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FREE Admission To The Art Institute In February

By Laura M. Browning in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 2, 2010 9:20PM

Photo by doug.siefken.
With admission prices creeping toward $20, we understand if you've put off checking out the Art Institute's Modern Wing. But no more excuses: for the entire month of February, the Art Institute is free.

And of course the Art Institute has a lot more to offer than the Modern Wing: besides an extensive permanent collection that covers just about everything from ancient Peruvian art to Picasso, several small temporary exhibits are on right now. Don't let yourself get overwhelmed, though--with a full free month ahead of you, there's plenty of time to get your fill.

We suggest starting with an intimate exhibit of about 140 objects called Modern in America: Works on Paper, 1900 - 1950s. Only spanning a few galleries, you can easily take this in during a lunch hour (or two, if you like to take your time).

American Modernists responded to the rapid changes taking place in the first half of the 20th century--industrial landscapes, celebration of the machine age, trying to understand what it meant to be "modern"--the themes of the 1900s through the 1950s were probed and painted in a thousand different ways. In this little gem of an exhibit, the challenges of a new era are met by artists like Georgia O'Keeffe, whose 1938 "White Shell with Red" kicks off the exhibit with a lush still life that stands in opposition to the more industrial conceptions about Modernism. Brightly splashed colors, painstaking graphite crosshatching, and ink drawings cross paths on gallery walls punctuated with names like Jacob Lawrence, Rufino Tamayo, and Willem de Kooning.

From Alexander Calder's bright abstractions to the strong lines of Thomas Hart Benton's rugged rural landscapes--(check out his Departure of the Joads, one of our favorites in the exhibit)--Modern in America is a welcome glimpse into the Art Institute's impressive collection of American Modernism beyond the iconic paintings like Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks" and the ever-present "American Gothic."

Modern in America is at the Art Institute, 111 S Michigan, until April 4, but free admission only lasts until February 28