The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago: Climb some stairs to find things worth describing

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Martin Creed’s “MOTHERS” just outside the MCA.

Although the first couple of galleries you encounter on the first floor of this place are kind of underwhelming, don’t give up hope because the higher you go, the better the art. I found the MCA to be like one of those rope swings they throw out of helicopters – you have to climb up to get out of the awful water full of sharks and backwards-on-purpose canvases.

The first floor only gives you the contemporary art I’m used to being disappointed by – the lazy print-outs with paint on top that couldn’t have taken more than ten minutes. The second floor gets a little better with a First 50 gallery, showcasing the first fifty pieces acquired by the museum, although most of these are just blank spaces, some with polaroids, where the pieces used to be.

Bluntschli by Charline von Heyl, 2005
Gem in the first floor contemporary galleries.

The third floor is where you’ll find Heidi Norton’s first solo museum exhibition, Plants on the verge of a natural breakdown (and other stories of life and death). At first it might look like just a swath of leaves and paint splattered and combined, but comparing either side of the glass on these two-sided little ecosystems is surprisingly beautiful. One side looks like a crazy person’s collection of plants and odd bits all plastered together, but the other side shows what those bits look like up against glass – and the fusion of natural and unnatural elements somehow manages to seem symmetrical and pastel pretty.

The fourth floor is where things get great. My favorite exhibit in the museum, Skyscraper: Art and Architecture Against Gravity has one of the best collections I can remember. Here, architecture becomes more than just a bunch of vocabulary words about columns – the buildings on the canvases and in the sculptures of this exhibit are able to reach outside reality and prove how fascinating it is to form the space we live and move in. I’ll be posting descriptions of all my favorites from this floor so stay tuned (there are probably ten of them, so brace yourselves:)


Overall the MCA is a white-walled, wood-floored, wide-open space of potential that scales from just discovered to fully maxed. It’s an exciting place to walk through, never knowing if what’s around the corner is the best thing or the worst thing you’ve ever seen.

If you live in Chicago, check it out – especially on Tuesdays when admission is free for Illinois residents!

Check out all my pictures from the MCA Chicago here on Flickr. 
What’s behind a Heidi Norton piece.
And what’s in front.

The Portable City of Hangzou, China by Yin Xiuzhen

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