Yesterday I hopped on the Amtrak with a good buddy to go to Chicago. What a great way to travel—chatting and enjoying the scenery as we made our way along the western Michigan coast line to the Windy City for the day.
Our mission: tour new Matisse exhibit at the Chicago Institute of Arts.
The exhibit, called Radical Invention, is a look at the period of Matisse’s life from 1913 to 1917 when his style and art went through a period of change. The exhibit traces that change, showing pieces that typically aren’t part of big blockbuster shows.
If you are looking for an overview of the major stuff in his life, you aren’t going to get it. The most recognizable piece is the Bathers By The River. So, instead of being like a Matisse coffee table book, this exhibit provides a close up and intimate view of a very specific and narrow period in the artist’s career.
What we found interesting were the pieces that clearly were “work out” studies—some not even signed. During this period, influenced by WW I and Cubism, Matisse worked on new ways of painting. He called this, “the methods of modern construction.” Sometimes the paintings were paired with sculptures or with prints and small drawings, showing his progression of thought and talent.
I couldn’t help but wonder what the artist would think if he saw some of these on display. It’s a little like a concert pianist learning that his practice exercises were recorded and have become hot sellers.
My friend, Peggy, a retired art teacher and artist, gently explained to me that what we were looking at was Matisse’s efforts to determine, “What does it mean to be a modern artist?”
I was struck with a quote made by Matisse in 1919 that was on one of the walls. He said, “When you have achieved what you want in a certain area, when you have expanded the possibilities that lie in one direction, you must when the time comes, change course, search for something new.” I think that sums up this show—the search for the new.
After touring the exhibit and enjoying a lovely lunch in the new dining room on the top of the Modern Wing, we meandered through Millennium Park looking for a new building I had read about. It wasn’t hard to find.
The building is named Aqua because of the sensuous, undulating lines created by its wafer thin balconies. The 82- story skyscraper is a striking contrast to the jumble of big white boxes surrounding it.
It houses condos and apartments and has space for a hotel. A wonderful park sits at the base, hidden a bit from street traffic.
Some have called the building brilliant. Others gimmicky. Whether you think this massive sculpture is a Wow or it makes you feel seasick, it is clearly another effort in the long Chicago tradition of innovative architecture to be ogled and discussed by design critics.
Located just north of Millennium Park, it is easy to combine a look at this building with a stroll through the park. Somehow, Aqua feels right at home near the Bean, the water towers with their huge faces dominating the street, the Frank Gehry designed pavilion and the new Modern Wing of the Art Institute. This area is truly a DesignDestination.