Saturday, April 30, 2011

Days 5-6, Chicago

Day 5: Chicago

It's hard to put your finger on it. You have to have a dullness of mind and spirit to play here. I went through pyschoanalysis and that helped me deal with my Cubness. Jim Brosnan

Pics: First two stops at artist studios, views from the Zell penthouse, a Duchamp box, an early Butterfield horse, and Green Zebra

Hey, what the hell happened here? THB got up early and rode the elliptical while debating whether or not the Queen’s outfit looked presentable for the live presentation of a hip young couple’s wedding (yeah, not bad, yellow with matching hat looked pretty good) and listening to the Violent Femmes sing about relationships). Then off to Fox and Obel for more warm sourdough bread (a shade below Tartine’s finest, which is say that it is a pretty damn good loaf), another raisin scone and a bran muffin, $7.

The morning was two studio visits:
• An artist that works on the top/fifth floor of a converted feather warehouse (processing plant for feathers?) and does large narrative pieces that border on paranoia/alternative views of political acts and “books” of the same nature. She had a very droll delivery in discussing her work and its content (think Sarah Silverman, a pretty accurate viewpoint of her and her of her work).
• A black artist that is attempting to resurrect a blighted neighborhood 10 blocks south of the University of Chicago. For this second visit, we arrived a half hour late as our driver had managed to put the wrong address in his GPS and our local guide didn’t catch that we turned west off the freeway instead of east. This took us through some of the poorer parts of the south side of Chicago (which means really poor, poor like portions of New Orleans after Katrina), where a high proportion of the houses seemed boarded. This guy is trying to seed his neighborhood with affordable housing, bring in some artists, get locally run businesses established that cater to artists and their buddies. He does a range of work, including “shoe shine” stands, signs, etc. We don’t see much of his work, this visit was really about understanding his large life-project.

Lunch is at Le Sardine, across the street from Oprah’s studio. We ate here many years ago, and enjoyed it. Today, we are ordering off of a smaller menu, and THB has asparagus soup and a nicoise (just okay) and DB has salad and the salmon, which she likes more, chocolate mousse and apple tart, ice teas, included.

In the afternoon, we have two visits to private collections:
• The first is to the 62nd floor penthouse of Sam and Helen Zell (yes, that Sam Zell, that owned the Cubs, Chicago Tribune and LA Times). They collect primarily surrealists, including a number of Magrittes, Dali, Kahlo, Gorky and others (like Picasso, DeKooning….) in a spectacular setting: high above Chicago, with awesome views on a clear day (hey, this was a clear day!). They have one of the few Duchamp boxes, which THB spends some time studying, and several pieces by a contemporary painter named Mark Tansey which THB likes a lot.
• The second is to Sandy and Jack Guthmann’s, they live in a wildly converted synagogue. TRUE!! And, on top of that, they have enclosed the backyard, so what they have is a house that looks down into another living space. Worth a detour just to see the layout (which THB is not doing a very good job of describing). They collect primarily large scale photography, and THB is very much entranced by many of the works. THB and DB do not collect photographs; if we did, THB would hope the collection looked a lot like this one!

Dinner is at Green Zebra, we are eating just the two of us (our two potential co-diners have decided to sleep in, at 7pm). Dinner is as good as we remembered, we’ve been here several times over the years. Vegetarian, and we have: a riesling poached pear salad, fettucine with grilled king trumpets (what is a king trumpet?), black bean dumplings, chickpea tajine (DB is definitely NOT allergic to chickpeas, at least not anymore), and slow-roasted shitake mushrooms with crispy potato and savoy cabbage, and a terrific chocolate bar with crème fraiche ice cream. With two drinks and two glasses of wine, $140 (and another $20 for cabs), and as good as we remembered!

Day 6: Chicago

Chicago - a pompous Milwaukee. Leonard Levinson

Pics: From the Roger Brown collection (including a piece by Jim Nutt), the group at the Art Institute, shots of Millenium Park

Another early visit to the fitness center, then DB is up and ready to go and we head off to Fox and Obel for the daily dose of bread: sourdough and morning bun (sugar and cinnamon coating) and two café au laits: $10.

The tour stops at a museum dedicated to a local artist, Roger Brown, a contemporary of Jim Nutt, who gave his house and all the contents to MCA. He was a hoarder of kitsch and much of it is crowded into the two story building. A bit too much butt-brush factor for THB (too much stuff, not enough room).

Lunch at Gage, across the street from the Chicago Institute of Art. Chicken sandwich (done buffalo chicken sandwich style) and fries for THB, DB goes for the scallops (and she was a lot happier than THB was, again), ice tea, included.

Then we have a guided tour of the new wing of the Institute, Renzo Piano the architect. The new wing now holds all their modern and contemporary art, and is well displayed. Great views of Millenium Park from the top floors of the new wing.

Then back to the room for a bit of rest before dinner. There are three of us tonight, we join up with one of the singles, Katie, and eat at Piccolo Sogno: artichoke and arugula and parmesan salads, branzino (whole fish), tortellini with artichokes and fava beans, and pappardelle with lamb meatballs, and a mini molten chocolate cake with hazelnut ice cream, two drinks and a bottle of Italian Sauvignon Blanc, $190. The pastas were very good, as was the dessert. If you want a great branzino and terrific pastas, head to Riva Cucina in Berkeley.

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