Recently I had the extraordinary opportunity to enjoy the visual imagery of the special exhibit, “Rarely Seen Contemporary Works on Paper” at the Art Institute of Chicago. What a visceral thrill! The Art Institute of Chicago is a temple of art.
Works on paper are extremely light sensitive, so this exhibit, which filled four rooms of predominantly 20th century and 21st century art, is housed in dark, temperature-controlled vaults. Some of these works are being offered for the first time. While I was there, professors were leading their classes to individual works to explain techniques that have influenced generations. Among the most popular works are Romare Bearden’s collages, Tanguy’s masterpieces and of course, Dubuffet and Picasso.
What I found most noteworthy, however, were the relatively obscure works by even the most famous–Picasso comes to mind–partly due to the ephemeral and decomposable materials of paste, cut papers, graphite, and pastel. A delightful work by Picasso, “Devil (1952)”, is a black inked painting on brown corrugated paper so darkened that the visitor is compelled to press his or her face to the glass to get a close-up look. What a surprise for a Picasso–and the three-dimensional piece could be turned upside down to see almost the same figure. Multiple works by Carroll Dunham (“Untitled (Months)”, Matta (“Untitled: Psychological Morphology, 1939), Brice Marden (“Second Letter –Zen Spring)”, and JuliaFish (“Garden Drawing #87”) are unforgettable masterpieces. The list goes on and on: Ed Ruscha’s whimsical “Bugs in Foil” and Susan Hettmansperger’s pieces need to be made accessible to more art lovers–on the Internet, in books, at visiting museum exhibits. If you are in Chicago before January 13, make sure you have a chance to see this superb panorama of works on paper–one of the very best ever!