Thursday, June 9, 2016

Traveling in Chicago - the Mary and Leigh Block Travel Museum

One of the many good things about traveling in Chicago is that there is always something new to see. This day, however, was a beautiful one and I wanted to see the Lakefront. We have to enjoy every nice summer day that comes here to us.

viewing the Chicago skyline from the Evanston Lakefront

In Chicago’s Museums, A Complete Guide to the City’s Cultural Attractions, Danilov lists the Mary and Leigh Block Museum. Part of Northwestern University’s Campus, it is located on the Arts Circle and is open daily except Monday. Admission is free.

When Danilov wrote his book, the Block Museum was relatively new. It opened 36 years ago and has since become an integral part of the college campus. Besides its art exhibits, they have a film museum that shows a wide variety of films and seminars about film.

The Mary and Leigh Block Museum

While the Block Museum has a collection of over 5,000 pieces of art, their exhibitions are temporary. At this time, the works in their sculpture garden are being restored and unavailable for viewing.

The main exhibit right now is “A Feast of Astonishments” by Charlotte Moorman. This amazing woman began her career in Little Rock, Arkansas studying to be a classic cellist. She soon got caught up in the Avant Garde Movement and moved to New York. She is mostly remembered for organizing the Avant Garde festivals in New York City from the 1960’s to 1980’s. The exhibit consists of photographs, macramé, performance art recorded on video, and collections of things that she collected. I saw videos of her playing her cello in midair and one of her talking about being arrested and jailed for giving a cello concert in the nude. Charlotte Moorman believed that art should be a blending of all the art forms and this she tried to do. In the process, she became involved with people in every avenue of the arts.

Charlotte Moorman developed breast cancer in the 1970’s and became less able to be involved in the art world.  She retreated increasingly into her house writing several journals that are on display in this exhibit. My favorite part of the exhibit was the room where all her collections were stored in boxes. Before dieing, she left her husband the instructions “Don’t throw anything out.” While some things were undoubtedly pitched, there was plenty left behind giving new meaning to the term packrat. I’ll think twice before I call anyone a hoarder again. At least most people don’t try to leave their stuff for posterity.

I can’t say that I liked this exhibit but it certainly gives one something to think about. Charlotte Moorman challenged the prevailing assumptions of her time inviting all to expand their minds. Her exhibit will be there at the Block Museum through July 25th. Go see it if you dare.

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