Tag Archive | Art Institute of Chicago

Modern Art Monday Presents: American Gothic By Grant Wood

American Gothic by Grant Wood
Photo By Gail

Premiering at the Art Institute of Chicago in October 1930, Grant Wood’s American Gothic captivated the public’s imagination and catapulted Wood into the national spotlight overnight. The painting depicts a couple — modeled on Wood’s sister, Nan, and his Dentist — who stand in front of a Midwestern house. The house is notable for its lone “gothic” window, a typical feature of the then-popular Carpenter Gothic style of architecture, in which gothic elements are used in otherwise simple, modern wood structures.

Wood identified the pair as father and daughter, though the work was initially assumed to be a portrait of a husband and wife. “I simply invented some ‘American Gothic’ people to stand in front of a house of this type,” Wood later explained. From the painting’s debut onward, its meaning has been the subject of endless speculation. What has remained central is its seeming embodiment of something stereotypically American.

Photographed as Part of the Exhibit, Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables, on View Through June 10th, 2018 at The Whitney Museum of American Art in the Meatpacking District, NYC.


Georges Seurat, Study for A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte,
Photo By Gail

OK, everybody recognizes the painting above, which is called A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, by French Post-Impressionist painter Georges Seurat, from the movie Ferris Buellers Day Off: that much we can agree on. However, this is not that actual painting but, rather, it is a study, or a sort of trial run of the finished painting. Even though it looks very much like the painting that Cameron stared at for ages during their visit to the Art Institute of Chicago in Ferris Buellers Day Off, it is not that painting.

In fact, this isn’t even the only study that Seurat created for A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, which he worked over the course of two years (1884 – 1886). Focusing meticulously on the landscape of the park, Seurat reworked the original, as well as completed numerous preliminary drawings and oil sketches.  He spent hours in the park creating numerous sketches of the various figures in order to perfect their form. He concentrated on the issues of color, light, and form. The finished painting is approximately 7 by 10 feet in size.

Wikipedia also offers that, “Inspired by optical effects and perception inherent in the color theories of Michel Eugène Chevreul, Ogden Rood and others, Seurat adapted this scientific research to his painting. He contrasted miniature dots or small brushstrokes of colors that when unified optically in the human eye were perceived as a single shade or hue. He believed that this form of painting, called divisionism at the time but now known as pointillism, would make the colors more brilliant and powerful than standard brush strokes. The use of dots of almost uniform size came in the second year of his work on the painting, 1885–86. To make the experience of the painting even more vivid, he surrounded it with a frame of painted dots, which in turn he enclosed with a pure white, wooden frame, which is how the painting is exhibited today at the Art Institute of Chicago.

This photograph of the study for A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte was taken at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

Modern Art Monday Presents: James Rosenquist, Volunteer

James Rosenquist Volunteer
Photo By Gail

Excerpted from a Textual Analysis by Frank D’Antonio:

James Rosenquist’s Volunteer is dated 1964, but, according to Rosenquist, [it was] finished shortly before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

I think one of the coolest things about this painting is the use of fragmented symbols to depict the American life in the mid 20th century. The washing machine in the upper right speaks to a viewer as a symbol of American technological progress. The man in the business suit speaks as a symbol of how the American professional was dressing during this time. The ice cream speaks of American’s desire for “gustatory pleasure” (James Rosenquist. Volunteer. 1964. Art Institute of Chicago).

I like this painting because of how it can be interpreted in many different ways. My interpretation is that the artist is being cynical in this piece, depicting things that Americans were concerned with in the era of the mid 1960s. It is interesting to see how Rosenquist interpreted American culture at the time, symbolizing technological advancements, personal appearance, and personal pleasure being the main concerns of Americans at the time, concerns that are still on the top of the list amongst Americans.

The puzzle pieces with a piece missing are also an important aspect of the work. I found no insight into why they exist on the work, so I formed my own opinions. I believe that the missing puzzle piece is the artist separating himself from the mold of American culture he illustrates in this piece. He wants to break the mold as an artist and not fit in to the stereotype that he has depicted in Volunteer.

Many of Rosenquist’s other works have an underlying cynical message to them. Some depicted war machines, most often airplanes, representing his dislike for the war and global tension happening at that time. From my research, the most cynical and interesting part of the picture is Rosenquist’s image of his own palm which stands out past all of the other images. According the Rosenquist, the palm cynically represents “the hand that volunteers”. I see this being cynical, but at the same time pretty spot on. In my opinion, the artist volunteers his time to all who will view his work and will use it to interpret messages about their life and what they view important in it.

Rosenquist is telling us that modern technology, flashy self appearance, and delicious self indulgence are not bad things in and of themselves, but when put upon a pedestal and made the most important things in our lives, we lose grasp on the true meaning of life. We need to separate ourselves from the mold of society, the mold that tells us that bigger is better, only the good looking make it in life, etc, etc. We need to start living as human beings who help each other no matter what.

Volunteer By James Rosenquist is a very interesting piece of modern art, one that challenges us to use the painting as a mirror, and reflect upon ourselves when we look at it. Seeing how we fit the mold he has characterized, and how we can ultimately break out if it.

Frank D’Antonio

Photographed By Gail at the Museum of Modern Art in March of 2014 NYC while on loan from the Art Institute of Chicago.

Favorite Art: The Rock By Peter Blume

Like a Rock (Image Source)

You might have noticed that posts on the blog were a little on the thin side last week, because I was away vacationing with my sister in the lovely American city of Chicago. No one will argue that Chicago is a pretty happening place for a vacation, especially if you like to visit amazing sites, eat delicious food and suffer wildly unpredictable weather. In fact, due to last weeks’ extremely shitty inclement weather in “The Windy City,” we ended up doing a lot of “indoor activities” – including one afternoon spent wandering around aimlessly inside the massive Art Institute of Chicago. If you’ve been to NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the two are very similar: huge and full of art. Of all the many paintings and other arty stuff that we saw, my favorite is this painting by Peter Blume (1906 – 1992) called The Rock. It has a little bit of an interesting back story: The Rock was originally commissioned in 1939 by the Edgar Kaufmann family for their Frank Lloyd Wright–designed home, Falling Water, located in Bear Run, Pennsylvania. The construction of Falling Water can be seen on the left side of the composition. The painting has all kinds of crazy surreal details and it’s just super awesome. I wish I could afford to have this painting hanging on the walls of the Chickpad. If you ever find yourself in the Art Institute of Chicago, make sure you find this painting and spend some time looking at it. Then go down to the basement where they have this mind-blowing collection of period room miniatures that is just the shit. More fun posts about my rad trip to Chicago will show up on The Gig over the next week or so.