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Detail of Chagall’s America Windows

Marc Zakharovich Chagall (born July 1887, Belarus; died March 1985, France), a Russian-French artist of Belarusian Jewish origin, was an early modernist. We’ve come across his work before (in Paris and in Zurich), and love his bold use of colors in glass, and his “pictures within pictures.” For us, probably the most famous is his America Windows in Chicago at the Art Institute.

Marc Chagall’s America Windows is one of the most loved treasures in the Art Institute’s collection—they are one of our favorites too, although it’s hard to pick favorites in this museum so chock-a-block with masterpieces! They made their debut at the Art Institute in May 1977 and were made more famous less than ten years later when they appeared in the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Bit of Background:

Chagall’s Windows were not on show for quite a while as they were undergoing

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Detail of America Windows

conservation treatment and archival research. But, they returned in 2010 to a new location as the stunning centerpiece of a new presentation on Chicago’s other modern public art at the east end of the museum’s Arthur Rubloff building (as you go down to the café). Here we can see models and maquettes of some of the important large pieces in the story of Chicago’s modern public art.

It’s interesting that the history of America Windows is interwoven with the history of Chicago and its rich tradition of public art, which continues strongly today.

The roots of this can be traced to 1967, the year Pablo Picasso’s monumental sculpture was unveiled. It was Chicago’s first major installation of the new styles of 20th century modern art (see my post on this here https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/chicago-creativity-on-the-streets/ ). It initially inspired controversy, but soon started a cultural resurgence fueled by public and private investment in the arts. One of these included Mark Chagall’s mosaic The Four Seasons installed outside Chase Tower in 1974, which in turn inspired America Windows.

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Another detail from America Windows

Because the city was so enthusiastic about his work and the Art Institute gave him great support, Chagall offered to create a set of stained-glass windows for the museum. During the next three years plans were clarified, and Chagall decided that the windows would commemorate America’s bicentennial.

The resulting six-panel work, with three main themes, celebrates the country as a place of cultural and religious freedom, giving details of the arts of music, painting, literature, theater, and dance. They paint a romantic picture of the American Dream, the idea that we can achieve anything we want in this country. Because Chagall admired Chicago and its strong commitment to public art during the 1960s and 1970s, he chose to dedicate the work to the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, a great supporter of public art projects (he died December 1976). The windows were presented with great fanfare at a formal unveiling, hosted by the Auxiliary Board of the Art Institute, on May 15, 1977.

The Windows Today:

The Windows are in a superb location now, as they glow softly from the natural light coming in behind them. The colors and the details are beautiful, a story of different religions, arts and parts of American life all intertwined.

The first panel shows the city’s rich history as a hub for rhythm and blues. Note people playing instruments, plus floating guitars and fiddles, all in glowing blue panes. The windows are done cathedral-style, a perfect way to show the spirituality of Blues music.

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First panel

The second panel depicts the unity and peace within the city’s many neighborhoods. Note the giant dove, a symbol of peace. This panel is also a prayer for the city. When Mayor Richard J. Daley died in December1976, many people were in mourning. The figure on the left of the pane lights a candle in remembrance of the late, great mayor.

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Second panel

Panel three shows the importance of religious freedom in the USA. Note the immigrants of different backgrounds, an angel-like figure, a menorah, and rose window. Chagall was Jewish but worked extensively with cathedral windows and was comfortable referring to Christianity and Judaism. It’s also important, as most American citizens have come from a family of immigrants. Something the current Administration needs to take heed of!!

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Panel 3

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Opera Garnier is a gorgeous setting for Chagall’s ceiling

Another Chagall masterpiece we’ve seen and photographed is in Paris at the neo-Baroque Opera Garnier; the magnificent ceiling in the main auditorium. It was unveiled in 1964. It looks beautiful there, even though his design is way more modern that the setting it is in. Somehow, we think the older (and very sumptuous and ornate) and the new meld very well and apparently the public love it today. Chagall divided the ceiling into color zones that he filled with landscapes and figures commemorating the composers, actors and dancers of opera and ballet.

 

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Angels on pillars, angels on the ceiling

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Chagall ceiling at Opera Garnier

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Chagall at Fraumunster Church Zurich–first 4 window-panels of 5

We also saw some of Chagall’s work in the heart of old Zurich at the Fraumunster Church, built on the remains of an abbey built in 853. The choir of the abbey has 5 large stained-glass windows designed by Chagall and installed in 1970. They all depict a Christian story. Stunning.

