywhere you looked….well almost everywhere. I must say that the modernization of Soldier Field was not done very well. It kind of looks like a space ship landed on top of the old stadium with the Greek facade. I like that they kept the Doric columnade, but they could’ve done a better job of integrating it with the new section.

Of course, we had to pay a visit to the Chicago Art Institute, one of the best museums in the country. I came away from that visit with a funny story that may make Contemporary Art haters chuckle. It goes a little something like this…

string artWe were checking out the Contemporary Art section when we heard one of the security guards – an older, black woman – call out to someone to stop what he was doing. She was scolding a twentysomething, arty looking guy with a soul patch. He was in front of an installation that simply consisted of a black string stretched across a section of floor and then continuing to the ceiling. I believe it was a sculpture made by the late minimalist from New York, Fred Sandback. If you look hard, you can see it at the right.

He evidently was touching the string. A no no, of course. You’re not allowed to touch the art. He then had the courage to ask her, “What is it?”.

She replied with a stern face, “It’s a string………..It’s ART”.

I barely contained my laughter. I couldn’t tell if she was being serious or sarcastic, but something about the way she said it – maybe the way she emphasized “art” – was hilarious. And maybe the fact that a guy that looked like he should maybe know modern art asked the question, made it that much more funny. Of course, he should’ve known that the sculpture makes one ponder our preconceived notions of space and dimensions, and changes one’s perception of the space. That it obviously uses space as a tangible element and presents the volume of sculpture without the mass traditionally associated with this art form.

Duhhh, I coulda told him that.

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