Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lincoln In Chicago Day 1

For as much traveling as I've done and as relatively close as Chicago is to Cleveland some may find it surprising that I've never been to Chicago before. Sure I've been through Chicago a handful of times, but it's never been the destination.

I think a large part of the reason for that is simply I haven't had a reason -- I've realized that no matter how much I may be interested in visiting a place -- be it London, Boston, or even Cincinnati -- unless I have a compelling, time-sensitive reason to overcome my travel inertia I'm unlikely to spontaneously go. I think, given my disdain for specifically planned vacations having that one thing assures that the trip will not be wasted.

When that reason for traveling happens to be work-related, there's the added advantage of the travel costs being $0. That is the case with this, somewhat abbreviated, visit. A project that I've been intimately involved with has the prospect of being a perfect fit for an incredibly large potential customer who is headquartered in Chicago. Today was our first in person sales visit and demonstration. I think it went well--what was scheduled for an hour turned into two with some very enthusiastic questions. I also think my job title changed--but I'll wait for new business cards before I get too excited.

Ok, so enough about me, me, me. Kinda. The hotel I'm staying at is the beautiful -- and huge Hilton Chicago. Until the fog rolled in this afternoon, I had a beautiful view across Grant Park to Lake Michigan. It seems that the location is good for being touristy -- I could see the Shedd Aquarium, to the south, from my room this morning, The Art Institute of Chicago and Millennium Park are a across the street and a bit north, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Orchestra Hall is practically within spitting distance.

After our meeting adjourned this afternoon, I walked the 1.2 miles back to the hotel through Downtown Chicago -- skipping a visit to the Sears Tower for now because, although on the way, I didn't really want to deal with having my laptop hanging off my shoulder any longer than I had to. Excising the laptop, I made my way back north on Michigan Avenue until I hit Millennium Park and the giant reflective bean -- properly known as Cloud Gate. I had promised my ladyfriend that I would seek it out and take a picture of my reflection on the bean which I did. The Northwestern edge of the park was bustling with activity, but the Eastern and Southern sections of the park were quite quiet and perfect for reflection.

Making my way south I found myself at the Art Institute Chicago. As a Fellow-level member at the Cleveland Museum of Art, which offers reprocicity with IAC, so I avoided the $18 admission fee and got to the galleries. Honestly I found the gallery configuration a bit confusing, disorienting, and overwhelming, For some reason it seems lately I'm only visiting art museums when my feet are already tired -- but... the visit was well worth it. Some particular notes:

Jan Steen's 1666 painting Family Concert seems so eerily familiar that I could swear I've seen it or something just like it before, but I can't say where. That one will probably bother me for a while, since it looks like both Cleveland and Nelson-Atkins have Steen works in their collections, but they aren't close matches. Alex Katz's Vincent and Tony has a textural quality that pulled my eye and instantly reminded me of a work on prominent display in Cleveland's contemporary galleries -- it turns out, for good reason, as it's the same artist's Impala. Neither photo really does the actual art work justice, but seeing them in person there's something that screams "these were done by the same person". On that vein, Carl Andre's Steel-Aluminum Plain is an unmistakable sibling of Steel-Magnesium Plain at Kansas City's Nelson-Atkins Museum, though the guards in Chicago are far less enthusiastic about patrons walking across the art than those in Kansas City, who actively encourage it.

While I'm mentioning ties to other museums, one of the more compelling sculptures at the Walker Art Center's Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is a large square of granite benches, each with a quote engraved upon it, most make me chuckle. In Minneapolis they're well worn -- they've been used, they've stood up to the elements. They're there, and they have context. Entering the Abbott Gallery today, I found one of the benches -- completely out of context (I think a patron would have been violently assaulted had they had the temerity to sit on it -- when a patron looked as if she may be reaching for a camera, the guard on duty nearly tackled her while screaming "Special exhibition! No photography!" -- immediately followed by "Too close! Back up!").

The artist is Jenny Holzer, and this bench is "You should limit the the number of times you act against your nature, like sleeping with people you hate. It's interesting to test your capabilities for a while, but too much will cause damage." -- though the inscription isn't my favorite* the contrast between the same inscription in a weathered bench in nature versus the gleaming, pristine clean granite under careful lighting in an environmentally controlled gallery.

Lastly, as Fernand Leger's The Aviator has always had a special draw to me in the Cleveland Museum of Art's galleries, it was interesting to see a fair number of other examples of his works in the Art Institutes's collection. The same goes for Piet Mondrain who is, to borrow the label copy's description "best known for his non-representational works" to see an actual landscape painting.

With my feet killing me and my time limited, I decided ot head back South on South Michigan avenue towards my hotel. Along the way I stopped in for a visit at the Museum of Contemporary Photography -- candid photography always attracts my eye -- anything that captures an accurate representation of life at that moment (Lee Friedlander is a favorite) or gives hits of the way things were or have evolved, particularly as far as technology and infrastructure are concerned. And the current exhibition, Public Works was right up my alley.

Earlier this afternoon, I had toyed with the idea of sneaking in a performance of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, but on the basis of time and how much screaming my feet were doing, I opted against it on this trip. (Pros: Seats available "behind" the stage which looks like they'd allow one to actually see the conductor's facial expressions; Cons: I couldn't get myself excited about a trumpet-heavy program, and when I heard the CSO at Carnegie Hall in New York, I didn't love the sound... but that could just as easily be the hall's fault) -- maybe next visit.

I still haven't decided on plans for tomorrow yet... Based on how long it took to get from the airport to the hotel, with a 6:05 PM flight it looks like I have to be en route no later than 3:05 PM to allow adequate time for all of the formalities (unless I decide to spring for a cab...), so I don't have a ton of time. I think the aquarium is a strong contender... Or I might just use some more of my CTA unlimited ride pass.

*- I think my favorite of the collection is "Some days you wake up and immediately start to worry. Nothing in particular is wrong, it's just the suspicion that forces are aligning quietly and there will be trouble"

1 comment:

  1. For your Jan Steen comment, that painting reminds me of Johannes Vermeer's work. With the window on the left, a large hanging object on the wall, dramatically lit room, table/instrument with an oriental rug on top, some sort of human action in the middle...

    Ok, art historian turned off now :)

    Glad you're having a great time! Hope your legs haven't been reduced to jello too much to keep you from exploring more tomorrow! ;)