Chicago

Christo

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA Chicago)

During part of January and February, a period when the weather seemed to call for it, Christo wrapped the Museum of Contemporary Art—a “Wrap in Wrap Out.” Aside from the fact that it made the rather nondescript building more interesting, visually, it was an obvious challenge to the concept of a museum or of it to a work of art in the conventional sense (a position which Jan van der Marck, the museum’s director has done much to enunciate). One is tempted to suggest that certain paintings and sculptures would be improved by concealing them underneath a wrapping.

Wrapped packages, in art or otherwise, recur throughout history as a tantalizing idea and in 20th-century art in particular we have their enigmatic presence in works by Man Ray, Cornell and Duchamp (his stretched string inside of the International Surrealist Exhibition, New York, in 1942) or earlier rendered in paintings by Harnett or Peto. In all of these mystery and enigma are evoked and are of central importance. It was a strong factor in a companion exhibition of Christo’s works at the Lo Guidice Gallery and to insist as he does that the enigma “is not the key” seems to cut off an important avenue with which to confront his work. As noted, the wrapping of the museum was of interest, but his smaller works went beyond this, like the wrapped bundle of magazines or the wrapped picture on the wall. Partially, this could be explained by the impenetrability of the latter in contrast to the former, the museum, which contained another show.

An interesting comparison may be drawn between the “Wrap in Wrap Out” and the “Racine Avenue Show” which has occurred in Chicago annually for three years. A group of artists, changing somewhat from year to year, announced and publicized the show for “one night only” and last year, for example, it was a location, a particular street corner, the bar and also the burlesque house there.

Whitney Halstead