Latin and Contemporary Art

Spring                                                      Awakening Moon

Had our Latin session with Greg at noon today.  I asked him if he thought my trying to translate Ovid now would hurt my learning.  He said, no, go for it.  But.  Get a latin text with a commentary and work out your translation to your satisfaction before you compare it to someone else’s.  So, I went on Amazon and found a 2-volume latin text with commentary.  They are on their way.  I’m excited.  I know I’ve got a long way to go before I’m a competent translator, if I ever make it to that level, but I can punt away at it.  He said to expect frustration.  Oh, I do.

(from the Metamorphosis, Ulysses men turned into swine. 1591)

After that into the Art Institute for the first of two lectures on the upcoming spring show, Until Now.    The lecture was excellent.  Docent training leaves out huge chunks of the world’s artistic tradition with a necessary focus on the art history of objects in the museum’s collection, but the biggest lacuna was contemporary art. I found the guest curator’s lecture very informative, a good background for an aspect of art history in which I feel very weak.

Until Now is contemporary art in a large show and it combines with Art Remix which features museum contemporary works placed at provocative or evocative locations. David Ryan, curator of modern design, said years ago the museum would only purchase works of an artist who was dead.  This was to ensure that whatever work we purchased represented an important and/or mature example.  That policy ended a few years ago and the museum has begun collecting living artists.

We have a new contemporary art curator and her initial job was to figure out how contemporary art fits into the MIA’s mission as an encyclopedic collection.  At the MIA we can place contemporary work in context, the art historical context which informed and informs artists working especially since WWII.  The Art Remix is an attempt to draw on the museum’s historical examples and use them as conversation starters about contemporary art as it has evolved out of the older works and how the older works can be illuminated, seen in a different way when viewed through the lens of later artist’s work.

(a work by Kara Walker, African/American, 1998)

The last hour of the day was a conversation about the Art Remix.  I found Liz Armstrong’s rationale for the Remix strong though I felt this first effort was uneven.  Some of it is very provocative, like the photographic panels in the Korean collection and the TV Buddha, which features a bronze buddha watching television, a television screen filled with a video camera turned on the Buddha statue and especially the Chinese Ming dynasty chair carved from a single block of marble and placed in the Wu family reception hall.  The works put in the Egyptian and African galleries (not the Shonibare, which I love) are not as effective for me.

A day with a lot of learning.