3 new art shows worth a trip

Revisiting the 1980s, the intimate side of Van Gogh and Renoir’s interpretation of belle epoque attire are featured in new exhibitions in Chicago, Philadelphia and New York.

'This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s'

Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art

By Caryn Rousseau Associated Press

The exhibit about the 1980s at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art features pieces that reflect on important issues from the decade: drug use, nuclear proliferation, AIDS and feminism.

"This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s," includes paintings, photographs, movies and sculptures by artists from the era.

Curator Helen Molesworth said the financial crisis of 2008 reminded Americans of Black Monday in 1987, priming a look back at the earlier decade.

The art focuses on the decade's social and political issues. In a play on Robert Indiana's "LOVE" sculpture, an entire wall is filled with the same style of block letter design, but instead of "LOVE," the word is "AIDS," in green, blue and red.

"It reiterates how a lot of artists in this time were making art out in the public," curator Karsten Lund said. "You're getting a show that speaks to pivot points in the decade."

'Renoir, Impressionism, and Full-Length Painting'

Frick Collection, New York City

By Karen RosenbergNew York Times

Impressionism, like fashion, is dedicated to the fleeting sensation: this moment's light, this season's dress. Yet the works in the Frick Collection's fashion-conscious "Renoir, Impressionism, and Full-Length Painting" don't at first register as impressionist. With their traditional portrait format and imposing scale, they seem at odds with the modest plein-air paintings that define the movement.

The exhibition surrounds the Frick's own Renoir, "La Promenade" (1875-'76), with nine works on loan from seven museums.

In "La Promenade," a young woman guides two identically outfitted little girls along a public garden path. The taller figure is wearing a blue velvet jacket trimmed with fox fur.

As the show's organizer and Frick deputy director, Colin Bailey, tells us, Renoir was the most fashion-savvy of all the impressionists. His mother was a seamstress, his father a tailor.

Renoir's trilogy of full-length paintings, titled "Dance in the City," "Dance in the Country" and "Dance at Bougival," show twirling couples whose moves and outfits reinforce their specific locales (Paris and villages on its outskirts).

Best among these works is "Dance at Bougival." The woman's head, framed by a red bonnet, angles away from her partner even as her feet follow his lead.

'Van Gogh Up Close'

Philadelphia Museum of Art

By Lance EsplundBloomberg

"Up Close" brings us face-to-face with an intimate side of his art, and illumines Vincent Van Gogh (1853-90) the fervent naturalist.

All the pictures date from his fertile, troubled last four years, during which he would leave Paris for Arles, Saint-Remy and Auvers.

In some of these pictures, Van Gogh is not so much making compositions but immersing us in sensations.

Van Gogh seemed to be searching for something beyond the grass, leaves and petals, perhaps a source for reflection and meditation.

"Up Close" includes 46 paintings by Van Gogh. In the naturalistic "Field With Flowers Near Arles," Van Gogh conveys the heady moment before a summer downpour.

In "Rain," he pelts us - puts us at the center of the storm. "Wheat Fields at Auvers under Clouded Sky" buckles, zigzags and expands, as if the landscape were stretching to greet the dawn.

Nature - brought up-close - is felt as a magnificent force.