Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chicago Day 2 (a couple days late) Art in the Park, and Art at the Institute

Sunday was an artful day for us, or should I say a day filled with art. We started at Millennium Park as few blocks from our hotel to see the large silver jelly bean, with the official name of Cloud Dream. Check out the photo from the prior post, with the Chicago skyline reflected in the jelly bean. It is large enough that you can walk under it for very different perspective due to the concave nature of the underside. 

Later in the day, on our return to the hotel, we stopped at another park near our hotel, to see the 30 foot tall Eye Ball; yes folks, a very large human eye ball, blood vessels and all. Both of these sculptures attract a large number of visitors, both tourists and locals. Chicago has a wonder park system, especially the very large Millennium Park and the adjacent Grant Park. As Frank mentioned, any art that draws people to see it is a good thing.

Also in Millennium Park is the Frank Gehry designed band shell, which in addition to being functional is a work of art too. I will post pictures later. 

Next stop was the Art Institute of Chicago. While we have been here before, we never tire of seeing the wonderful permanent collection. The Art Institute must have one of the largest collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art outside of France. Many museums may have a couple Monet's, or a few Renior's; but here entire rooms are devoted to a single artist. One of the highlights of the museum is George Seurat's "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte", (photo at end of this post.) We also saw an exhibit of painting from the Ashcan School of American art (early 20 century), which is also referred to as Urban Realism (did I get that right, Frank?). This style portrays scenes of the poorer population of urban environments and is quite dramatic.

Since our last visit, the museum has opened a new (large) contemporary art wing. Again, the collection was amazing, with all the suspects like Rothko, Pollack, Picasso, Jasper Johns (yes Paul), and many others. I really like Rothko, and still don't "get" Pollack, especially his splatter paintings. But that is what makes art interesting. 

I could go on for many more paragraphs about what we saw, and we really only saw the highlights. But I will leave it to you, if you are interested, to check out the museum's website (link provided earlier).

Our original plan was to visit both the Art Institute and the Field Museum of Natural History, but we decided to spend the extra time today at the Art Institute and hit the Field on Monday before our departure.

Our "art" theme continued with our dinner at Ristorante Al Teatro. OK, that may be a little stretch, but the restaurant was a former theatre and social club for Czech immigrants in Chicago It is in the Pilsen district of Chicago and a cab ride from the hotel. Al Teatro is owned by the parents of a young lady who works in the same office building I do, and when learning we were going to Chicago, recommended Al Teatro. Her parents spent years renovating the building's commercial space, and the restaurant. Please check out their web site as I can't do it justice. Cristina's father gave us a brief history of the building which just received the Historic Landmark designation. He also kindly provided us with a sparkling after dinner wine - very nice. The space they created is wonderful, and the food was awesome. The wood-fired pizza overs were built by a gentleman they brought over from Sicily just to do that. The pizza will have to wait for a return visit, as we elected to have pasta entrees. Frank loved the homemade Papparadelle al la vodka with spinach. He let me taste, and I can verify the awesomeness of the dish. The pasta was a perfect al dente, and the sauce was very flavorful. I enjoyed my Risotto ai  Fruitti di Mare (seafood risotto) with large perfectly cooks shrimp, clams, calamari, and mussels. 

Al Teatro makes their own gelati for which they get rave reviews. It was difficult to pick from the 24 flavors, but we did; two flavors each as is the tradition. I had blood orange and lemon; Frank had Panna Cotta and Bacio (chocolate/hazelnut). Five-star yummy all around.

This restaurant may be a little out of the way, but deserves your consideration if ever in the Windy City. It is in a transitional neighborhood, but go for it, you will not be disappointed. 

That's all I'm Saying


Liz said...

Sounds like an awesome trip. I love Chicago! Can't wait to go back and visit Al Teatro!

Paul said...

Glad you guys had an awesome trip! It sounds fantastic! btw, I just finished a good book on Pollock. It helped a lot to make sense of both the man and his work. He's such a complex figure... and perhaps one who soared too high, too fast.