Enjoy the silence
Drawing Graceland Cemetery
07/03/2012 10:00 PM
The Chicago Cultural Center has been dark this year. Donít worry ó the place hasnít closed down. Nor is this a reference to the gutting of the institutionís artistic programming that has occurred on Mayor Emanuelís watch, though comparisons are apt. Rather, the place has been fascinated with death.
Since January, the Cultural Center has been the home to Morbid Curiosity ó a mammoth exhibition of over 500 artworks and artifacts from around the world that explore the iconography of death across cultures and traditions. Pieces range from statues dating to 2000 BCE to contemporary works of art. The work is culled from the personal collection of Chicago-based collector Richard Harris who amassed it over decades.
Occupying much of the buildingís fourth floor, Morbid Curiosity has been an umbrella for a series of related events and exhibition throughout the Cultural Center all year. The variety and scope has been incredible.
Scholars discussed everything from the popularity of skeletons in European art from the Middle Ages to the 18th century to elaborate myths of the afterlife in Platoís dialogues. A re-enactment of a Victorian-era sťance was held. A video installation compiling dying moments throughout the history of cinema was screened. Dr. Ben Margolis presented his acclaimed presentation on medical autopsies (which currently runs at Gorilla Tango Theater in Bucktown). Franz Schubertís ďDeath and the MaidenĒ was performed by a chamber quartet. The list goes on.
Morbid Curiosity draws to a close this Sunday, but a tie-in exhibition remains that must be seen. Eternal Silence: Drawings by Andrew Hall details monuments and tombs housed inside Graceland Cemetery, the famous necropolis that sits on the cityís North Side, in addition to select architectural monuments from across the city.
Eternal Silence is tucked away in a first floor hallway on the Cultural Centerís southwest side. Itís hard to find, but worth the hunt. The works are displayed directly outside the entrance to Project Onward, the studio space and gallery devoted to fostering the creative growth of artists with disabilities. Hall is one of these artists. On any given day, he is on hand and eager to discuss his drawings, their origins, and his influences.
At first glance of his work (and without knowing that they were drawings), one would think that Hall was a photographer. Close inspection reveals that everything is handmade. Hall works in the photo-realist tradition, creating richly detailed, intricate, near-perfect replications. The duplication is striking. This is not hollow mimicry, though. Hallís drawings capture dimensions of Graceland Cemetery that will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has visited the grounds.
Getty Tomb, Ryerson Tomb, and the famed Dexter Graves Monument (also known as Eternal Silence or the Statue of Death) stand cold and powerful surrounded by remnants of a fall day ó trees shifting colors or bare of leaves and grey, cloudless skies. An apartment complex peaks from behind the Getty structure. The ink and gouache drawings are solemn reminders of deathís unflinching permanent presence.
Drawings of the Huck Mausoleum and the Schoenhofen, Palmer and Pullman tombs take a different route.
Rendered in black-and-white ink with minimal grey-scale on white plains devoid of background distractions, the monuments pop with detail. Hallís precision is exemplary. Removing the tombs from their surroundings adds depth, as well. In Hallís hands, they become stark reminders of deathís cold, inescapable nature.