My usual M.O. for visiting special exhibitions at the Art Institute is as follows:
- Note in member newsletter that fascinating, once-in-a-lifetime exhibit is coming to town soon.
- Tear out the related announcement and post it on the bulletin board in the kitchen.
- Forget about the notice and the exhibit the moment the pin hits the cork.
- Walk by the exhibit reminder one-hundred-thousand times, completely oblivious that it’s there.
- Let six-to-eight months go by, depending on length of the exhibit’s stay in town.
- Two weeks before the exhibit is set to close, see the notice and scream “Oh my God, what day is it?????”
- Do one of the following: A) Curse loudly and repeatedly when you discover the exhibit closed three weeks ago, or B) Curse loudly because you only have six days left to see it.
- If B, see the exhibit on the last possible day.
This happens every single time.
The Art Institute of Chicago
So, true to form, I hit the Himalayas: An Aesthetic Adeventure exhibit with a record eleven days to spare. (The exhibit closes on the 17th.) Having seen a number of films from this region and based on the great reviews this show had received, I knew I’d be kicking myself if I missed it. I’m glad I didn’t because it was excellent and very interesting, not to mention quite extensive, with over 180 pieces. The 2 1/2 hours we had to spend there wasn’t quite enough to see it all.
The exhibit included statues and paintings, some over a thousand years old, originating from four general areas: Nepal, Tibet, Kashmir and the Western Himalayas. Almost every piece focused on the Hindu and Buddhist deities. Paintings (pigment on cotton mostly) favored the color red and involved geometric repetition and loads of detail. (An interesting compliment and contrast to the Struth photography exhibit I’d just seen.) My favorites were the sculptures, made of gray chlorite, bronze or copper. Again, the intricacy of the works was amazing–detailed, sometimes minute carving that has amazingly survived all these years.
Like so many art exhibits, there was an overabundance of text to read, and after a while, I stopped reading and trying to understand the story and symbolism of each piece and just concentrated on the look. My favorites included: the statues of Kumara, the boy god who was always depicted with his familiar, a peacock; the bodhisattvas, especially the Three Bodhisattvas from 11th century Tibet; and the statues depicting the Goddess Chamunda, an angry deity often in the throes of violent acts.
So, heads up to all of you out there who’ve been walking past the AIC reminder you posted on your bulletin board six months ago–you have seven days left to see some amazing art from the Himalayas!