Saturday, August 9, 2014
René Magritte has taken over downtown Chicago. It is impossible to escape his influence, as his images are featured in so many unexpected places, from store windows to bus shelters to tourist trolleys.
I was already familiar with his work and have been a fan of Time Transfixed since high school. It's part of the Art Institute's permanent collection and I included it in a tour I gave to fellow students as part of a research project I did on science in art. I talked about its relationship to the theory of relativity.
So when I first heard about the big Magritte show at the Art Institute, I knew I had to go. And everywhere I went were the posters reminding me about it. Sadly, I am once again living on a shoestring, trying not to spend too much, unable to afford simple luxuries thanks to all I wasted--I mean spent--on my art practice this year.
But the museum came to the rescue. They had a special night of "surreal pricing" in which visitors were allowed free admission in exchange for giving an object of surrealism that would become a part of its permanent collection. And that was how I was able to see the amazing Magritte show.
The gallery is dark. The walls are painted a deep, cool gray color. The night I was there, it was packed with people, but eerily quiet. Everyone in attendance had somehow come to the unspoken agreement that in the presence of such great art, they needed to whisper. Even the children spoke in hushed tones when their parents asked them what they thought about the artwork. It was as though the patrons all believed that they were in a holy place. And as an artist, I was impressed by the size of the crowd, their eagerness to see the work, and by the idea that surrealism is finally, nearly a century later, an art movement the general public seems to understand and appreciate.
The show is very well organized. It is easy to see how the pieces in Magritte's full body of work relate to one another. It was fascinating to see so many of his paintings in the same place, and to see the work he did in other media, including sculpture and illustrations for surrealist magazines.
If you're wondering what object I submitted as my cost of admission that evening, here it is:
It's a miniature sofa I made for a top-secret project I haven't told you about. It was quite an ambitious undertaking, inspired by a sofa I saw at NeoCon this year from Aceray.
Armed with a detailed tearsheet and my drafting tools, I attempted to fashion a miniature sofa from posterboard, fabric, foam, metal beads, and balsa wood.
But I wasn't happy with how it came out, and decided that I didn't need it anyway, so I gave it to the Art Institute. While looking at the Thorne Miniature Rooms during my visit, I realized that I had chosen a good home for my little sofa.
I returned to the museum two weeks later to see the one night exhibition of the installation of all the surreal objects. The good thing about getting there so close to closing time was that I got in for free and had just enough time to take these pictures. As you'll see, the museum is calling the installation The Price of Admission.
It's an interesting array of objects. They seem to tell many different stories via free association and stream of consciousness. Just when the whole amalgam started to look like something pulled from a junk drawer, I found brilliant and beautiful artifacts, ranging from the mundane to the sublime. Like the show itself, it challenged my thinking.
The show will continue through October 13th and I plan to see it again before it ends. The official website is here.