Barbara Kruger at The Art Institute of Chicago

Barbara Kruger at The Art Institute of Chicago

When I learned that the Art Institute of Chicago was presenting a show of Barbara Kruger’s work, I knew I had to see the show. I thought I knew the work, having followed her development since first seeing her art in NYC in the early eighties, the text-based works that became her signature style.

This current show is so much more than I was expecting, and I left the galleries overwhelmed and uplifted. I was impressed with how Kruger has continued to evolve; the text-based works have continued to grow in scale and in subtle ways, as found throughout the museum through interventions, using video, sound, surveillance, and time.

After leaving the exhibition, as always, I wandered through the museum, discovering different works, coming across quite remarkable artworks in a quiet gallery or hallway. Among the treasures I found on this day, were Munch, Pollaiuolo, and a beautiful Schoengauer; I had them all to myself.

In a sculpture gallery on the level below the Barbara Kruger installation I saw a gleaming, white sculpture set amongst a gallery full of life-sized neo-classical marble sculptures. I did a double take, stepped back, and was drawn in to explore what it was that caught my attention, why it seemed like something was out of place. At the back of the gallery sits the 1916 bronze sculpture Abraham Lincoln by Daniel Chester French. Here at the front, the life size statue of two figures – entwined, in an embrace, kissing, one with leg bent back, ecstatic – was shinier, smoother, bulkier than those other sculptures. Closer inspection revealed the figures are two middle-aged men in tight embrace: one submissive, wrapped in the stripes of the flag with the field of stars furled across his ass and with an engraved heart on the sole of his upraised high heel: Hoover & Cohn.  Justice, from 1997, is an aspect of Kruger’s work I was unfamiliar with and here I am presenting a few images from the installation.

I’m old enough to remember many aspects of what Hoover and Cohn did to influence the American way of life. Roy Cohn was the prosecutor in the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg espionage trial and was instrumental in arguing for their execution. His legacy continued as Chief Counsel for Joseph McCarthy and into the future, even aiding Roger Stone in Reagan’s presidential campaign. A thoroughly researched book by Seth Rosenberg Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power details the symbiotic relationship of many of these public figures, especially Hoover and Reagan. It is a book I highly recommend and one that is difficult to put down once you begin reading.

If you’ve ever hung a picture on a wall, curated an exhibition, you know the importance of good exhibition design; how works are grouped to amplify each other, yet retain individuality. Creating an intelligent flow from one work to the next, one gallery to the next is a demanding task. The curatorial team, designers, installers, and artist collaborated in the process to make this exhibition a success. The Art Institute has shared some of the process in this excellent presentation: Building an Exhibition with Barbara Kruger: Five Perspectives from Five Collaborators.

THINKING OF YOU. I MEAN ME. I MEAN YOU at The Art Institute of Chicago, through January 24, 2022

 

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Barbara Kruger – Chicago

Barbara Kruger – Chicago

These projections on The Merchandise Mart, are part of the exhibition THINKING OF YOU. I MEAN ME. I MEAN YOU at The Art Institute of Chicago, on view through January 24, 2022. The projections run through November 25, 2021.

Whose Hopes?  Whose Fears?

Whose Laughter?  Whose Tears?

Whose Values?  Whose Justice?

 

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This Is What Democracy Looks Like – National Rally For Reproductive Rights

This Is What Democracy Looks Like – National Rally For Reproductive Rights

Women’s March National Rally – Reproductive Rights.

Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, Tacoma, Seattle, joined hundreds of cities across the U.S to rally with tens of thousands of people for support of Reproductive Rights – here we gathered at the State Capitol on October 2, 2021.

It was exciting to see people converging, carrying signs, gathering in groups as we approached the capitol. The crowd grew denser the closer we got. The rally began with a march from the Capitol Campus into town, returning to the Capitol where people lined the steps of the legislative building and the organizers set up the P.A. system. Many previous rallies that we attended featured well known speakers; in contrast, the speakers at this rally were often first-time public speakers, some were attending their first rally – they ranged in age from 15-75, they shared their personal histories and reasons for joining together to support reproductive rights.

Older participants know how hard it has been to change the anti-choice culture, how the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision meant that – finally – women could have access to safe and legal abortions. Their children and grandchildren join in the current fight, because, sadly, reproductive rights are again being challenged, and the hardships caused by limiting abortion access continue to disproportionately impact the BIPOC communities.

