Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Debating American Modernism: Stieglitz, Duchamp and the New York Avant-Garde at the Terra Museum last night with Bob and Alex.

I've lived here more than three years now and I'd never visited the Terra -- but I was impressed. It's an interesting space, and the two current exhibits are both thorough and thoughtful in their presentation (one unfortunate misplaced modifier calling Duchamp "an aspiring actress" notwithstanding). I've never been too excited about Dada, but the Terra exhibit (which features Duchamp's famous "readymade" urinal) does an impressive job trumpeting its merits. I was more impressed with the machine-age-inspired works in the collection, but then I've always been a sucker for the sleek and the heroic in Deco-era art and architecture.

There's also one unexpected thing I learned from the exhibit: Duchamp was kind of hot.

The other current exhibit is Leaving for the Country: George Bellows at Woodstock, and we entered it from the boring end. His endlessly bucolic landscapes and portraits got us all but running through the exhibit, but we stopped cold when we encountered his compelling "dynamic composition" portraits overflowing with imagery and allegory and just plain beauty. And just beyond these portraits hang the stylized boxing-ring lithographs that so heavily influenced Regionalism and the works of Grant Wood, whom I have studied exhaustively from grade school on -- seeing as how I grew up in the town where he worked and I went to the school where he taught. It was an unexpected surprise to stumble on these works face-to-face after having seen them only in books, and it made our evening o' culture especially memorable.

After the museum, we retired to Bob's atelier for pasta and delicious homemade sauce and admiring comments about his shiny new kitchen appliances. And, as always, Bob and Alex filled the evening with great stories about their international travels and interesting gossip about hot Chicago boys.

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