I say there’s more than meets the eye at the Art Institute of Chicago. All these years, I’ve been focusing exclusively on the art. But after a recent visit, brilliance (of another kind) caught my eye. The titles. Like Salvador Dali’s A Chemist Lifting with Extreme Precaution the Cuticle of a Grand Piano, (pictured above). Not an afterthought, but a carefully curated string of words.
Now, they’re a lot like hidden gems. You have to wade through a fair amount of Portraits of X… Compositions of Y… and a Still Life of… almost everything before you’re rewarded with a title like Picasso’s Crazy Woman with Cats (clearly where the popular stereotype originated). Or Georgia O’Keeffe’s indecisive titling, Ballet Skirt or Electric Light. I also enjoy Kandinski’s boldly literal, Painting with Green Center.
In all seriousness, it makes me wonder about these guys. Were Van Gogh and Monet ever stymied? I liken it to coming up with great tagline or catchy book title. There’s probably a lot of pressure. Perhaps why there are quite a few “Untitleds.” I think it would be fun to give names to some of them. But that probably wouldn’t go over well.
Anyway, next time you find yourself at the art museum, consider equal parts looking and reading.