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Saturday, October 31, 2009

...That's the Way You Spell

Chicago Day 5
Part I: The Exchequer

I try to eat here at least once every trip to Chicago. Only time I didn't, one of the GraphExpo trips, we flew in one night, did the trade show and went to the hotel, did the trade show the next day and flew back that evening. I don't think I even made it to the Loop on that trip.

Good food, great atmosphere, reasonably priced, and as an added bonus, the greeter this time was Minnie Driver's kid sister. Well, she could have been, anyway.

Part II: The Modern Wing

My kingdom to have a whole day and fresh legs for the Art Institute museum!

I've always liked Willem de Kooning's paintings, never realized he sculpted, too.

I really liked this Rothko. Similar to a black on black the Nelson has, but maybe I just like orange better because this one actually got a reaction out of me. Photo doesn't do it justice.

I wasn't familiar with Lucio Fontanna.

Check out this Joan Mitchell 'Cityscape.'

And more de Kooning...

Of course, Jackson Pollock. Love this one, it's massive.

Lots of texture, I took a detail shot to give you some idea of the dimension.

Also a cook Pollock from before his drip period. Still pretty out-there, but I think a lot of people think of him as a one trick pony and probably don't realize that he could do pretty much anything he wanted with paint and canvas. Just that later in life, he mainly wanted to get drunk and climb a ladder with a bucket of paint and see what happened...

William Baziotes 'Cyclops.'

I guess I'm a little slow on the uptake. It took me a minute to notice the snorkel in this Jeff Koon sculpture...

Ed Pashke, 'Mid American.'

Roy Lichtenstein, 'Mirror in Six Panels' and 'Brushstroke with Splatter.'

And guess who...

Frank Stella, 'De la nada vida a la nada muerte' (from life nothing to death nothing). If you can't tell from the pic, this canvas is as huge as it is unusually shaped.

The view out toward Millenium Park.

David Hockney, 'American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman).'

Ed Ruscha, 'City.'

Four 'Ice' panels by Gerhard Richter.

'Da Creepy Lady,' 'Miss E. Knows,' and 'Knife Time,' by Jim Nutt.

Bruce Nauman, 'Human Nature/Life Death.'

Robert Smithson, 'Chalk Mirror Displacement.' How do you clean around this? Move it? The date on it is 1969, but I'm pretty sure the Modern Wing didn't exist back then. It really is piles of chalk with mirrors cuting in between. Must make a curators job interesting.

See also this 'Untitled' piece by Pier Paolo Calzolari done in tobacco leaves and neon lights. According to the card, the neon phrase is Italian translating to 'in my fifteenth year.' The year he started smoking?

Not so much art as the cry for help of a disturbed individual, this Sol LeWitt wall is huge. And done directly on the wall in pencil, are these little grids of increasing density. A monument to compulsive behavior.

Robert Overby, 'Concrete Screen Door.'

Hanne Darboven, 'Seven Panels and Index.' Maybe this wouldn't bother me so much in the 1973 context it was created in. This was before anyone with a computer could generate as much pattern as they wanted with little effort. I would re-title this, though, Department of Redundancy Department.

Philip Guston, 'Green Sea,' 'Couple in Bed,' 'Bad Times.'

A Robert Gober installation. The wallpaper looks quite cheerful until you see the detail.

Richard Serra, 'Weights and Measures.'

Eva Hesse, 'Hang Up' and 'Untitled.'

Lari Pittman, 'The Senseless Cycle, Tender and Benign, Bring Great Comfort.'

Sue Williams, 'It's a New Age.'

Barbara Kruger, 'We Will Not Become What We Mean To You' and Cady Noland's 'Oozewald.'

Mike Kelley, 'Eviscerated Corpse' (I think I recognize an animal or two I had as a kid).

Sigmar Polke, 'Watchtower with Geese.'

Jasper Johns, 'Near the Moon.'

Peter Doig, 'Gastof zur Muldentalsperre.' This is another artist I'd never encountered before, and I just love this painting. I loved it before I found out where some of the elements came from: true story, the boat on the water is the boat from 'Friday the Thirteenth' movies.

Lucian Freud, 'Sunny Morning — Eight Legs.'

Lisa Yuskavage, 'Angel.'

Margherita Manzelli, 'Dopa la fina (After the Fall).'

