As I was walking through the museum the other day, I noted the fact that the Art Institute has not one, but two artworks featuring the Statue of Liberty.
The Statue of Liberty—playing a starring role int he artist's 2009 film Static—immediately confronts you as you enter Steve McQueen. The film destabilizes a nationally recognized symbol whose meanings of liberty and freedom are assuredly entrenched in the popular imagination. In the summer of 2009, the artist visited Ellis Island on a family vacation. There, he says, the concept came to him in an instant. He decided that he wanted to “spin this thing around,” to set her “offkilter.” Although securing permission to do so was no easy task, McQueen made the film orbiting the statue in a helicopter. While the subject itself is immobile, McQueen’s highly unstable camera, combined with jarring jump cuts, creates a remarkable effect: the statue itself seems to lift off its base. First the colossus seems to float and then to fly against the backdrop of lower Manhattan and its surrounds. The statue soars most majestically during several passages when the sound fades to near silence.
Danh Vo, on the other hand, presents just portions of the Statue of Liberty. The artist is in the midst of a long-term project reconstructing the Statue of Liberty on a 1:1 scale. But the objective of We the People, however, is not to erect another statue in its totality but to reconstruct its individual elements and disperse them. The scattered fragments emphasize the abstract nature of freedom, while the recreation of only the statue’s thin copper skin reveals the material and conceptual fragility of the monument, contrary to the original’s bold proclamations of stability and impermeability. The installation by Vo not only works against the mythical position of the statue but recalls the statue’s first public appearances: prior to its full assembly in New York in 1886, the torch-wielding hand was displayed in Philadelphia at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition, while the head was shown at the Paris Exposition of 1878.
Ironically, neither Vo nor McQueen were born in the United States, but both are clearly inspired by the significance of cultural symbols.
Steve McQueen is open through January 6 and We the People is open through April 7.
Image Credit: Installation shot of Danh Vo's We the People (detail) in the Pritzker Garden.
20 hours 25 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago "Be a good craftsman; it won't stop you being a genius.”
Advice from Pierre-Auguste Renoir, on his birthday.
See 13 paintings by the great French Impressionist—now on view: http://bit.ly/2lj3AVq
1 day 14 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago NOW OPEN—Go
Speed is both a product of modern life and an agent of it. At the turn of the 20th century, new technologies of mobility and transmission—trains, cars, airplanes, radio, film, television, to name only a few—increased the pace of life, collapsing distances between people and places and assaulting the senses.
Go, the second exhibition in the Art Institute’s Modern Series, explores how artists responded to different ways of experiencing and seeing the world in the accelerated modern age—through paintings, sculpture, works on paper, photographs, designed objects, textiles, books, and films.
1 day 18 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago Happy birthday to Winslow Homer. In 1883 the artist moved to a small coastal village in Maine, where he created a series of paintings of the sea unparalleled in American art. The paintings he created after 1882 focused almost exclusively on humankind’s age-old contest with nature.
In The Herring Net, Homer depicted the heroic efforts of fishermen at their daily work. While one fisherman hauls in the netted and glistening herring, the other unloads the catch. Utilizing the teamwork so necessary for survival, both strive to steady the precarious boat as it rides the incoming swells. Homer’s isolation of these two figures underscores the monumentality of their task: the elemental struggle against a sea that both nurtures and deprives.
See five paintings by Winslow Homer in Gallery 171 of American Art—http://bit.ly/2l89rfx