February 18, 2018

Art Institute of Chicago exhibit: Revoliutsiia! Demonstratsiia! Soviet Art Put to the Test

There is a most unusual and fascinating exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago right now, Revoliutsiia! Demonstratsiia! Soviet Art Put to the Test.

This large installation in Regenstein Hall illustrates the dramatic shift from Imperial Russian design to that of the Soviets after 1917. Literally everything was impacted by this cultural tsunami. Graphic design on posters, art direction in theaters and in film, fabric, dishes, furniture, mobiles and paintings all reflected this new vision.


Some of my favorite things in the exhibit include a replica of Rodchenko’s Workers Club including a black and red chess set, a 2 1/2 minute recording of Lenin giving a speech, a space that resembles an agitprop train compartment that features Soviet cartoons and documentaries as well as a 1926 exhibition room that features paintings by Piet Mondrian, Francis Picabia and El Lissitzky.

If you choose to be immersed in this stark and geometric world that has style implications in the present day, you have until January 15, 2018 to catch Revoliutsiia! Demonstratsiia! Soviet Art Put to the Test.

Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo, Caldwell Lily Pond and Waterfowl Lagoon at Lincoln Park Zoo

Having lived across the street from the Lincoln Park Zoo for ten years, I got in the habit of frequently visiting the country’s oldest free urban zoo, sometimes daily.  New exhibits, refreshed settings and old favorites were the draw.

Kids playing around nature forms and next to a glass barrier with a black bear on the other side

New to me was the Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo, featuring North American animals to the right of you as you enter from Stockton. One is immediately struck by the visual layers in the exhibit. Tree tops with nesting herons are in the foreground. Red wolves can be seen in the next layer, behind a barrier, of course. A service dog-in-training in the people zone was being intently stared at by one wolf as I reconfirmed that there were at least two fences between them. A few steps more and one can see lumbering black bears with one snoozing in a glass observation portal the day we visited. Other creatures featured in the exhibit are the American beaver, the American kestrel, the American toad, Blanding’s and Eastern Box turtles along with the Eastern screech owl and the Hooded merganser. Inventive play structures add still another layer of interest for families. Any child would love this engaging area, but I can attest that adults will be charmed as well.


The Lincoln Park Zoo Waterfowl Lagoon also appears to be newly landscaped with Chilean flamingos matching the orange tiger lilies surrounding their area. A bridge and an overlook allow the viewer to admire the swan geese and a pair of snow white trumpeter swans. In 1868, New York’s Central Park Commissioners sent the Lincoln Park Zoo two swans and those graceful birds continue to be a big draw in the zoo. Native Illinois wildflowers and grasses complete the idyllic scene along with Ruddy ducks, Baikal teals and red-breasted mergansers. 

One of my favorite areas continues to be the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond. While you may exit into the zoo from the pond area, for entrance, you must go to Fullerton, south of the zoo. The Lincoln Park Conservancy is responsible for this serene setting with its Prairie-style rock structures, birds and diverse native plantings. If you meander upon the path that circles the pond, or sit in one of the pavilions to listen to birdsong and gaze at lily pads, you can forget that you are in the middle of a bustling big city. We were lucky enough to hear the big croak of a resident bull frog when exiting, as if he were giving us an exclamation point to our bucolic visit.

I frequent the Zoo less often since I moved out of that neighborhood but the occasional stop to the environs always introduces me to some new view of nature. A big thank you to the Auxillary Board of the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Lincoln Park Zoological Society for keeping this experience free to all!

GNOD – The Global Network of Discovery

I happened upon a site with the acronym gnod, quite by accident, while looking for authors similar to crime writers Donna Leon and Henning Mankell. Created by Marek Gibney in Hamburg, Germany, the Global Network of Discovery (gnod) features word maps to discover authors related to what you already like.

Not only can you look up networks of authors, but you can also fill out brief questionnaires that help the site learn more about people’s literary choices. The user is queried about whether you know, like or dislike a particular author.

