Christopher Wool: TRBL

POSTED BY , ON March 28, 2014, 0 COMMENTS


Christopher Wool’s stenciled word paintings are among his best known works. Frequently coming from a place of anxiety or impending threat, these paintings make it deliberately difficult to read and assemble meaning, interrupting the normal flow of language. For example, we’re used to vowels and we’re accustomed to words being on one line (for the most part).

Most visitors do correctly read this painting and it is helpfully titled Trouble to ensure we’re all on the same page. Which is helpful considering it could be called Tribal or Treble and adhere to the same structure. But in the artist’s view, the word paintings function most effectively when their content is somehow matched to their affect—when the word “does what it says.” With Trouble’s jarring layout and redaction of letters, Wool reflects the disturbance implied by the word itself.

Christopher Wool is open through May 11.

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Our Keys to Success: Nudity, Warhol, and Celebrities

POSTED BY , ON March 19, 2014, Comments Off


It’s Museum Blogs day, which seems like the perfect time to take a look back at our own blog and see what’s kept you—our loyal readers—coming back for more over the last 4+ years. And apparently, nudity has been the key.

Our most-read post tells the story of Rolla (pictured above) from last year’s blockbuster exhibition Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity and our second most-read post provides a closer look at a censored print of the god Apollo (and admittedly has a quite provocative title). Thankfully, that’s not all you’re interested in. You also like Warhol, celebrity look-alikes, and commonly asked questions. Click through for your reading pleasure and thanks for stopping by! We’ll do our best to keep the nudity coming, but leave us a comment and let us know what you’d like to read more about. We love special requests!

1. When the Corset Hits the Floor, July 12, 2013

2. Last Chance for Renaissance Porn, July 5, 2011

3. Institute vs. Institvte, April 27, 2012

4. Celebrity Doppelgängers, May 22, 2013

5. Andy Warhol Polaroid GIFs, August 6, 2013

Image Credit: Henri Gervex. Rolla, 1878. Musée d’Orsay, bequest of M. Béradi, 1926, LUX 1545.

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Still Hunting Masterpieces After All These Years

POSTED BY , ON March 14, 2014, 1 COMMENTS


The Thrill of the Chase: Drawings for the Harry B. and Bessie K. Braude Memorial Collection will be opening soon in the Jean and Steven Goldman Prints and Drawings Galleries. These exquisite drawings belong to a very special friend of the museum. Dorothy Braude Edinburg, or as we affectionately call her for short, DBE, has been chasing the world’s best artworks on paper for some three quarters of a century. Her due diligence in the quest for only the very best keeps her going strong.

Dorothy has a keen eye, exceedingly high standards for style, attribution, and condition, and a relentless taste for new acquisitions. With these tools, she has accumulated a superlative collection of European drawings, prints, and illustrated books, many of which she herself bought at live auction. Most of these treasures have been welcome guests at the Art Institute for many of the 22 years we’ve known and worked with this amazing, tireless woman. This exhibition includes 87 drawings she purchased since 1991 in active consultation with Art Institute curators, conservators, and other museum specialists.

My first successful auction purchase in tandem with Dorothy was the 1587 drawing of a coat of arms by Daniel Lindtmayer, a Swiss artist who specialized in patterns for stained glass. Dorothy gave us a list of items in the January 2009 Sotheby’s New York sale that she liked, and we helped her narrow it down and further researched the best prospects. This piece was beautifully drawn with allegorical figures, and particularly lively with scribbled annotations suggesting the colors of glass for the final window. It included several other contemporary inscriptions, and, importantly, was securely signed and dated by the artist. I met Dorothy at Sotheby’s prior to the sale so we could see the drawing in person, out of the frame. Squeezed into a tiny narrow room with a black light, Dorothy herself checked the paper for obvious defects that would be invisible to the naked eye. Our Head of Conservation, who came by later to inspect it on her own, gave the final approval. With no signs of a weakened or over-conserved sheet, Dorothy went on to bid victoriously over the phone, and the piece is now hanging on the wall of Gallery 124B of The Thrill of the Chase, just around the corner from the Jean and Steven Goldman Study Center.

Over the years, we have shown Chicago hundreds of Dorothy’s prints in the second floor hallway galleries (including the current 19th-century rotations in 220a and 221a), dozens of her books in Ryerson and Burnham Library exhibitions, and her most prized drawings in a series of major exhibitions throughout the museum. The Thrill of the Chase is a fitting tribute to the history of her collection, which as yet shows no signs of being close to completion, and our collection, which has gained so much through her.

