How Chicago stole my art heart: Ramiro Gomez, Paul Heyer, Eva Hesse and André Derain.

Maybe what I am feeling is a COVID-induced high. After six months of being denied access to galleries and museums, they are finally open to us again. It’s like walking into a room where all your favourite people are waiting to embrace you. You know those nights where the evenings just flow? A gentle common choreography, where conversations roll you around the room, like eddies in a stream.

Alien vs Citizen at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

Ramiro Gomez, Paul Smith Store, Los Angeles, 2015, acrylic on canvas

Seeing Gomez’ work at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago was like an epipen to my heart. Pulling darkness into a field of pink. Gomez began painting domestic laborers into images from luxury design magazines. Looking at the high-end homes featured, Gomez noted the lack of workers: “It was an erasure of us. So it became very clear what to add. It was this simple act. It was just inspired by saying, ‘I’m here. We exist.'”

Just connect; we’ve all become untouchables.

Paul Heyer, Drinking Water (Cowboy), 2017, Oil, acrylic, and glitter on metallic silk

As MCAC says, “The global pandemic has forced us to put intense scrutiny on the things we touch, the spaces we inhabit, and the people we come into contact with. The connections that make up our daily lives have become less familiar.”

There was a gentleness to this exhibition, reflecting those super-quiet moments we’ve all had during the pandemic lockdown. This work by Paul Heyer got me because of it’s tenderness and crazy use of materials – I mean glitter and metallic silk – the effect was extraordinary.

Seeing familiar faces (and meeting new ones) at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Like a hummingbird with a jar of sugar syrup, I buzzed around and around and around the galleries at the Art Institute of Chicago. The quality of work on display is totally fucking insane for a city of 3 million people.

With so many brilliant works that shaped the art world, it was hard to stay in one spot. Like a pube circling a drain hole, I keep coming back again and again to my favourites. I left the institute three times to pull myself together and come back in again over the course of one day.

The most absurd work, the most difficult for me to come to grips with was Hang Up by Eva Hesse. I had only recently jumped into her work through the brilliant podcast, Recording Artists, made by the Getty. You can hear Hesse’s haunting voice as she grapples with her art and her death.

Never forget: obscured views make compelling works.

Harald Sohlberg, Fisherman’s Cottage, 1906, oil on canvas

It’s something I had learnt from Alex Katz and had forgotten. Just like the Ensō Circle is more compelling because of its incompleteness, artworks are far more engaging when we can’t see the whole.

Fisherman’s Cottage is gorgeous. The darkness and the light, the obscured views. The feeling of warmth and safety emanating from the cottage is just so delicious.

André Derain, Forest at Martigues, 1908, Oil on canvas

Derain’s Forest at Martigues has the same, compelling effect. It’s almost like your mind is trying the nudge the trees aside to get a better view. It draws you into the frame, positions you just behind the trees. There’s also a voyeuristic element to it all, like your watching someone without the knowing.

I saw amazing art here in Chicago, these last two works that will stay with me. They have a quietness, a sharp observation and an emotional tug, that I will carry with me into my future artworks.

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