I was already an adult in 1973 and remember well the horror stories of what it was like before that historic date. When I was growing up there was a “home for un-wed mothers” in our neighborhood; it was shrouded in mystery. I remember the stigma and the danger for women who had no choices for safely, legally, terminating a pregnancy.

When I saw the young girls, marching with their mothers and big sisters, as one sign said, I’m Marching for My Future – I was proud to be standing and marching with them, marching to assure we won’t go back, back to barbaric times; and as a man, I march against toxic masculinity and an outdated patriarchy.

 

On a related note, I want to mention a new book that has just been released. This project by photographer Roslyn Banish, Focus on Abortion, is a continuation of her ongoing exploration of social dynamics through photography and text that began with her 1976 publication of City Families: Chicago and London.

 

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EMERGENCE – E

EMERGENCE – E

…how relatively empty the streets were in Chicago, as they have been in many cities and communities.

When we returned to the northwest, we saw the pandemic numbers rising again with the newer Delta variant emerging. Like most people, we wanted to put our masks away and return to the life we knew before the pandemic. We know the world has changed, changed in so many ways. We remain cautious and optimistic and know that we can’t just abandon all the effort we have put into being sensible, cautious, and responsible or let these efforts of the past year go to waste. We bought a new series of masks and continue to exercise caution and care when around others.

We spent the summer in the Pacific Northwest; unlike the previous eighteen months, we could be outside even more and visit with vaccinated friends indoors.

We began planning a return to Chicago for September where I have been writing and editing several photos in these posts. We’ve seen new shows in spaces awakening from the past year and the beginning of a new season. Visits to some galleries take more planning with advance appointments necessary. Major institutions are open except for refreshments.

I’m including another gallery of selected photos from the past 18 months; some may be familiar to you if you look at my Flickr or Instagram accounts. Some of the photos document the changes of season and others mark my experiences specific to the pandemic.  With my next post I’ll share some new Chicago photos and images from exhibitions we’re seeing.

Thank you for taking the time to read about our activities and thoughts about this past year. We are blessed to have close friends and family who care about each other, and about the common good. Stay safe and stay tuned.

 

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EMERGENCE – D

EMERGENCE – D

…its traditions, beauty, and our expectations of Democracy.

When, about a month after we had our second vaccination shot, and the country was beginning to see advances in defeating the pandemic, we ventured out, first, to La Conner, Wa. which was in the early stages of emerging from a year of isolation. We went north to see a show by Louise Kikuchi in nearby  Edison; in addition to her beautiful Sumi-e paintings she was showing a group of traditional Kokeshi dolls she painted to reflect events of January 6, 2021. The Kokeshi wore masks and the pedestals were arranged following social distancing guidelines.

In June we cautiously took a flight, masked, to visit family in Chicago. We arrived just as the city was lifting the mask mandate and some were anxious to have their faces exposed. There was such a sense of hope in the air, though my feeling was that many people (the majority) weren’t ready to go mask-less in public. On our first visit to a museum in over a year, The Art Institute had just adopted optional mask wearing for vaccinated visitors though it was evident that most of the visitors chose to continue masking-up, especially noticeable in the popular exhibition of Monet that was just ending. The following week, on June 18th, the celebrated Obama Portraits, Barack by Kehinde Wiley, and Michelle by Amy Sherald, opened to enthusiastic  audiences. We joined others in a responsibly masked and socially distanced line as we advanced to the gallery to see these two beautiful paintings.

We went to the opening of Chicago Comics at the Museum of Contemporary Art, surveying Chicago based cartoonists and artists working in this genre since the 1960s. It is always refreshing to see works in person, especially those of Lynda Barry, and to discover a different aspect of Kerry James Marshall’s creative output.

A visit to Chicago wouldn’t be complete without a visit to former Seattle gallerist Mariane Ibrahim’s new gallery. A compelling show of works on paper by Philadelphia based artist Ruby Onyinyechi Amanze was showing in this elegant space.

We took advantage of the beautiful late spring weather to explore some parts of the city on foot. One such walk along the lagoons south of the Museum of Science and Industry took us through restored prairie to a Japanese garden and Yoko Ono’s only public sculpture, Skylanding. Another walk that has become a favorite is through Ping Tom Memorial Park, with native prairie and wetlands along the Chicago River.

That was our first time out in public, in a major city, one that had seen upheaval the previous summer. Even though we felt we were emerging from the changes of the past year, it was very noticeable, how many businesses remained shuttered, and how relatively empty the streets were, especially in a major American city.

 

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