Tuesday, August 17, 2004

So that's it. Out of the apartment now...haven't spend a night there in over a week. A week ago Saturday, back in Indianapolis to visit mom and drop T off; the a quick flight home to Chicago and down to the Loop to stay with Leah and FK in their fabulous, gigantic loft. The "whoa" I let drop when I first saw this place far outperforms any monosyllable ever uttered by Keanu Reeves. Gorgeous place, high ceilings with swings depending from them.

(Leah and FK live right across from where Oprah films her show. So that means I'm currently living right across the street from where Oprah films her show. It's funny: she comes out every morning at six a.m. and eats an entire honey-baked ham for the gathered crowd. She doesn't say a word, doesn't even acknowledge the fans with a single glance or nearly imperceptible nod...she just walks out, consumes the gristly, glistening meat with mighty, jaw-cracking gulps and goes right back in the building. It's magic.)

Anyway, the trip to Indianapolis was the usual unexciting visit. I love my mom, and love spending time with her--more so since her husband died back in April--but the town just wipes me out. There are two things to do in Indy: watch tv and go to Half-Priced Books. I fill the rest of the time by climbing into mom's maroon Buick drive and motoring through old neighborhoods that once had some emotional/sentimental significance to me during the first 24 year I lived in that quaint berg. But it evokes...nothing. Deadness. I guess I keep hoping that it will evoke something, lead to some kind of revelation about life. But...nothing.

T made the transition to Indianapolis quite nicely; she (T) will spend the remainder of her days in carpeted, meticulously vacuumed luxury, spoiled rotten by mom. It was hard to break off that relationship, far harder than it's been to break things off with actual, erect-walking people. I just finished reading Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera and the whole last 20 pages of the book concerned the death of a dog shared by the main characters. Devastating and not exactly what I wanted to read a week after ditching my 13 year old dog after 12 years of companionship.

Wednesday, I flew back and packed up the remainder of my clothes in to a medium sized suitcase; Lucy gave me a ride down to Leah and FK's. Thursday up early and caught the Northwestern Line to Woodstock, IL to visit the newly purchased studio of an old teacher from college, Bobby Joe. Man, it's a fucking haul to get out there...1 1/2 hours but riding the train is so hypnotic and plus I managed to finish Knut Hamsun's Pan. I just wouldn't want to make that commute more than once every seven years.

Bobby Joe: good guy. I can't say he had much of an impact on me, artistically speaking, but he had a real gift from exposing his students to all kinds of literature, music, movies, etc. But he did it in a way that wasn't preachy or snobbish or anything like that. He turned me onto the Henry Miller's Rosy Crucifixion Trilogy, Knut Hamsun (see above), the eels, Rotari sparkling wine...and, hell, I don't know. Plenty of other things I'm sure. So, certainly, his impact as an instructor is there in term of developing an aesthetic.

Anyway, Bobby and his wife, Fran, have purchased a former seafood wholesaling warehouse, a big yellow barn-looking thing just a few blocks off the main square in Woodstock. The whole bottom floor will be converted into his studio; the upper floors--former offices--are now their living quarters. It's got a good sized parking lot as well...it's precisely the kind of space he's been looking for since I first sat in his class in 1996. I couldn't be happier for him.

Bobby had invited a fellow wino, Jimmy, and we all sat down for a few hours of drinking wine, bullshitting, and eating: lamb chops with potatoes and green beans. We managed to down three bottles of wine and I was nicely flying when I staggered back to the train depot to catch the 5:30 back to the city. From the Ogilvie Station, I staggered over to Wishbone to have a martini visit Lucy.

Friday: back to the old apartment to clean out a few remaining things and then down to Millenium Park to examine Cloud Gate, the new piece of public art by Anish Kapoor. It's also known--probably for the rest of it's existence--as the Bean, owing to it's kidney bean shape. I have to say it's an excellent piece of public art. Huge, with a beautiful, polished mirrored surface that reflects not only the skyline but all of the people flocking around it--think of a giant ovoid drop of frozen mercury. I stood there and slowly circled it during about a ten minute period and I couldn't believe the intense scrutiny it was getting from the tourists. They loved it, flocked to it, rubbed it, took pictures of their reflections in it. Most public art is either ignored, sat upon, or deface by the public but Cloud Gate is simply stunning and impossible to ignore. (I wonder how long it will take to the scratchiti "artists" to tag it. Man, I love chubby little line-bearded fuckers that confuse vandalism for art.)

I also took a squint at the other big piece of public art, the video fountains. Meh. I don't know the proper name to the piece, nor the name of the artist (he's Spanish I think), but the work...again, meh. It's consists of two huge rectangular monoliths set at either end of a large, stone square. A thin sheet of water cascades down the each face of the monolith. Set into the monoliths (behind glass blocks I'm guessing) are huge video monitors: the two side of the monoliths that face each show giant, smiling faces. Occasionally, these projected faces puff up their cheeks and a jet of water shoots out from their "mouths" on to the kids playing below. The faces--in a brilliant blow for multiculturalism--are white, yellow, black, brown, old, young, male, female, etc. Wow. It's essentially a water park--admittedly a well designed and very popular one--but public art? Man, that's jumping across the art fence at it's lowest point...

Then to the Art Institute to the the Seurat show. Wow, was that boring. Holy crap. I think La Grand Jatte is an excellent painting...but it's on display every single day at the Art Institute and it's not enough around which to base an entire show. A Seurat retrospective, yes, but one Seurat painting? No. It was just a weak, watery show which they tried to amp up with some video presentations about color theory, the stages in which Seurat completes the work over the course of several years, and one video that just essentially zoomed on various parts of the painting so you could see how these areas went from a visually knitted study to a patchwork of random dots. (Remember the scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off when they go to the Institute? Cameron (Alan Ruck) just stares into the face of the little girl who is staring out of the picture plane, and the camera keeps zooming in and zooming in? They recreate that shot exactly. So you know it's a bad exhibition when they're pinching directly from John Hughes.) To make it worse, they had to trot out the obligatory roomful of Renoirs and Monets. Jesus, I get sick of that crap. I LIKE the Impressionist but the Art Institute has been cramming a yearly Impressionist show down the public's collective throat since the hit it big with Monet in 1995. I understand these show are cash cows for Institute; but I also feel they've got a moral responsibility--as perhaps the largest and most influential cultural institution in the city--to challenge the public and to introduce them to more than art from 1850-1906. Christ, when I think of all of the brilliant shows that have passed through NYC, Boston, LA--Beckmann, Pollack, Picasso/Matisse, you name it--when I think of all that we've missed, it chokes me. I'll give them props (as the kids say) for bringing in Gerhard Richter in 2002 (?), and the Ivan Albright show in 1996...but that does very little to unbalance the Renoir, Degas, Manet and the Sea (another stinker), and the Impressionist Decorative Arts exhibition. I mean, are you fucking kidding me?

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