Monday, June 13, 2016

Spring 2016: Chicago

Van Gogh's Bedrooms

The Art Institute got a lot of mileage out of presenting, for the first time, all three of van Gogh's Bedroom in Arles paintings. These paintings were made during the last part of the artist's life. The first (and best?) version was painted in the actual bedroom and is usually on display at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The second version (The Art Institute's) is the wildest in terms of looseness of strokes and color, and was a copy Van Gogh made a year later when he was in an asylum in the throws of mental illness. The last, smallest version (from the Musee d'Orsay in Paris) was painted a month later for the artist's mother and you can assume that he reined in his style to an attempt to please her. This exhibit included most of the Art Institute's Van Gogh holdings as well as other select works from elsewhere, including my favorite self-portrait (see below) usually housed at the National Gallery of Art in DC. Kudos to the Art Institute for presenting an engaging exhibit that featured recreations of not only the bedroom, but other scenes Van Gogh painted for viewers to lounge in (and escape the throngs crowded around the actual paintings).


The Flick by Annie Baker at Steppenwolf

I waited to see this Pulitzer prize-winning play in a production besides the long-running version that transferred to off-Broadway's Barrow Street Theater only because I heard the sightlines and seats weren't great considering the 3+ hour runtime. One couldn't ask for a better production than what Steppenwolf presented. The movie theater set was huge (more seats than the actually Upstairs Theater at Steppenwolf?) and detailed to the extreme, right down to the cobwebs on the ceiling lights and that weird last row of seats many movie theaters have. Plus, the technical geniuses at Steppenwolf rigged each seat with a hidden container so that new debris would drop to the floor between each scene. Important because we basically watch the characters clean up the same theater 20+ times throughout the play. The central conflict is thin (and can be seen coming from a mile away), but it is only a small part of this play's charms. The three main characters are well-defined and rich enough to entertain throughout, but even still the 3+ hours do drag (especially the long stretches where no one talks, just cleans). Baker's MO is long dialogue-free scenes, but here they seem to be used to excess. Thank you though to Steppenwolf for giving me exactly the production I wanted to see!

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