Milwaukee and Kandinsky

In addition to my recent travels to Vegas, I took a one day road trip to Milwaukee. I was keen on seeing the Wassily Kandinsky exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Also, it would be fun to be in Milwaukee when it was not snowing. My best woman and I drove up early on Tuesday and it was a blast.

We first went to the Milwaukee Art Museum since that was the star event. The sails of the museum were soaring against the bright blue sky. It was a cloudless, temperate day. At noon, we watched the wings of the museum slowly descend and then reopen to their former glory. It was funny at first because we didn’t think anything was happening. Then we realized that the wings just were slowly moving closed! It was much more evident that the wings were moving when the wings were opening.


The Kandinsky exhibition was pretty great. It was a retrospective of his work. It started with his early work, which looked very impressionist and Fauvist. He seemed to experiment with different styles a lot. Several looked like Vincent Van Gogh, others looked like Maurice de Vlaminck. There were these two amazing woodcuts that looked inspired by Edvard Munch. One thing that I learned was that he started the Blue Rider with Franz Marc. I had known of Franz Marc and the Blue Rider; I just didn’t realized it was Kandinsky too! There was a great quotation about the name: “We both liked blue, Marc liked horse and I liked ride.” I love it when artistic groups have wonderfully mundane names for themselves.

My favorite paintings by Kandinsky are his middle period paintings. They are the mostly abstract colorful paintings like Composition VII. But the paintings are still fairly organic looking. It’s a wonderful bright chaos. They had some truly magnificent pieces from that area in the exhibition. It seems odd but his works are rather calming in their bursts of colorful anarchy.

The exhibition had other works that were less familiar to me. For instance, he did some pieces during his hardship in the Soviet Union. There was one piece where it looked like the moon was in the middle and the city swirled around it. Fantastic.

The piece de la resistance was a discussion of these murals that he made for the Juryfreie exhibition. I believe it was in conjunction with the Bauhaus. The exhibition had his drawings of the murals; colorful disorder on black background. It was okay. But then you walked into the next room, there the murals were recreated on a massive scale. It was sublime. While the murals were okay on the walls as drawings, they were magnificent room sized. The curators even had a mesh ceiling to overhang the space in order to close it off. Beautiful. It was worth seeing by itself.

Then the exhibition got into his later work. Unfortunately, I’m less fond of his more abstract geometric work. But it was nice to see the progress of his work. They had some amazing archival footage of Kandinsky himself painting. It was neat to see him neatly paint his lines on a white canvas.

Overall, I’m very pleased that I saw this exhibition.

As for the rest of the museum, it was a little disappointing because much of it is under construction. When I was here in February, it was all open. But they are planning major construction on the heart of the museum so many beloved galleries are closed, like my famed beer steins. Disappointing.

However, it was neat to revisit the Georgia O’Keeffe room with a fan of the artist. I’ve never cared much for her; something just doesn’t appeal to me about her work. However, I love going to museums with people because it’s fun to discuss and rethink art. My friend explained one painting in particular to me. It shows a patch of blue surrounded by an irregular hole with white border. My friend explained that this painting was the view of the sky through bones, like pelvic bone or something similar. It’s a beautiful way to look at the world, merging life and death in the same work. I never took much time to look at this piece but it was nice to have a chance to rethink her work, even for one painting.

We also had a blast in the “Illusion: Near and Far” exhibit in the Kohl’s Children’s Gallery. This model of a Dutch optical illusion box was super cool. There was an eyehole where you could see a little scene. There was a table with a bowl of fruit and flowers and two people standing against a wall. However, there were lots of other things to see if you moved your eye around the hole. There was a dog at the bottom begging. There was a cat on the table. You could even see the windows high above the scene. We each saw different things when we looked through the hole. Very neat.

After our museum adventure, it was time for lunch. We decided to check out Blue Star Café, a Somalian café. We shared a goat meat entrée with rice. It was really tasty. The goat meat was quite tender and the rice had raisins in it. We also ordered tasty samosa like chicken pockets and a spinach dish. Both were quite good. And I had watermelon juice, which was fairly thick. I’d go back to the place.

And to end our trip, we went to the Wisconsin Cheese Mart. When I came in February, we also went to this shop. For tourist cheese shops, this is my favorite. It has an excellent selection of cheese and lots of tasting opportunities. Also, the staff will offer you tastes of cheese that aren’t out to be tasted. My friend tried ghost habanero cheese. She loves spice and said that it was actually hot. I declined. I got my 6 year old mature cheddar; I had it last time and it was amazing. I also got some Grand Cru Surchoix cheese that was hard but buttery. And then on a whim, I got a bottle of New Glarus Serendipity. It’s a sour fruit ale. I opened it a few days later and it is amazing. I wish I had thought to buy more!

All in all, it was a great trip. I can’t wait for the renovations to be done at the museum so we can see my beer steins and related paintings!

That’s all for now!

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