April 30, 2017

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/

Canstruction: a charity sculpture event at the Mart using non-perishable food

Currently on view until September 6 is Canstruction,  a design/build event that benefits the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Using non-perishable food items, teams from the trade organization, AEC (Architecture, Engineering and Construction) construct installations in the lobby of the Merchandise Mart.

My favorites in this year’s event are The Mona Lisa (above),  an amusing take on Vincent Van Gogh’s bedroom (right) and an Olympic runner about to sprint made out of tuna cans (below).

This marks Canstruction’s tenth anniversary. If you miss the exhibit this year, put this amusing and worthy cultural event on your list for next August.


http://chicago.canstruction.org

Mana Contemporary Chicago, a Pilsen art center

I have often visited art galleries in River North, but my brother-in-law let me know about another Pilsen venue that seems to be attracting many creative types. Mana Contemporary at  2233 South Throop Street is an art center housed in a landmark building designed by Chicago architect George Nimmons, in a decidedly urban and industrial setting.

Mana Chicago features studios, offices and performing spaces where art is created, including painting, sculpture, photography, dance, film, sound and performance work.

We were fortunate enough to attend the Summer Open Studios on June 18 so we could browse dozens of artist work spaces on the 4th, 5th and 6th floors of the complex. We also encountered a cafe serving light bites and beverages, a performance space that featured dance and a live art studio with two partially clothed women with parasols creating an ever-changing tableau.

Some of my favorite studios: Dana Major with her magical installations featuring wire, lenses, glass, mineral optics and LEDS; Ava Grey, a creative agency and production house that creates art using materials from urban American sub-culture, and Olea Nova, a native of St. Petersburg, Russia whose work includes painting, drawing, sound and video.

At times, the unusually-garbed artists and art viewers rivaled the art on the walls. The unobstructed views from the studio windows were breath-taking with stunning sunset hues and cityscape vistas.

There are two other Mana art centers, the Mana Wynwood in Miami and the Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, NJ.

The Mana Contemporary Chicago web site indicates that tours are available during business hours. For more information, visit:
http://www.manacontemporarychicago.com/

Graceland Cemetery, a Chicago treasure

In my last week’s article on the South Park system in Chicago, I wrote about a famous large sculpture by Illinois artist, Loredo Taft. As a co-incidence, I also visited the lovely Graceland Cemetery on Memorial Day and saw two more evocative Loredo Taft statues in this storied graveyard.

Far from being morbid and forbidding, Graceland is as much an arboretum and architectural treasure as it is a final resting place for many.

I urge you to stop at the visitor’s center when first you arrive to pick up a brochure with a map of famous Graceland “residents.” The roster reads like a “who’s who” of Chicago architecture, industry, sports and culture.

Lake Windemere Bridge - Photo by E. DoyleLake Windemere, a small body of water amidst the greenery is especially lovely with a small bridge leading to an island containing the tombstones of Daniel Burnham and his immediate family. A pleasant walk takes you to the grave sites of Louis Sullivan, John Root, Fazlur Khan, William Le Baron Jenney and Mies Van de Rohe, to name a few architects of note.

A Taft sculpture depicts a soldier from the Crusades guarding the grave of newspaper publisher, Victor Lawson. George Pullman (Pullman railroad cars), William Kimball (pianos and organs), Phillip Armour (meat-packing) and Cyrus McCormick (the horse-drawn reaper) are but a few of the industrialists buried here.

A second Loredo Taft sculpture entitled Eternal Silence marks the grave site of Dexter Graves. Looking into the face of the eerie hooded figure, according to myth, gives the viewer a glimpse of their own death.

Eternal Silence by Loredo Taft - Photo by E. Doyle

Eternal Silence by Loredo Taft – photo by E. Doyle

Other historic figures include Carter Harrison Sr. and Jr., father and son who both served as mayors of Chicago, Alan Pinkerton of the famous detective agency, Joseph Medill of Chicago Tribune fame and Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, an African-American surgeon who performed one of the first open heart surgeries.

Parents or teachers could give their children and students a pretty wonderful overview of Chicago history with a walk through this verdant retreat. This is land within the Wrigleyville neighborhood that is truly full of beauty, serenity and yes, grace.

http://www.gracelandcemetery.org/

Chicago’s Stunning South Parks: Jackson, Midway and Washington

Memorial Day seemed like the perfect time to visit some park attractions on Chicago’s South Side that I had read about but never seen.

