Rachel Cohen

Boudin

Elliott Hunter

Elliott Hunter

Elliott Hunter, Grasshopper, 1967, Oil on Masonite, Collection of Lawrence (Dan) D'Antignac and The Woodshop Gallery, on view at the Smart Museum of Art through December 30, 2018.

Yesterday, at the Smart Museum, “The Time is Now!” I was immediately struck by this painting:

Elliot Hunter Grasshopper detail

A large square, four feet by four feet. Each inch compels.

Elliot Hunter Grasshopper detail

The painter is Elliott Hunter.

Elliot Hunter Grasshopper detail

It was made in 1967, and is called Grasshopper.

Elliot Hunter Grasshopper detail

Twice, recently, I have seen grasshoppers on the pavement. Once along the curved inlet behind the bus stop at 47th and Lake Park. Holding very still, I thought as if recognizing the coming cold. A second, not far from the Pot Belly Sandwich place as I was hurrying through the parking lot, to pass the now-empty grocery store that was called Treasure Island. This second, also very still, not jumping away at my passage. The second made me think of the first – a pattern, a time of the year. The second week of October, when the grasshoppers begin to hold still on the pavement.

Elliot Hunter Grasshopper detail

Something of the brittleness, and perhaps also something of the ebullient potential of the close-held grasshopper.

After a while, a face:

Elliot Hunter Grasshopper detail

Elliot Hunter Grasshopper detail

A new painter – I am learning gestures:

Elliot Hunter Grasshopper detail

There is another work by the same artist in the exhibition. This one, called Black Depression, also makes me stand still. I will visit it again before attempting to say something.

When I get home, I search. The painter, Elliot Hunter, is mentioned in a piece in the Chicago Tribune about the simultaneous exhibitions of work by Chicago artists that are currently running across the city. This is where I have first seen the work, at “The Time is Now: Art Worlds of Chicago’s South Side, 1960-1980” which illuminates the Smart Museum of Art this fall. There are no other mentions of Elliot Hunter on the web. Odd, the balked unfamiliar feeling that there is nothing to sit with online. So, for the next person, from the summary in the exhibition catalog:

Elliott Hunter (1938-1970) was a painter and muralist. He studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was a founding member of the Seventy-Ninth Street Collective and the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC) in Chicago in the 1960s. He contributed to the Wall of Respect mural and later joined Edward Christmas, William Walker, and Eugene “Eda” Wade to paint the Wall of Dignity mural in Detroit in 1968. He died at age thirty-one following a brief illness.

Elliot Hunter Grasshopper detail

Joan Mitchell: Cities in Winter

Joan Mitchell Cities in Winter

Joan Mitchell, City Landscape, 1955, Chicago Institute of Art


Two weeks ago, I went to the Art Institute to spend some time in the new modern wing and my attention was caught by a Joan Mitchell from 1955 called City Landscape.


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Since the election I have been thinking about cities, and living in them, the ways that a city’s life may be dealt a blow.


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It is December in Chicago, and cold, and I saw the heart of the city, what the wall text calls “nerves and arteries” in the colors, so many, too many to look at all at once, that drip together into brown, that, at least in my pictures, resembles the collecting trunk and lower limbs of trees, and I saw the grays and whites above and below as the bleak surrounding sky.


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What a painting this is. Difficult to know, as a real city is, but also, I’m pretty sure, although I haven’t yet had time to find out, it is a painting possible to know, as a real city is.


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Cities, one of the largest things people make together that are still, more or less, on a human scale, can be walked across in a day, can be, with effort and diligence, comprehended by a studying person.


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A moment later, I came to one of the museum’s edges, where it looks out over Millennium Park. Everything was gray, but clustered at the center was the vitality of roads, traffic, the living though not visibly inhabited city, and above there were the rectilinear outlines, the gray buildings fogged at the gray sky.


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In this room, there are Giacomettis, studying and participating in the city.


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They were made in 1947, 1948, 1949, 1960. After the war, before and after the Joan Mitchell. All of their cities have struggled.


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The gray around, the extreme density of the interior. In the new year, we will learn more.


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