Blog: MCA DNA Index

My Art, My City

By Abraham Ritchie

Featured image

Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”)
Photo: Abraham Ritchie

on the project

One thing that I really love to do when family and friends visit Chicago is play tour guide. I’ve been known to give a two-hour-plus walking tour of the city’s architecture, to the enjoyment, then exhaustion, of visitors. So I was delighted when Art21 reached out to me about their #MyArtMyCity campaign and offered to let me take over their Instagram account for the final three days of August. As Art21 Curator Jonathan Munar describes it on the Art21 blog, “The goal of the project is explore the relationship between art and place, as seen through the eyes of artists and art admirers from around the world.”

I decided to take this concept and run with it, starting with Chicago’s architecture (after all, nothing shapes a city so much as its architecture) and treating the whole takeover as a chance for short-form criticism and essays, something the visually focused platform does nicely, but which often gets lost in the selfies and photos of food—if you were looking for those you’ll be extremely disappointed. See the whole takeover on Art21’s Instagram account.

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#MyArtMyCity takeover 📷 from @abrahamritchie1, Chicago: I’m the Social Media Manager for @mcachicago so I’ve been spending A LOT of time with our current exhibit #KerryJamesMarshall: #Mastry and one work I keep coming back to and have fallen in love with is “Past Times,” 1997. Parks are a part of almost every city, but they’re an especially important part of #Chicago, from @millennium_park (which I featured in a past post), to @lollapalooza -hosting Grant Park @chicagoparks, to Jackson Park, designed by Frederick Law #Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who also designed @centralparknyc. This painting of a park is a perfect combination of #MyArtMyCity as Marshall sets the painting in one of Chicago’s important parks, likely Jackson or Lincoln Park. It’s also a clear homage to one of Chicago’s most important paintings too, “A Sunday on La Grand Jatte — 1884” by Georges Seurat (1884/86) which hangs at @artinstitutechi; this work hangs in a venue also highly trafficked and public, @mccormickplace. Marshall has been very clear that he intends to engage with the masters of painting and art history on the highest level and this painting does just that, creating an almost pastoral scene of city life—the figures look out on us as if we’ve interrupted them in the middle of their fun. But there’s almost much more than that going on. Whereas an all-white cast populates Seurat’s picture, an all-black cast enjoys leisure in Marshall’s. What’s remarkable here is the unremarkableness of the arrangement, as Marshall describes it: "The challenge is on some level to establish the black mundane as a glamorous category." This painting proves he’s clearly succeeded.

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