Chicago Art

January 7th, 2010 by Collin Canright | Filed under Chicago, Personal, Photography.

Christina and I spent the end of a snowy day on a date at the Art Institute of Chicago. We met in photojournalism school and without thinking of that tend to visit first the current photo exhibit in the downstairs gallery.

Today we saw the exhibit “C. D. Arnold Photographs of the World’s Columbian Exposition” in the Chicago Cabinet, a series showcasing the Institute’s collection of Chicago photos. These photos are large platinum prints, very sharp of documenting the 1894 exhibition.

C. D. Arnold. Chicago Day, Grand Plaza in front of Administration Building, 1893

C. D. Arnold. Chicago Day, Grand Plaza in front of Administration Building, 1893

In spite of all I have heard about the fair, I had never really comprehended the scale of the project, the size of the space, the massive ironwork of the buildings. Everything was the largest of the time, and everyone in the small studio space with us seemed awed as they marveled at the beauty of the white city in the photographs.

We were struck by the design detail of the entrance of the Transportation Building, designed by Louis H. Sullivan. A note directed us to another current exhibit at the museum, “Apostles of Beauty: Arts and Crafts from Britain to Chicago.” This traces the arts and crafts movement from architecture, furniture, graphic, silverware, decorative arts, and photography.

Blessed Art Thou among Women, a photograph by Gertrude Käsebier 1899

Blessed Art Thou among Women, a photograph by Gertrude Käsebier, 1899

Some of the furniture from the Prairie School is famous, and I was surprised at how little I liked it. It’s too stick like and boxy and heavy for my tastes. Christina agreed. But we loved Sullivan’s ornamental work and the way he and other artists intertwined natural forms in their designs.

We also liked photography by Alfred Stieglitz and Gertrude Käsebier and the summation of the curators that this period brought together and blurred the distinctions between the fine arts and the applied arts.

We don’t always remember the things that drew us together in the first place.

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