The first panel in red/orange depicts Elijah’s

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Last 4 window-panels

ascent to heaven. The second panel in blue shows Jacob’s combat and dreams of heaven. The middle (third) panel in green depicts various scenes from Christ’s life. The fourth panel in yellow shows Zion with an angel trumpeting the end of the world. The last (fifth) panel in blue depicts Law, with Moses looking down on the suffering of the people.

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Middle 3 window-panels

We look forward to tracking down more of Chagall’s work in the future. But, in the meantime, we are happy that Chicago and its history of public art can boast one of his major works.

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museum We happened on an amazing exhibit at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire. The museum itself was a wonderful unexpected find, as we didn’t originally plan on spending time in Manchester (except to fly in and out).

We went to the Currier on our recent visit to New Hampshire as we wanted to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Zimmerman House, and the only way to do that is to take a guided tour from the museum. We had time to look around the museum a little after lunch in their attractive Winter Garden Café (which is actually indoors), and decided on the special exhibit called Deep Cuts, Contemporary Paper Cutting.

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The beautiful doorway into the museum from the Garden Cafe

It was on from February 25-May 21, 2017, so sadly it is no longer there. Hopefully, because it was so interesting and popular, it will move to another museum for more people to see it.

The exhibit is on paper cutting and we entered with all the wrong expectations: We imagined the traditional Chinese paper cuttings, or perhaps cut-paper portrait silhouettes, as we have seen in Paris at Place du Tertre in Montmartre.

But no, this is way more than that. These contemporary artists reconsider, redefine and even subvert the centuries-old art of paper cutting. They slice, shred and abrade paper using blades, scissors, lasers, and even belt sanders. The range of materials is mind-boggling—from handmade artisan paper, to office stationery, books, wallpaper, currency notes, and shopping bags.

Since its invention around two thousand years ago, paper has become a commonplace material, permeating practically every aspect of our lives. In this exhibit we see how paper can be transformed from ordinary to extraordinary, from practical to thought-provoking; for example, some explore political or social topics.

Some of the artists use traditional techniques, but with new subjects. Others have made sculptural objects that challenge the flatness and fragility of paper. Others have cut printed paper to create works that explore the information and power normally linked with text. A bank note is very powerful and artists may cut it to make a statement. This also hints at a recent shift towards digital banking.

Some artists dissect documents, newspapers or books to question the information printed on them. By reforming them into something else, the artists show how intended meanings can change.

This lovely “picture” is an example of that, but I don’t have the artist information about it.

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Another theme is how a growing focus on recyclable paper products is affecting paper’s role in our economies and society.

Of all the pieces we saw, we randomly chose 5 to showcase here. The others were all fascinating, but for some it was difficult to get the detailed information on them.

Currency collage, called The World is Yours, 2006, by C. K. Wilde, American (born 1972). As the board tells us, “This world map is composed of pieces of currency from many countries. Paper money affords a wide palette of color and design while also carrying the political weight of the various world democracies, monarchies, dictatorships, and other government. This map further suggests that global wealth is controlled by a handful of people, often including those whose faces appear on the currency. In Wilde’s work, cutting up money can be seen as a disruption of power and wealth.”

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World map made of cut bank notes

Male Pelvis, 2012, by Lisa Nilsson, American (born 1963). This is a mulberry paper collage, and is a true-to-life anatomical cross section using intricate paper filigree. It uses Japanese mulberry paper and the gilded edges of old books.

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Rainbow, 2017, by Li Hongbo, Chinese (born 1974). Li Hongbo uses the honeycomb technique used in traditional Chinese paper gourd making to produce striking, large-scale installations with deep symbolic meanings. As the board tells us, “The artist has cut hundreds of colorful pieces in the shape of firearms and bullets. Unfurled, the threatening silhouettes transform into beautiful flower-like sculptures. The installation evokes the fine line between war and peace, and between violence and understanding, showing that one simple act can have a transformative effect. His chosen material and subject matter are related through their shared history: the Chinese invented paper but they also invented gunpowder. For an American audience, his sculptures are inevitable and poignant evocation of the epidemic of gun violence.”

rainbow

 

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Untitled (NY Yellow), 2009, by Jane South, British (born 1965) .Made of hand-cut paper, ink, acrylic and bass wood. As the board tells us, “Jane South fabricates bewildering cut-paper constructions that seem both real and imaginary; mechanical and artistic. Complex cut elements, as well as drawings on the paper’s surface, create a web of actual and illusionistic shadows, mixing fiction and reality.”

