Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Chicago Dazzles Me

Discovering Chicago was a gratifying experience, thanks to my friend and hostess, Diane Bruno. She introduced the city first by inviting me to take a Chicago River cruise, a great way to see Chicago's magnificent architecture reflecting styles from the "Beaux Art," the neo-classical buildings of the early 1900's, "Art Deco" of the 20's and 30's and the modern day skyscrapers of the 50's inspired by Mies Van de Rohe. Architectural wonders included the famous Wrigley building (home of Wrigley chewing gum), the Montgomery Wards building and more recently built, controversial Trump Building, designed by Adrian Smith. Though a magnificent structure standing out boldly against the Chicago skyline, it is controversial due to the addition of the huge letters spelling out the name of the man who paid for it---none other than Donald Trump. Should we expect less from this man with the large ego? 

Later, walking down Michigan Avenue I saw some amazing public art: Picasso's huge steel bull in front of an equally large rust-colored steel  skyscraper,

Leger's black and white creation of wiggly shapes, matching reflections in what appears to be a curved building of glass panels. Juan Miro's sculpture is reaching for the sky in front of another near-by building.
Diane dwarfed in front of the Miro
Chicago is a quintessential city of pubic sculpture.

Visiting one of it's newer additions, Millennium Park, I saw more examples:  the giant white head of an Asian girl with a braid by a Spanish artist, Juame Plensa, the Bean a huge reflective bean shaped steel sculpture reflecting the city and all the people gazing at it.   
Juame Plensa's magnificent head
and the Cloud Gate,better known as
Near-by is a fountain composed of two enormous rectilinear mosaic blocks facing each other with superimposed faces of random Chicagoans blinking their eyes, moving their mouths and then presenting the surprise, which I won't disclose or I'll ruin it for those of you who may go there.

In case I had not yet fulfilled my appetite for art, Diane took me to the famed Chicago Art Institute where we saw two amazing exhibits, one of Surrealism's master, Magritte, whose bewildering work I love.
The other special exhibit at the art institute was a retrospective of works by Czech photographer, Josef Koudelka. The fact that he was responsible for slipping film clips to the world when the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968 is exemplified in the exhibit. There are several of those moving black and white photos, history in the making. Koudelka is also known for his photos of the "Roma," Gypsies that roam Europe, explaining the title of the exhibit: "Nationality Doubtful."
What a perfect show to see on the eve of my departure for Koudelkas home country, the Czech Republic.
To further stimulate my artistic sensibilities, my host invited me to attend a theatrical production by a fine Chicago repertory theater group, Timeline. The play was My Name is Asher Lev, was a deeply moving production and left me satiated. About the clash of cultures, the play is based on a book by the famed Jewish author, Chaim Potok, and has slightly autobiographical elements.

Another day of exploring this amazing city I visited a local park and arboretum, loved discovering the many interesting local neighborhoods and also was amazed at vastness of Lake Michigan.

Strolling with my host along the sea-like lake on a beautiful summer afternoon, under a blue sky dotted with cumulus clouds hovering over white sailboats skimming the lake, was the finale to a more than satisfying visit to an urban beauty.

Needless to say, I leave Chicago with a determination to return again to the city where my mother was born and where I have shared such a delightful visit with my friend and hostess, Diane. My next stop on this adventure: Prague and the Czeck Republic.