artletter home         artletters out         links         artletter info       mccormick material

Art Letter (9/28/07)

Damn. I want to like Chicagoís Museum of Contemporary Art, and I sure wanted to like their new show Sympathy for the Devil (named for a Rolling Stonesí song.)

Yet this show is just another unfortunate example of ďcurator as artist.Ē  What a wrong idea.  Iím seeing it way too much.  With all the hyperbole in the artworld, curators want to be stars too.  Bad!  Curators should perform a service to artists and connoisseurship.  Plain and simple, curators are servants.

Well thatís not whatís happening in Sympathy for the Devil.  Curator Dominic Molon delves into remote, inaccessible references, using art in ways not intended by the artists to make a point that invariably does a disservice to the artists and their artwork.

Oh, the point is there all right: that art and rock Ďn roll are intertwined, but so many others have explored the relationship of music to art so much better previously, so much more didactically and beautifully. like
the Joint Show from long ago or the Hyde Park Art Centerís recent Sun Ra exhibition

This MCA show is the kind that leaves me feeling insufficient, like Iím supposed to comprehend Molonís arcane, indulgent references, when the fact is that it is the show that is insufficient.

Upstairs the MCA is presenting highlights from their collection acknowledging their 40th anniversary celebration. There are some great pieces owned by the MCA. And a lot of them have been paraded out so often I gather that there are a lot of holes.  Yes, there are a few pieces by Chicago artists, but the ratio of great local art shown here does not correspond to the amount of great art made here. One thing that is particularly illuminating is that all the didactic wall text for this show is in the artistsí own words.  Now thatís innovative and relevant. Bravo.

I want to like the MCA.  I want them to be exemplary. (I do like that they are having
free admission the next 40 days as part of their celebration and are also having scads of Chicago artists on site just about daily.) I bet Iíve seen every exhibit and been to the museum every month for going on 3 decades. I donated lots of money, pushed them for thirteen years before they began the 12 x 12 series and funded it for the first 2 years. They have some great curators there and theyíve presented some great shows.  Yet going forward they need to do better, much better.

What is it about government that makes it think it can act in its own self-interest Ė or for that matter even have a self-interest?

Letís just speak locally and keep it art related. After the insult of the Cityís public art ordinance that effectively removed the public from public art, we now have the Chicago Park District contending with a lawsuit generated because it trashed a long standing Chicago work of art. 

Iím talking about
Chapman Kelleyís wildflower painting, sculpture, garden that has graced Grant Park since Harold Washington was Mayor.  How dumb is it for the Park District to ignore the law and arrogantly alter the art?

Chapman Kelley sued. Chapman Kelley won.  The Park District stands to lose $1.5 million. So many people are trying to do so much to benefit art in Chicago and all by itself Chicago screws the arts again.  Damn.

Paul Klein