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Must Visit: Ringling Museum of Art

Seeing that it's in the 40s and raining right now, I'm dreaming about my time in the Tampa and Sarasota area last week. I got to take in some rays (actually, too much of it) and see some incredible art while attending fun events surrounding Sarasota Film Festival with my friend Chris, owner of Johnsonese Brokerage. We alternated days at the beach and art-going and the art was unexpected for more reasons than one. 

After doing a quick whirl through St. Armand's Circle, which I found to be mostly commercial and not terribly challenging, I was pleased to visit Ringling Museum of Art, part of the grounds which were built by John and Mable Ringling (yes, that Ringling). From their luxurious waterfront home to the secret garden and numerous banyan trees, there were little treasures to be uncovered at every turn.

The front entrance of Ringling Museum of Art

The front entrance of Ringling Museum of Art

One of the many cool things about the property is that you can explore the grounds or have a guided tour. And there are doors that open right into the middle of the museum, (where normally rooms don't have exits to the outdoors for liability or issues with stealing). From the middle of the courtyard, we entered right into Re:Purposed, a contemporary exhibition of found objects, reused materials, refashioned with newfound life. A couple of Nick Cages and El Anatsuis were practical and imaginative but I discovered Daniel Rozin, who's "Trash Mirror" simply blew me away. In its simplicity and execution, I was already enamored. But the interactiveness of the "clack clack" of the motion-sensored garbage planes made it addicting to come back again and again. (Unfortunately, no photos were allowed in this area). 

In another gallery was the fascinating and haunting exhibit,  Beth Lipman: Precarious Possessions. I had seen her work before at Milwaukee Art Museum but this time the scale of her work was more monolithic with the a baby cradle, buffet and crib. 

The grounds of the Ringling are incredibly well-groomed and offer an exceptional visitors' experience. And on a side note, we coincidentally visited on a Monday when the art museum and grounds are free to roam. I recommend this landmark as a "must see" on your visit to the area. I'll let the photos persuade you. 

The tower of the Ca'd'Zan, or "House of John", the Ringlings' home. 

The tower of the Ca'd'Zan, or "House of John", the Ringlings' home. 

Mable's rose garden. 

Mable's rose garden. 

Romulus and Remus. 

Romulus and Remus. 

The main entry of the museum leads right into these larger-than-life works. They had to have been at least fifteen feet tall, truly sublime.

The main entry of the museum leads right into these larger-than-life works. They had to have been at least fifteen feet tall, truly sublime.

The dock of the Ringlings' home. 

The dock of the Ringlings' home. 

Walkways were dotted with sculptures and this one had become entangled. We almost missed it. 

Walkways were dotted with sculptures and this one had become entangled. We almost missed it. 

The Ringlings bought up thousands of paintings, sculptures, and objects in Etruscan, Asian, European and American art. 

The Ringlings bought up thousands of paintings, sculptures, and objects in Etruscan, Asian, European and American art. 

I was examining their installation like a hawk. Notice the color-coordinated rods and wall tags on the fabric wallpaper. Seamless!

I was examining their installation like a hawk. Notice the color-coordinated rods and wall tags on the fabric wallpaper. Seamless!

A view of the art museum courtyard filled with sculptures.

A view of the art museum courtyard filled with sculptures.

Wandering down the corridor, we popped into the door on the left and walked right into a Nick Cage. 

Wandering down the corridor, we popped into the door on the left and walked right into a Nick Cage. 


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Overview: David Bowie Is at MCA Chicago

Nick and I finally got to see the long-awaited exhibit, David Bowie Is, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago over the weekend. With it's varied objects, GPS headphone accompaniment (the music and sound bites changed seamlessly as you walked through galleries), and fully engaging environment of spectacle, color and oddity, I highly recommend this show. (Photography was no allowed). 

The chronological exhibit sweeps you through his early years in London, changing his name from "Davy Jones" (as it was already popularized by the member of The Monkees), to David Bowie (and later Ziggy Stardust and back to Bowie).

Trying to steer away from the existing social landscape, ("I didn't want to be a trend, I wanted to be the instigator of new ideas.") his collaborations resulted in fashion and beauty which would eclipse any standards of male attractiveness during that time. Influenced by rock, pop, jazz, punk, he created a culture through tangibles like his costumes and make up as well as intangibles, his androgynous sexuality which teen girls gravitated toward with no reservation during an era which glorified hyper masculine music figures. In one video the interviewer talks about how Stardust can afford a make up artist to paint silver on his nails while hoards of young girls are shown clamoring for the doors to the theater.

Costume by Kansai Yamamoto

Costume by Kansai Yamamoto

His journey into the pop/glam rock/psychedelic world of 1960s music is punctuated by numerous setbacks, reconfigurations and contemplation. At the height of his pseudo-identity Ziggy Stardust's success in 1973, he announced that the show would not only be the last of the tour, but the last of the band's existence. (In 1977 he made the statement "I've rocked my roll" when considering retirement). Mounted stage costumes, drawings, musings and writings, lyrics and music memorabilia are coupled with video, studio footage and interviews leaving you with a tidbit of each of Bowie's countless identities. 

Costume by  Kansai Yamamoto

Costume by Kansai Yamamoto

A few of the exhibition highlights include:

  • A view into "space" as you watch Major Tom floating to Space Oddity
  • The numerous costumes by fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto
  • A small mug shot (when Bowie was arrested for possession of marijuana) is in one of the early galleries with costumes behind glass. 
  • A few oil paintings including a self-portrait from his time in Berlin. This gallery also boasts an exceptionally seamless video installation to painted motif in the room.

Bowie's presence in pop culture also crossed into experimental films in the 1960s and later mainstream movies such as Jim Henson's film, Labyrinth and The Prestige playing Nikola Tesla. For me, the paramount of the show is the last gallery, a pumping and pulsating mix of music matched by floor-to-ceiling screenshots, some with costumes silhouetted in light and film footage. Images pan back and forth from screen to screen interchanging with room-size projections. It was a club I didn't want to leave and a refreshing contrast to the hushed movement from room to room previously.

The Prestige

The Prestige

Labyrinth

Labyrinth

Basquiat

Basquiat

The Man Who Fell to Earth

The Man Who Fell to Earth

A few quick tips:

  • Be deliberate in your direction as you wander through the rooms. There are small lines to see many of the objects and if you stand between areas, the sound will not match what you're viewing. 
  • I recommend reserving two hours to fully engage in the spectacle of the show and longer if you want to watch the entire loop of his movie clips.
  • Purchase tickets in advance as they have been selling out daily.

David Bowie Is runs through January 4, 2015. Tickets are available here


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