First up was the “Golden Lady” statute at the intersection of Richards and Hayes Drives in Jackson Park on Chicago’s south side. The original statue, three times the size of this copy, was by sculptor Daniel Chester French and was placed in the Court of Honor during the 1893 Colombian Exposition. The larger original work, “Statue of the Republic” was unfortunately destroyed in an 1896 fire. This newer and smaller version is completely gilded with the lady’s right hand holding a globe with an eagle on top and the left holding a staff with a banner that reads “Liberty.”  D. C. French is more well known for his statue of Abraham Lincoln that graces the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C.

If you want to keep exploring, head north towards the Jackson Park Driving Range. Several golfers were unloading golf bags so this looks like a fun place to improve one’s swing. North of the driving range is a marked nature trail that leads to the water basin in back of the Museum of Science and Industry. Off to the west, one can see the storied “Wooded Isle,” with it’s Osaka Garden, also built for the 1893 Colombian Exposition. Alas, most of the park is under construction and several pathways are blocked for public admittance, including the island with Japanese landscaping and structures.

Photo by Elizabeth Doyle

The trail is still worth checking out with it’s verdant foliage and flowers and the spectacular view of the back steps of the Museum. Big things could be ahead for Jackson Park since it is in consideration for Barack Obama’s Presidential Library. World renowned artist Yoko Ono is also slated to install a new, permanent artwork called SKY LANDING on the Wooded Island in the near future.

Three areas, Jackson, Washington and the Midway Plaisance were actually designed as one big South Park. The Midway Plaisance joins Jackson Park on the east and Washington Park on the west. During the 1893 Colombian Exposition, the “Midway” was the site of less high-brow entertainment such as sideshows and rides. Today an ice-skating rink is on the site of the world’s first Ferris wheel which premiered during the 1893 Fair. The mile-long swath of green is next to the University of Chicago and seems part of the campus even thought it is public land.

Continuing west along the park boulevard system, the big artistic attraction on the border between Midway and Washington Park is Loredo Taft’s amazing concrete sculpture and reflecting pool called “Fountain of Time.” Inspired by the poem “Paradox of Time” by Henry Austin Dobson, the large scale sculpture features Father Time looking across water at a procession of one hundred humans. Private and public entities have donated money to preserve Taft’s national artistic treasure.

Loredo Taft, an Illinois sculptor born and bred, had his art studio nearby in a converted barn at 60th street and Ellis.

I definitely plan to be back as these three parks continue to thrive and evolve. The western area of Jackson Park holds particular interest, especially if Yoko Ono completes her art project on the picturesque “Wooded Isle.”

If you want to see the projected plans for Jackson, Washington and Midway Park areas, you may find this site interesting:

http://www.project120chicago.org/

Lawyers for the Creative Arts

I recently became better acquainted with Lawyers for the Creative Arts, an organization comprised of lawyers from the Chicagoland area who donate their time and expertise to help artists, musicians, filmmakers and writers with their legal problems. Creators have been given pro bono legal help with everything from copyrights to contracts to law suits.

Their recent benefit luncheon in the Palmer House’s Empire Room honored law firm Sidley Austin for their pro bono work, former board president William Frankel for his longtime service to LCA, Mark Howard, founder and choreographer of the Trinity Irish Dancers and Liz Carroll, the noted performer and composer of Irish fiddle music. The incoming Consul General of Ireland, the Hon. Orla McBreen introduced the program and popular cultural commentator Rick Kogan acted as master of ceremonies.

In the last twelve months, LCA lawyers have provided legal service to over 2000 people and organizations.  Founded 42 years ago, some of the earliest volunteer lawyers are still active in the organization. Beneficiaries of LCA’s legal advice have dubbed the organization “An Angel to the Arts.”

http://law-arts.org

Jaume Plensa Statues in Millenium Park

Photos by Elizabeth Doyle


Have you wondered what those new “head” statues are in Millennium Park?
To celebrate the park’s 10th anniversary, Jaume Plensa, the Barcelona sculptor who created Crown Fountain with it’s two facing towers spitting water from the mouthes of 1,000 alternating LED facial images, was asked to add to his famous attraction. The result was “1004 Portraits,” four gigantic heads of young girls on loan from the artist, three in the Boeing Gallery near the Fountain and a large white head serenely gracing the park entrance at Madison Street and Michigan Avenue.

Plensa used Barcelona girls from age 7 to 14 years for the four sculptures, capturing their portraits by laser scanner and then using 3-D modeling to flatten and stretch the images. The three girls on the ledge overlooking the Fountain are 20 to 23 feet tall, made of cast iron and bear the names “Laura,” “Paula” and “Ines.” “Looking Into My Dreams, Awilda,” the alabaster girl by herself is made of marble, resin and fiberglass.

The Plensa heads will grace Millenium Park until December 2015 so you have the opportunity to see them in all seasons.