Sunday, June 15, 2008


For a structure to house some of the most visually stunning, creatively stimulating, beautiful-yet-perverse contemporary art in the nation, one would hope photography would be allowed to capture these works. Regrettably, the Museum of Contemporary Art was not friendly to camera owners.

Though visual reminders would certainly help to recall the works inside, the lack of photographs is only a minor blemish on what was truly an amazing experience. From the quirky to the dramatic, from the twisted to the modest, from the emotional to the serene, the works inside challenged the concept of art yet remained ever true to its most fundamental purpose: to evoke an emotional response.

Fighting rush-hour traffic evokes certain emotions of its own, but the bus arrived just before I opted to get off and walk. It was agreed that we would meet at the MCA for “Tuesdays on the Terrace:” an evening of free admission to the museum and a live jazz band on the museum’s back patio. “We” consisted of several interns residing at TBH, led by Sophie Williams, our in-house art devotee and connoisseur. Sophie interns with the MCA and, though not a curator per se, she curates the exhibits through editing the descriptions that accompany each work.

The focal exhibit was that of artist Jeff Koons, whose works required a more advanced skill than implied by “kitschy,” a term often used to describe him. Perhaps you’ve seen his giant balloon dog or foil balloon. These works seemed to float across the room, prepared to bounce if gently tapped, yet they were all cast from stainless steal, tricking the eye and mind and inciting disbelief.

The household appliances in plexiglass boxes may not have been as striking, but the more I stood there questioning the purpose of the otherwise simple creation, my curiosity was enhancing the art, fulfilling its purpose. Did it compare to artistic works of other masters who worked in oils, pastels and clays? It was a sudden transition, moving from one work to another and shifting from thoughts of “I could do this” to delighting in what seemed impossible. The works, though not Monets or Van Goghs, followed that common thread and evoked emotions, calling forth curiosity, shame, delight, humility and humor.

Sophie guided us through the different exhibits, which included the patient and steady mobiles of Alexander Calder and the perceptive and piercing photographs of Chicago life captured by Art Shay. We made our way to the patio to soak in the splashings of a live jazz band, enjoying the comfortable Lake Michigan breezes and meandering through the gardens. It was classy, casual and relaxing, especially for a Tuesday evening. We gazed at the towering condos surrounding the back patio and all secretly wished to own one of them, especially one with a balcony.

So, no photographs to capture these exhibits. I was mostly captivated by the giant balloon dog, and even though I have no photographs of it, you can imagine it looks a lot like this, but three-dimensional, purple and 12 feet tall.

I really wanted a real picture of it, so much so that I haven’t signed off on the idea of sneaking a picture. Mark my words, Jeff Koons, I will have a picture of your balloon dog.

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