Francis Bacon, 'Figure with Meat.'

Matta, 'The Earth is a Man.'

Kurt Seligmann, 'Melusine and the Great Transparents.'

Franz Léger, 'Divers and a Yellow Backgroud,' and 'Great Black and Red Branch.'

Jean Hélion, 'Twin Figures.'

Joan Miró, 'Personages with Star.'

André Mason, 'The Figure.'

Alberto Giacometti, 'Three Men Walking II.'

Jean Debuffet, 'Supervielle, Large Banner Portrait'

Pablo Picasso (rules!), 'Nude Under a Pine Tree' and 'Macquette for Richard J. Daley Center Monument.' I caught the back edge of the big version of the sculpture downtown and didn't realize what it was at the time. My Lovely Hostess said, 'We're near the Picasso,' and I didn't know what she meant. I'd seen prints of this painting, but the impact of this massive canvas in person, wow.

Max Ernst, 'An Anxious Friend.'

Salvador Dalí, 'Anthropomorphic Tower,' 'Inventions of the Monsters,' 'A Chemist Lifting With Extreme Caution the Cuticle of a Grand Piano,' 'Visions of Eternity,' and 'Venus de Milo with Drawers.' Believe it or not, this is not all the Dalí I saw there.

Yves Tanguy, 'The Rapidity of Sleep.'

Max Beckmann, 'Self Portrait,' and 'Reclining Nude.'

More Picasso: 'Still Life,' 'Mother and Child,' 'Head,' 'Man with a Pipe,' 'The Old Guitarist,' 'Nude with a Pitcher,' 'Daniel-Henry Kahhnweiler,''Half-Length Female Nude,' and 'Head of a Woman.' Sorry, not all my Picasso shots turned out, there's actually even more (crazy but true).

Henri Matisse, 'Seated Nude,' 'Lemons on a Plate.'

Lyonel Fenninger, 'Carival in Arcueil' and 'Longueil, Normandie.'

Vasily Kandinsky, 'Painting with Green Center.'

Conrade Felixmüller, 'The Death of the Poet Walter Rheiner.'

Paul Cézanne, 'The Bathers.' I was actually running out of time at this point, the museum was getting near closing time and I was barely reaching escape velocity from the Modern Wing. I was, truly, exhausted, but I'd seen so much cool shit, I didn't want to not go around the next corner. There was quite a bit of Cézanne, more or less a whole salon of it.

Also a whole room of Henri de Talousse-Lautrec.

I was really running out of time now, I don't know how much Van Gogh the museum has, this is the only one I got to.

And I had to make it to the Grant Wood (which took some maneuvering, you have to go down a ways and back up the other side into the old museum to get to it).

On the way back out, strayed into the architecture & design section, then through the gift shop (I so wanted to buy a Pantone coffee mug, but I don't drink coffee and I was trying to do this vacation on the cheap).

Part III: Clown Torture

This is smack dab in the middle of the Modern Wing, but damn. This is the most disturbing thing I think I've ever seen. Love to see one of those coulrophobic types survive a trip into this room.

You hear this long before you get to it. Sounds of torture, screams of 'No no no!' that seem to escalate constantly.

Clown Torture from Chixulub on Vimeo.

Then you step into this room and there are projectors putting film on two walls and a bank of four TV sets, depicting clowns being tortured. The film on the right has the clown, for instance, telling this 'Pete & Repeat' joke over and over as if trying to figure it out. Then it cuts to another 'No no no!' scene, etc.

But the projector to the left, nothing could have prepared me for. It's a clown on a toilet, picking his nose, reading a paper, getting upset, making farting noises.

And I find my mind wandering to places that aren't comfortable. Places like, What sort of a person would come up with an idea like this, (Bruce Nauman) replaced by, What sort of person would actually go through with the idea? (Bruce Nauman again.)

Then to What sort of person would give it funding? Put it on display in a museum? And finally, Is there any way this could be more fucked up? Nope.

Part IV: The Green Mill

I tried to go hear live jazz at the Green Mill the first time I ever went to Chicago. It was, I think, a Thursday, and they had a 'swing' band, not really what I was going for. This was about ten years ago, when the Cherry Poppin' Daddies and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy were getting airplay. Someone told me to try Green Dolphin Street, and they had a salsa band (a good one, but still, not jazz), and by then I was half drunk and totally out of money for cabs, covers and expensive cocktails.

