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Archive for the ‘Failed Effort’ Category

14KarenPaperBagDraw.  Draw anytime.  Draw anything. There’s always something lying around that begs to be drawn.  A paper bag, for example.  I recommend that students practice and here’s an example of a motivated student, Karen Gerrard, producing a fine drawing at home of, what else, an inspiring paper bag.  It probably was a little more wrinkled than the drawing shows, but she simplified the planes to great effect.

14KEHpaperbagBetter than the drawing I did during class.  A face kept coming out and I ended up shading the right side of the bag to obscure the grimace.  Happens all the time with inanimate objects—oh, look, there’s a face.  Once you see it, you can’t not see it.   Drawing is always an adventure, full of unexpected turns and–crinkles. Simplify, simplify!

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The Great Chicago Fire started October 8, 1871 and left 100,000 of the 300,000 inhabitants homeless.  Being Chicagoans, they rolled up their sleeves, cleaned up and started rebuilding.

What to do with the rubble from all those destroyed buildings?  Why, dump it into the lake.  This was the beginning of the landfill east of the railroad tracks that became Grant Park.  The city’s politicians and merchants had to come up with an ordinance about how that land was to be used.  Aaron Montgomery Ward, the department store and catalog tycoon, insisted that the land east of Michigan Avenue, from Randolph to Roosevelt, should remain free of buildings and be used for parks only—for the enjoyment and recreation of all the people of Chicago.  In 1911, after 20 years of court battles against the city, he won.  The only exception he agreed to is the Art Institute, which was part of the Colombian Exposition of 1893.

The Colombian Exposition and Jackson Park were laid out by the pre-eminent landscape architect in 19th Century America, Fredrick Law Olmstead (1822-1903). His successors, the Olmsted Brothers, consulted Daniel Burnham in planning Grant Park.

Olmsted also planned Central Park in New York and advised the planners for Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.  He was a nature lover. He believed that parks were vital to city dwellers for relaxation and rejuvenation. I remember reading, though not where exactly, that Olmsted hated sculptures in parks.

This bit of Chicago history and Olmsted’s part in it went through my head when I walked down Michigan Avenue recently.  There, past Jackson, is a little rectangular park with benches. It’s a spot to sit a spell and reflect, to get away from man-made structures and institutions, to be surrounded by nature for a short breather, just the thing Olmsted designed parks for.

IMG_1489But, alas, now this little park, called Solti Gardens, is cluttered with humanoid metal objects.  There are twenty-six of them, all insipid male-ish figures, with the same bland face, standing, sitting and kneeling pointlessly. If they were heroic and Rodin-y they would be just as much of a nuisance. The sculptor, no doubt, thought she would add a note of poignancy by making her bland figures on one side of the park out of dark metal and those on the other side of light metal.  No, Ms. Thórarinsdóttir and your financiers, you’re not helping us think about race in America with these lifeless figures. Olmsted would throw this junk out.

Presiding over the clutter is a monstrous head on a pedestal, supposedly commemorating George Solti.  It’s an insult to music lovers and Solti-admirers and Olmsted would not approve.

13ParkOlmsted1A woman in a red coat was walking her two little dogs over the gravel and the grass.   A young couple took a brisk detour through the park to get to the intersection at Congress.  An artist was sneaking photos of the scene and reflecting on the history of Chicago and on what parks are for.  Our great designer of parks would be happy to see how these people related to a city park.

Thank you, Mr. Olmsted.  Sorry for the sculpture clutter.

For more timid reviews:

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-08-07/entertainment/ct-ent-0808-borders-sculpture-20130808_1_art-institute-sculptures-exhibition

http://artdaily.com/news/64247/Icelandic-artist-Steinunn-Th-rarinsd-ttir-brings-26-life-sized-sculptures-to-Chicago#.UrDZJPup2UY

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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RenoirPianoFlip

Let’s try to save this painting.  In this L-R flip you can see that the dominant lines all move from left to right, in other words up.  Connect the candles and your eye moves up.  The keyboard and the music sheet move up.  The trim on the dress draws your eye up.  Since we feel “up” as, well, “up,” this flipped version carries some optimism with it.  The woman’s hands are still the same dead pink blur, but the lines draw our attention to her rosy cheeks and we’re temped to feel some hope for her life taking a more energetic turn.  But, no, I see no hope here.  The plant in the upper right–which could serve as a symbol of life, after all–is dead dead dead.  The whole figure defines a dreary triangle, immobile despite the little ripple at the bottom—too little, too late, too far down in the composition and therefore, plunk, also dead dead dead.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) was admired by his contemporaries for his depiction of female flesh.  Even my favorite art critic, Robert Hughes, admires Renoir nudes for their “pearly luster,”  or some such phrase.  We’ll have to look at those some other time.

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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RenoirPiano

This is a good time to visit the Art Institute of Chicago because you won’t have to even glance at Renoir’s “Woman at the Piano” as you pass through the Impressionist Gallery just off the staircase.  Lifeless, insipid.  Notice the pink hands on the piano keys, no energy there at all.  They look wilted and dead, like something shredded and overcooked. Flounder?  Flop, drip, melt.  I can’t relate to this tired image at all, except to learn from it’s failure.

I’ve made an effort to see it as a plea on Renoir’s part to let women out of the house once in a while—it was painted in 1875, when respectable women, the kind who would have a piano in the house, were actually encouraged to stay inside as much as possible and if they had to leave, to take a parasol as protection against the sun, that awful bright daylight.

This is the first post on the topic of taking time to look at art you don’t like, first mentioned in post 2.23.13.

Next, I’ll flip this boring and bored woman left-right in the hope of finding something there.

This painting in now on loan at the Met for the exhibit “Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity,” which will be there til May 27.   http://www.metmuseum.org/en/exhibitions/listings/2013/impressionism-fashion-modernity

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

 

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