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Biophony of Spring, 2017, by Fred H C Liang, Chinese (born 1964). This is made from cut Arjowiggin paper. Liang makes “drawings in space” by cutting out multiple shapes that he weaves together and balances to make one large rhythmic mass. He combines traditional Chinese paper cutting with contemporary art, creating non-representational work. The name of this one “refers to the collective sound made by all living organisms in a given environment, a natural symphony.”

Biophony

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General view of Memorail

General view of Memorial

Even today, people still bring items to remember and honor the victims

Even today, people still bring items to remember and honor the victims

The mission statement of the Memorial is “...May this Memorial offer comfort, peace, hope and serenity.” It succeeded admirably for us.

At 9:02am on April 19, 1995, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was destroyed in the largest terrorist attack in US history up until that time. One hundred and sixty eight people died, and thousands of others were affected in countless ways.

A couple of months ago, we re-visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial, dedicated on April 19, 2000, the five-year anniversary of the attack. I knew it was a highly significant memorial, but I wasn’t expecting to be as moved as I was on our first visit years ago. Significantly, we were still very moved on this recent visit.

Looking from Gate 9:01 across the Reflecting Pool to Gate 9:03

Looking from Gate 9:01 across the Reflecting Pool to Gate 9:03

Gate 9:01

Gate 9:01

In these troubled times, especially in the aftermath of 9/11 and other more recent horrific shooting sprees, and bombings, a visit to a memorial such as this serves to remind us of the suffering of individual people regardless of where the troubles occur, and of people’s amazing ability to rebuild, to heal, and to make meaning out of tragedy.

We wandered around the outside Memorial first to see the site and setting for this tragedy. What draws one’s eyes immediately is the chain-link fence along the edge. From afar it’s a blur of colors and shapes, but as you get closer the details emerge—a teddy bear with a picture below, a sock, a T-shirt, a card, flowers, a flag. The fence is covered with these kinds of items, so touching, so personal, giving tragedy a face. People are still bringing things, all these years later.

The huge Gates of Time, framing the moment of destruction (one inscribed with 9:01am, the moment before the destruction; the other with 9:03 am, the moment after the destruction), are at each end of the Reflecting Pool, which has replaced the street where the bomb went off. These Gates of Time illustrate so clearly just how quickly a tragedy can happen, how quickly lives can be lost and changed forever.

Some of the Memorial Chairs

Some of the Memorial Chairs

Survivor Tree in late winter

Survivor Tree in late winter

The highlight is the Field of Empty Chairs, in the green grassy area that was the site of the Murrah Building. There are 168 chairs, one for each life lost, including 19 smaller chairs for the children. The chairs are made of bronze and stone, each glass base etched with the name of a victim, and individually illuminated at night.

A park ranger told a poignant story of how the final chair design was chosen. Apparently many people liked the chair concept, perhaps because so many of the victims were office workers who frequently sat on chairs. The adults at the meeting wanted to discuss this further, but a 10-year-old boy stood up and said that he didn’t care what the other people said. He liked the chairs, because any time he missed his dead mother he could go and sit on her chair and it would be like her lap and he could remember her. Who could resist such a touching statement?

Another high point is the Survivor Tree, a large American elm that was badly damaged by the blast but, with lots of care, has survived. It is a symbol of resilience, both of Nature and of humans. We found the circular promontory around it a good place to sit and contemplate the whole Memorial.

The Reflecting Pool reflecting the Museum

The Reflecting Pool reflecting the Museum

The Oklahoma National Memorial Museum in the former Journal Record Building, also badly damaged by the bombing, has interactive exhibits on two floors. It takes you on a chronological self-guided tour of the story of the bombing and its after effects, divided into ten chapters. Many graphic and moving pictures, video clips and interviews, and artifacts rescued from the blasted building, combine to give a very personalized and poignant experience. We were stunned and shocked all over again. I felt as though these atrocities had been done to me too.

In my opinion, the Gallery of Honor is the most touching room in the exhibit. Around the edge of this circular room are photographs of each victim. Many also have items selected by the families, such as watches, medals and awards, wedding or other pictures. The most heart-breaking are the toys with the photographs of some of the children.

We all leave changed in some way. The events themselves were so dramatic, and the message from the Memorial is so powerful, and yet does help soothe some of the anguish. As is written on the Gates of Time, “We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence…

The Museum is open 9am-6pm Mon-Sat and noon-6pm on Sunday.

Adults $12; seniors, military and students $10; children under 5 free.