The site also has sections on music, art, movies, and electronic products. In truth, the electronics portion seems to be the site’s commercial raison d’être, but this shouldn’t dampen your enjoyment of the rest of the site when you are looking for new authors, composers, films, and artists.

http://www.gnod.com/

Seven Magic Mountains outside of Las Vegas

Seven Magic Mountains

If you need a break from the casino culture on the Las Vegas Strip, consider a short trip outside of the city to view a special art exhibit, the Seven Magic Mountains by Swiss sculptor, Ugo Rondinone. The seven 30-foot brightly-colored totems are made up of large stacked boulders that give one the feeling of a psychedelic Stonehenge.
Ten miles south of Las Vegas, the art installation is near Jean Dry Lake and Interstate 15. The Mojave Desert becomes a free art museum with a short drive outside of Las Vegas well worth the trouble.
The installation opened on May 11, 2016 and will be viewable until May 11, 2018.

My niece, Maye and me

You can order Seven Magic Mountain prints by Gianfranco Gorgoni or “mini mountain” stone sculptures by Ugo Rondinone at:
http://sevenmagicmountains.com

Terra Cotta Warriors and Moholy-Nagy: Future Present

I usually don’t write about exhibits that have just left Chicago, but I decided to write about two showings that are moving on to other cities.

It has long been my dream to see the famed Terra Cotta Warriors in their original excavation site in Xi’an, China. The Field Museum exhibit which ran from March 4, 2016 to January 8, 2017 seemed to be the next best thing.
My thumbnail review: admission and parking were expensive and the exhibit itself was rather small with very few artifacts that weren’t reproductions. If you never plan to visit China, you may want to make a spring visit to the Terra Cotta Warriors in Seattle, but I myself am holding out hope to see the real thing in Xi’an.

Terra Cotta Warriors Exhibit
Pacific Science Center in Seattle, WA
April 8 to Sept 3, 2017

A much more satisfying exhibit was Moholy-Nagy: Future Present which ran from Oct. 2, 2016 to January 3, 2017 at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Hungarian Laszlo Moholy-Nagy was a painter, photographer, film-maker, sculptor, advertising man, product designer and theater set designer. Happily, the exhibit gave us glimpses of every phase of his work. Room after room featured samples of his work from his lucite and metal chandeliers to his photos, films, paintings and graphic designs.

Moholy-Nagy holds a place of honor in Chicago history having been instrumental in creating the New Bauhaus here which morphed into the Institute of Design on the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) campus.

The Moholy-Nagy exhibit was previously at the Guggenheim Museum in New York city and now moves to Los Angeles. West coasters who admire early 20th century art and design are strongly urged to attend this fine show.

Moholy-Nagy Future Present
Feb. 12 to June 18, 2017
Los Angeles County Museum

Google Arts and Culture site

google-arts-and-culture-logoWhen traveling, I love visiting museums, gardens and venues of visual beauty. Unfortunately, my wish list of places to visit continues to grow, while my time to travel remains relatively small.

Google Arts and Culture comes to the rescue with a comprehensive web site that allows the viewer to virtually visit a host of cultural and natural sites all across the world. biodivwand_c_carola-radke-mfnBio Diversity Wall at the Natural History Museum in Berlin

Some of the web site headings include Your Daily Digest, Stories of the Day, Zoom in and Explore by time and color. A seemingly endless number of virtual tours are available including Ford’s Theater in Washington,  10 Downing Street in London and the Taj Mahal in India. One can do searches by art movements, artists, historical events or places along with a host of other topics. Every visit to Google Culture and Art home page could be a different, enlightening experience.

I see from the internet address that Google Arts and Culture is still in beta-testing mode, but the site looks quite polished and professional in its current state.
On my next Google Arts and Culture experience, I plan to make virtual visits to Angkor Wat in Cambodia and to the Great Barrier Reef. Excuse me while I pack my virtual suitcase.

https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/