But I knew Patricia Barber would be a good show.

On the way there, I encountered the first panhandler of my trip who didn't just immediately piss me off. On the Loop, on Michigan Avenue, on N. Broadway, you can't walk a block without someone ('A little help?' or 'Can you spare?') badgering you for money. Like the city doesn't try to vacuum out your wallet enough. And if you decline (as I did consistently on the theory that I shouldn't feed the bears), no matter how civilly, you're as likely as not to hear, 'Asshole!' as you walk past.

But this character had a flute made of a piece of PVC pipe, even played it to show me it worked. Would I buy it from him so he could go into CVS and get a bite to eat?

I figured if I boiled the thing in solvent, I could give it to one of my kids as a souvenir, and I hadn't finished shopping for such. So I offered the guy five bucks.

He wanted at least thirty, and when I said five was my final offer, he said he'd be glad for a five dollar donation, but he needed at least twenty, all the time he had in the flute. I said, 'If you're out of work, bumming on the street, you have plenty of time to make more flutes.' He said, 'Not really,' so I said, 'Good luck,' and walked away.

At least he had a grift he was working. Took a little more thought than 'Any spare change?' Instead of outlawing panhandling, I say make the law that they have to try and provide some value. Learn to juggle for tips, learn some tramp trade so the people giving you money to buy drugs with at least get some entertainment out of the deal.

I almost ate at the Silver Seafood restaurant near the Green Mill. Or Demera Ethiopian across the street. But Demera looked pricy and chic, and Silver Seafood looked ordinary enough but had signs boasting Zagat ratings and I got spooked that it'd be too much. I'm sure it's reasonable, but I'd been in Chi for a few days at this point, and it'd cost me a bit more to do some things than I'd planned, and I still had some town to do. Plus, my car was in economy parking, but that's $5.50 a day, and for six days, that ads up, too.

Grabbed a bite before the Green Mill at the little greasy spoon next door to it, which has a lot of Broadway musical posters on the walls. This is on North Broadway in Chicago, but the posters are for Broadway musical sin New York. Including the Rocky Horror Show with Joan Jett as Columbia and Daphne Rubin-Vega as Magenta.

Another panhandler hit me up for spare change on my way into this diner, and when I emerged to go next door to the Green Mill, he asked me again. 'Remember me? I already told you no,' I said.

Anyway, the Green Mill was everything I could have wanted. Met interesting people before the music started, got to meet Patricia and get a pic & autograph, met her guitarist, the amazing Neal Alger. He reminded me of Steve Cardenas in the first set, but less so in the second and third. Second set, if he reminded me of anyone it was Bill Frisell, with some of the weird stuff they get into on 'The Moon.'

But by the end of the night, Neal Alger mainly reminded me of Neal Alger, very much his own thing.

The second set closed with a drum feature on Caravan that was a religious experience. Every time you though there was no place to escalate further, it did.

And here's the weirdest part: it was a jazz club on a Monday night and it was full and people listened.

I got hustled by a guy. Well, not really, because I didn't bite, but this dude walked up before the third set and shook my hand and introduced himself, asked if I played guitar, which I sort of do. Then asked if I was from 'around here,' and when I said no, he said, 'I could show you the town.'

I thought this was a weird offer from a guy I just met. I decided to invoke my Lovely Hostess as if she were my girlfriend, and said something like, 'Well this chick I came up to see has done a pretty good job of that.'

To which, he said, 'I could show you the town tonight.'

'I think my shirt might be giving you the wrong idea.' I was wearing my dolphins, easily my gayest Aloha shirt. I think of it as my 'I wish I was queer so I could get chicks' shirt, but can't a guy be beautiful without attracting other men?

'Well, will you at least buy me a drink?'

'No,' I said, thinking how weird is this going to get?

'Come on, I'm an alcoholic. I really need a drink.'

'My answer is still no,' I said, feeling for my wallet and cell phone, thinking about what you do to get on a plane in these post-9/11 days if your driver's license went away with your wallet?

'That's not the answer I'd give,' he said, but at least he stood and left my personal space.

The third set, a short one which Barber wasn't there for, the audience got a bit loud and the silence policy enforcement slackened, but the band did the perfect thing: they got their funk on and just played loud.