By Jitish Kallat
Jitish Kallat’s installation, Public Notice 3, opens at the Art Institute of Chicago tomorrow, September 11, 2010. The artist was generous enough to give us his thoughts on the work for ARTicle. Public Notice 3 draws on the historical convergence of an enormously influential call for religious tolerance by Swami Vivekananda at the Art Institute on September 11, 1893 and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. The installation will be on view until January 2, 2011.
This Saturday, September 11, as Public Notice 3 takes up tenancy on the risers of the Art Institute’s Grand Staircase, one of the elements it draws upon is the memory inscribed within the architecture of the museum building (site) and commences its engagement with the visiting public by evoking recent memories enshrined within 9/11 (date).
Through its connection with the history of this building, it evokes yet another date, that of the first Parliament of Religions that took place at this very site at the Art Institute on September 11, 1893. The Parliament was the first attempt to create a global convergence of faiths—not nations, possibly with the knowledge that in the future it will not “only” be nations that become sole commissioners of carnage—and Public Notice 3 overlays these contrasting moments like a palimpsest.
On September 11, 1893, the crowd of 7,000 was addressed by Swami Vivekananda. Now his speech is illuminated, conceptually and actually, in the threat coding system of the United States Department of Homeland Security. I find it interesting how the advisory system co-opts five colours from a visual artist’s toolbox into the rhetoric of terror, by framing them as devices to meter and broadcast threat (much like its predecessors, the British BIKINI alert state and the French vigipirate). Treating the museum’s Grand Staircase almost like a notepad, the 118 step-risers receive the refracted text of the speech. I see Public Notice 3 as an experiential and contemplative transit space; the text of the speech is doubled at the two entry points on the lower levels of the staircase and quadrupled at the four exit points at the top, multiplying like a visual echo.
POSTED BY Guest Blogger, ON July 30, 2010, Comments Off
Things are always changing in the contemporary galleries. Recently a new room of paintings by Chicago artist Roger Brown (American, 1941–97) was installed in gallery 296, on the second floor of the Modern Wing. Brown was a student at the School of the Art Institute in the 1960s and later became the most well known of a group of local artists called the Chicago Imagists. His clear, bold paintings depict stylized human figures, comic book-like narrative scenes, and surreal architectural constructions that reflect the contradictions of contemporary urban life.
Hands down my favorite work in this installation is that pictured above, Museum without Ceiling, a painting that must have been inspired by Brown’s many visits to the Art Institute. Recognize the façade?
The title plays on the phrase “Museum without Walls,” coined by French art critic André Malraux in the 1940s to describe the infinite institution that is created in one’s mind by viewing art reproductions. In his work, Brown depicts a museum that has solid walls but a transparent roof, suggesting the sense of freedom and possibility that looking at art can provide even within the boundaries of a brick-and-mortar building. The tiny figures in Brown’s museum express awe, delight, and surprise in response to sculptures resembling the work of Constantin Brancusi, Alexander Calder, and a many-armed Hindu deity, among others. By lining up silhouettes of human figures and art works side by side, Brown also suggests that visitors are often just as interested in observing other people as they are in contemplating the art works on display.
There’s a lot out we have to say about Roger Brown! Here are a few more resources:
–Art historian Sidney Lawrence compiled a list of Roger Brown’s favorite works in the Art Institute, including paintings by Giovanni di Paolo, Giorgio de Chirico, Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, and Edward Hopper. Here is a selection.
–In addition to the Renaissance and modern paintings he saw at the Art Institute, Brown was inspired by various aspects of visual culture including signs, billboards, folk art, and flea market junk. He amassed an amazing collection of objects from around the world, a collection on view at his former home and studio on Halsted Street and run by the School of the Art Institute. It’s a great place to visit if you want to learn more about Brown’s art. Visitor info is online here, and you can also read a bio of Brown here.
–There is also an exhibition of his work at the Hyde Park Art Center through October 3.
An artist who constantly mined the museum for inspiration, Roger Brown’s work always makes me see new connections between art works in the collection that I would never have imagined.
-Grace M., Department of Museum Education
Source: Sidney Lawrence, Roger Brown. New York: George Braziller, Inc., 1987.
Images: Roger Brown, Museum without Ceiling, 1976. Oil on canvas. Restricted gift of Ruth Horwich; Ann M. Vielehr Prize Fund.
Roger Brown, False Image Decals, 1969, Color silkscreen decals, commercially manufactured, Gift of the Roger Brown Study Collection of the School of The Art Institute of Chicago.