Image Credit: Daniel Lindtmayer. The Arms of Habsberg Flanked by an Elegant Couple, 1587. Gift of Dorothy Braude Edinburg to the Harry B. and Bessie K. Braude Memorial Collection.

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Now Open: Nilima Sheikh

POSTED BY , ON March 13, 2014, Comments Off

Dying Dreaming-Front

Nilima Sheikh’s scrolls are larger than life (the image above is 10 feet tall), but are best viewed from right up close to get a sense of the detail and labor that goes into her storytelling. And much of that storytelling focuses on the culture and history of Kashmir, an area known for both its natural beauty and its location between India and Pakistan. Sheikh’s scrolls are imbued with the tumultuous history of the region, but also, as curator Madhuvanti Ghose notes, “a contemporary view that encourages viewers to reflect and think about this contested territory, which is central to Sheikh’s identity as an artist.”

Dying Dreaming-Detail 1

Kashmir’s history of violence is reflected in Dying Dreaming (pictured at top in its entirety and below that in detail) in the horizontal bands of orange and red that allude to bloodshed and include large demonic figures battling human warriors. Other bands include motifs of local flora and fauna, including deer, birds, and a growling tiger. Below you can see beautifully stenciled examples of birds and reptile-like animals.

Dying Dreaming-Detail 2

One the back of the scroll are blocks of text that allude to scenes from the front. One story relates the folktale illustrated across two bands in the middle right portion of the scroll of a poor water carrier who gives everything she earns to the birds and, upon her death, is flown by the birds into the sky.

Nilima Sheikh: Each Night Put Kashmir in Your Dreams includes ten scrolls—including two created for this presentation—and is open through May 18.

Image Credit: Nilima Sheikh. Dying Dreaming, 2007–10. Collection of Lekha and Anupam Poddar.

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A Masquerade Party

POSTED BY , ON March 04, 2014, Comments Off

Fat Tuesday marks the height of the Mardi Gras festivities and is celebrated—at least in New Orleans—with parades, parties, and other general revelry. Also masks. Lots and lots of masks. And while Mardi Gras masks are commonly feathered or bedazzled in some way, they come in all shapes and sizes, similar to the masks in the Art Institute’s collection. So if you’re looking for a little inspiration for your own Fat Tuesday mask, we’ve got some ideas for you. . .


The Kuba, who live in central Africa, use masks like this Mukenga mask in funeral ceremonies for the highest ranking men. In this particular mask, the artist uses luxurious symbolic materials to give expression to its power. The face is covered with the fur of the fearsome leopard; the ruff of the regal colobus monkey forms a beard; the protruding eyes recall the rotating, all-seeing eyes of the chameleon; a long, protruding trunk suggests the power of the elephant. A cluster of red parrot feathers accents the trunk and contrasts the weighty power of an elephant with the air flight of a bird. I think it goes without saying that Mardi Gras attendees would applaud such an elaborate mask.


If you’re looking for something a bit simpler, we recommend looking to Saul Steinberg. Steinberg made no distinction between high and low art, creating covers and drawings for The New Yorker alongside masks made from brown paper bags and crayons.

Monster Mask

This mask was not meant for a human, but a horse. It originally would have been attached to cloth or leather as part of an elaborate bridle and would have been placed on the horse’s forehead, between the ears. The mask resembles a medusa-like monster, with a mouthful of bared teeth and long tusks hanging from either side.


A bit morbid, but facial molds of the dead—or death masks—have been taken since ancient times, and this death mask of Napoleon is one of the best known ever. The mold was taken by the Corsican physician Antommarchi on the island of St. Helena two days after Napoleon’s death on May 5, 1821. The gaunt face with prominent cheekbones is a haunting image, recalling Napoleon the revolutionary war hero rather than the self-satisfied imperial image projected at the peak of his power.

What else can we say but laissez les bon temps rouler!

Image Credits:

Mask (Mukenga), Kuba, Western Kasai region, Democratic Republic of the Congo, late 19th/mid-20th century. Laura T. Magnuson Fund.

Saul Steinberg. Untitled (Mask), 1959–62. Gift of The Saul Steinberg Foundation.

Monster Mask from a Horse Bridle, China, Western Zhou dynasty (c. 1050–771 B.C.), c. 9th century B.C. Lucy Maud Buckingham Collection.

Dr. C. Francesco Antommarchi (from a mold by), cast by: Louis Richard and E. Quesnel. Death Mask of Napoleon, modeled 1821 (cast 1833). Estate of E. Blake Blair.


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