The park is open all the time.

The web site is excellent and has much information.

http://www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org

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Coming to the end of this 3-part series commemorating 650 years at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University.

The tour starts in the gorgeous old library

The tour starts in the gorgeous old library

Our guide discusses some old instruments

Our guide discusses some old instruments

The Collegium Maius Museum: We watched the 11am clock show and at that time bought a ticket for the next English museum tour at 1pm. You have to go on a guided tour in a small group, which is offered a few times a day. Our tickets were 12 Polish Zloty (PLN) each (senior discount), about $3.75; normal adult price is 16 PLN (about $5) and children 6 PLN. See Part B next post for the tour.

It was a great tour, which took about an hour and a half, although the allotted time was one hour. Our guide was excellent, fluent in English and a really remarkable fount of knowledge and information about her topic, which is very broad—anything and everything to do with this university, all the contents of all the rooms, the people and artists involved etc. Our group asked many questions and she was able to answer pretty much all of them in detail. Security was tight getting in, and then a guard followed the group and closed doors behind the group as the people exited each room.

Universities in those days were closely linked to religion and this is still very Catholic in tradition. Religion dictated what they could do. Originally the professors were celibate and lived and ate together like monks, showing the importance of religion. Later, they could marry and live outside the university.

The communal dining room

The communal dining room

They started with three core areas: theology, philosophy and law. Then they added medicine and physical sciences.

It’s a really beautiful building with gorgeous rooms, mostly upstairs, such as the Library and the Green Room. This is an incredible collection of old university artefacts (furniture etc), plus many instruments. The Library houses a great collection of old books in neo-Baroque bookcases. The nobility of that time played a large role in donating money that allowed the university to be built and for it to buy all these things. On the tour, our guide named many of the benefactors over the years.

Many famous names are linked to the university but (for us) Copernicus is the greatest—with his link to astronomy and cartography 100 years before Galileo. He knew about the earth being round, and about planets travelling in ellipses even. He had 4 brothers who all studied here too. His Polish parents moved to Scandinavia, but the boys came back here to study because the university had the reputation in astronomy and the right equipment—the earliest is from the Moors in 1064. In the small Copernicus Room the guide pointed out discs, globes and other instruments that Copernicus would have used. Much of his original paperwork is now in Sweden at the Uppsala University Library.

The Green Room

The Green Room

 

Chopin's piano

Chopin’s piano

Many famous Poles studied here and achieved great things in the world of science, arts, and literature. For example, Marie Curie and Chopin. Chopin’s piano is there in the Green Room, the one on which he actually gave a concert.

We went on the tour to see the museum but actually much of the space is still used, which is amazing. The Senate meets monthly in the Library; they eat in the Stuba Communis (dining room), which is still used for ceremonial meetings (such as signing agreements with other institutions). Built in 1430, it still has 3 tables in a horseshoe shape; and they use the ornate Aula, or Jagellonian Hall, for university award ceremonies—it’s the oldest and one of the most beautiful lecture rooms of the university.

 

 

The ornate Aula Hall

The ornate Aula Hall

There are many things of note. The museum has the first globe, which shows North America, but in the wrong place, right at the South Pole! Globes were always done in pairs—celestial and terrestrial. One set had universities and intellectual centers marked. And one globe even had Madagascar marked.

A celestial globe from 1480

A celestial globe from 1480

A collection of clocks, of measuring instruments—like weights and measures—and of old telescopes reminded us of the collections in Arts and Metiers in Paris. There are some priceless treasures and we can understand why security is tight.

They also have a wonderful collection of tapestries, art works, painted ceilings, portraits of people related to the university, some stained-glass windows that would have been lost if not saved here, and some wooden madonnas.

We also saw the original charters of the university. First, the Latin model where students elected the rector and then the French model where the professors elected the rector.

In fact, there is so much in there that’s it’s difficult to assimilate in one visit.

This tour got us thinking about the role of universities and teaching/knowledge in our modern world. It’s a great tradition for universities to follow intellectual pursuits and to try and preserve both knowledge and artefacts. Passing on knowledge and learning is so important and that’s one role of universities. We wonder about the future; with all the digital age stuff, will we lose track of what’s real and not, and of the actual truth. With all these online courses, universities are losing control of passing on the knowledge. Is it potentially the start of the end of the importance of universities? We sure hope not!

