The Art Institute of Chicago is free this month, and Thursdays they have late hours for those of us who sit at desks from darkness to darkness. Mark that as reason #485 I’m glad I live where I live. On Thursday, at the behest of another art-appreciating friend, we took a stroll through dozens of high-ceilinged, squeaky-floored galleries.
One of my favorite things about looking at modern art with someone who is willing to suspend the requisite “I could do that” skepticism, as my companion was, is the free-association game that art can inspire. Art is about evoking… stuff. Memories, emotions, stories, associations, moments in time… The advantage of perusing with a buddy is that, simply by sharing the space with you and your friend, an individual piece can open up all sorts of conversational channels.
A few paintings that, for whatever set of reasons, managed to punch me in the gut:
"Nightlife" - Archibald Motley
I wrote about Motley and his cohort of black South Side artists in college, and I love this painting for its historical portrait of Bronzeville as much as for its colors. But I love it even more after I learned it was a response to this:
"Nighthawks" - Edward Hopper
Eldzier Cortor was a contemporary of Archibald Motley’s. Two dimensions doesn’t do this justice–her hair and the buttons on the bed are literally emerging from the canvas–but it’s still one of my favorites. If I could pick my favorite square foot of everything I saw, it might be the two knees on the checked blanket.
"The Room No. VI" - Eldzier Cortor
Just imagine a room full of these:
"Haystacks, End of Summer, Evening" - Claude Monet
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