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S arah V owell On View Chicago May 1995 Sunday, February 4, 3:30–5:00 p.m., Museum of Contemporary Art We begin with an ending, the day the MCA closes its Ontario Street operation to the public in preparation to move to its new Mies van der Rohe Way digs in June. Serving toxic-looking cake spray-painted with the mostly black museum logo, the employees wear nostalgic smiles, and take turns getting photographed pointing at their names painted on the mural at the museum’s entrance. A friend and I climb the stairs to view the museum’s photographic history of itself. The exhibit amounts to an architectural version of a PR brochure, but sports some documentary gems—snazzy, bluehaired visitors attending one of the inaugural programs in ’67, my hero Charlotte Moorman decked out in her TV bra, and this little pat on the back tacked up next to a self-portrait from the infamous Mapplethorpe show: “A lightning rod of controversy at other venues, the exhibition passed without incident at the MCA, where it set records for attendance.” Walking back down to the first floor, I say goodbye to the grating hum of the Max Neuhaus sound installation in the stairwell, not that I’ll miss it. Neither it nor the tiny Charles Simonds cliff dwellings built into the basement bookstore wall will be making the trip to the new building. After a sarcastic while spent with the Andres Serrano photographs downstairs—their slick, saturated colors and simple, perfect compositions remind me of nothing so much as a series of Benetton spreads—a friend and I sit in the lobby until close. I tell a polite guard that we’re just waiting around to be kicked out and she complies, locking the door behind us without fanfare. 256   T h e E s s e n t i a l N ew A rt E xaminer Monday, February 5, 4:06–4:38 p.m., Alan Cohen, “Indelible Traces,” Chicago Cultural Center We call silver-gelatin prints “black and white,” but these photographs are the color of ash. Focusing solely on the ground of concentration camps, Alan Cohen articulates a psychohistory spoken by ruts in the mud, crumbling concrete, scattered cobblestones, and creeping plants. Outside, a Michigan Avenue bus pulls up, reflected into the grass at Bergen-Belsen. People get off and walk around it, through it, stomping all over the loneliest cigarette butt in the world. And, breaking my contemplation , a boorish man in the gallery says (loudly) to his wife (or at least the woman he calls “honey”), “You know what this reminds me of? When you’re loading your camera and it accidentally goes off. He’s got a whole year of sidewalks in here.” And what sidewalks—intersections of nature and culture gracious in their very simplicity. Tuesday, February 6, 1:08–3:34 p.m., Chez Jon Langford, Logan Square The Leonardo of Leeds slides an old Hank Williams record out of its sleeve and puts on a song called “On No Joe,” a curious indictment of Joseph Stalin. Jon Langford, guitarist for the beloved British punk diehards the Mekons, hands me his engraving that shares the song’s title—a double portrait of the country crooner pointing his finger at the dictator, both of them enveloped by a garland of disjointed letters spelling “WE LIV E IN 2 D IFF F ER E NT W OR LD S.” I flip through frame after frame of lovely, allegorical effigies sanctifying the stars of country music. For example, a bare-chested Hank pierced by arrows becomes Saint Sebastian. Even though Langford printed these images last year, they feel as old and weary as a Carter Family dirge, making the good white paper they emboss dislocating; the timeless stories being told, of hard life and early death, call for brittle, yellowed newsprint. A piece titled Hank Signs His Contract offers a remember-death skull, perched on a desk, staring out of a Dutch still-life set-up rife with morality . A slit-eyed, cigar-smoking angel in suit and tie witnesses the pact, a country-blues Faust update that is, like a long, high Hank moan, charming and gloomy at the same time, reminding me of Woody Guthrie’s warning: “Some kill you with a six gun/And some with a fountain pen.” S A R A H V O W E L L    On View   257 Wednesday, February 7, 1:00...


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MARC Record
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