An old globe

An old globe

Old astrolabe

Old astrolabe

 

 

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Crowds gather in the courtyard to watch the animated clock procession

Crowds gather in the courtyard to watch the animated clock procession

The gorgeous Library is part of the museum tour

The gorgeous Library is part of the museum tour

Krakow’s Collegium Maius (Major College), in Jagiellonian University

This University Museum is classy…and old. A Must-See in Krakow

We spent a day doing all this, and found it fascinating.

The oldest existing building of the Jagiellonian University is the Collegium Maius, situated at the corner of St. Anne’s Street and Jagiellonska Street. The university was established under the name of Studium Generale by Kazimierz Wielki in 1364 and is one of the oldest universities in Europe. This year they are celebrating its 650th year, an amazing number, indeed a very long span of learning to celebrate. It’s the second oldest university in central Europe, after Prague (1348). The first universities were in Italy, in Bologna (1088) and Padua (early 1200s); and England, in Oxford (1096-1167) and Cambridge (1209).

Rod admires the basement cafe

Rod admires the basement cafe

The niches and nooks & crannies in the cafe are artistically decorated

The niches and nooks & crannies in the cafe are artistically decorated

There are two main reasons to visit the Collegium Maius: the courtyard, which has a free animated clock procession three times a day; and the University Museum. A third reason to visit is the Café U Pecherza coffee shop/snack bar in the rather labyrinthine basement. It’s attractively decorated with colorful paintings of musical instruments and other musical themes—and serves great coffee! Here are a couple of photos of that.

In two separate following posts, I’ll tell about the clock/courtyard, and the museum, so the posts are not too long with all that information!

The cafe's menu

The cafe’s menu

Ordering our coffee

Ordering our coffee

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I stand at the entrance to IMA

I stand at the entrance to IMA

We wonder what this long circular "curtain" is

We wonder what this long circular “curtain” is

A Room, by Sopheap Pich, Cambodian, b 1971

Installed 2014. Made of bamboo, aluminum, plastic, polyethylene braided line, and Teflon floss.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art’s large entrance hall is often home to a temporary art installation and we were lucky to see this unusual creation. Long strips of various materials cascade down in a circle from the ceiling and at first we wonder what on earth it is. Turns out that visitors can part the strips and enter the circle or inner space, called A Room.

A Room was specially created for the IMA, and is a rare opportunity for people to touch and experience Pich’s work from the inside looking out. When inside, the light coming through the slats suggests the light in a bamboo forest.

A Room fits perfectly into the circular entrance hall

A Room fits perfectly into the circular entrance hall

The artist used lengths of bamboo as well as artificial strips. The bamboo is all from Cambodia and was prepared by hand in his studio. Photographs on the information board show him and his workers preparing and laying out all the strips.

This is a really interesting installation, as it is huge and colorful and yet very symbolic in a way—a room within a room, a place to stop and think about where we are and to imagine we are in some other place. We loved the way the different strands of materials shimmer and seem to change color as the light changes.

Sopheap Pich works and teaches in his studio in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He likes to work with natural materials like bamboo and rattan, which are easily available near his studio. Many of his sculptures use parallel lines woven in an open grid, which allows air and light to pass through, giving access to both interior and exterior and creating intricate shadows that change with the light.

Inside A Room, looking out to another room and to the outdoors

Inside A Room, looking out to another room and to the outdoors

 

Entering A Room in afternoon light

Entering A Room in afternoon light

 

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Entrance to the museum

Entrance to the museum

LOVE

LOVE

LOVE and BRUSHSTROKES

The Indianapolis Museum of Art offers visitors a feast for the senses, both inside and outdoors. The Sutphin Mall is the park-like area in front of the museum entrance. Right by the entrance is the interesting Sutphin Fountain, and at the far end is LOVE by Robert Indiana. This iconic sculpture is world famous (remember a postage stamp based on it?), and has been welcoming visitors to the museum since 1975.

The Mall often hosts temporary sculptures too, and right now it has Five Brushstrokes, by Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997), painted aluminum, designed 1983-84. As the information board tells us , ” …enlarged and boldly colored brushstrokes dance jubilantly in the air, with the tallest form soaring to 40 feet….Here, instead of taking popular motifs from comic culture, Lichtenstein chose the brushstroke as his subject matter. His monumental sculptures satirize the spontaneous splashes of paint associated with Abstract Expressionist artists such as jackson Pollack. This grand but playful commentary on painting offers a meaningful connection to other masterpieces the Museum displays indoors.”

A lot of fun, and the day were we there, the weather co-operated perfectly!fountain

5brushstrokes

The Five Brushstrokes

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