Thursday, December 5, 2013

Day 207 - The Chazen Museum of Art

I have never been to the Chazen Museum of Art. As the largest museum in south central Wisconsin, I have intended to visit the Chazen Museum of Art since I first moved to Madison, when it was then known as the Elvehjem Museum of Art. Although my desire to do so was limited in my first years as a Madison resident, my interest in visiting the museum spiked when a 2011 expansion to the facility increased the museum to some 176,000 square feet of space. With the addition of new and sometimes controversial collections following the opening of the expansion I figured it was time I made a trip to the museum.

Despite my resolve to experience the museum firsthand, I consistently procrastinated on following through with me intent as the months and years passed after the new Chazen Museum of Art opened to the public. That remained the case into this year, even as special events and presentations at the facility came and went as time pressed on. Given the focus of my “I have never...” year, I decided I would finally set aside time to experience the museum for the first time, which resulted in me adding “Visiting the Chazen Museum of Art” to my “I have never...” list very early in journey. Eventually, that led me targeting the early part of the winter months to make good on my promise to myself. After some research and a lot of planning, today’s date revealed itself as the perfect time to make my first visit to the museum, which coincidentally resulted in my third visit to the University of Wisconsin Madison campus for the third time in as many days.

With striking, bitter cold gripping my area, I was happy to know my evening would be spent in the confines of a warm, vibrant space. After wrapping up my workday, I made a quick stop home before hopping back in my car and completing the short drive to the Chazen Museum of Art. Immediately doing my best to warm myself from the cold, I entered the building in anticipation of my first visit to Chazen, hopeful I would walk away with a full, insightful experience. As I climbed the stairs to the galleries, I wondered what I would encounter in the space, quietly acknowledging the fact that I shouldn’t get my hopes up too high for an art museum in a city of roughly 250,000 people. I figured it would be a good experience, but a part of me expected to encounter a mediocre museum striving to reach the level of recognition of its rivals in the much larger metropolitan cities of Milwaukee and Chicago. I thought it would contain some interesting features, but would largely contain forgettable works in comparison its larger counterparts. Stated plainly, I was wrong.

The entrance to the gallery floor

From the moment my eyes crossed the plane of the gallery floor I was absorbed by a space containing elaborate, intricate, beautiful, and moving works spanning time, arching artistic styles, and covering every form of media imaginable. From the most realistic portraits to some of the most abstract sculptures I have ever seen, the Chazen Museum of Art held my attention at every turn and amazed me with every new piece I encountered. In my first minutes in the museum I was able to experience rich, beautiful history and see works laying out the future of modern art. The experience was so full and expansive I know I won’t be able to describe it in full detail, and that says a lot coming from someone that can usually type a paragraph about even the in consequential things. As a result, I will simply let some of the art I encountered in my first experience at the Chazen Museum of Art tell tonight’s story in hopes it will encourage more people to get out and visit this amazing institution.

A russian piece that was impossible to ignore

"Typewriter Eraser"

Mirror-faced, one-way glassfacing inward toward an abstract sculpture...
It produced an infinite reflection from every angle.

"Black Jack"

As I walked through the Chazen Museum of Art tonight I found time passing quickly as I tried to absorb everything the establishment had to offer. I never expected to encounter such a breadth of outstanding art when I came into tonight’s experience, but my time at Chazen opened my eyes to a collection that stands up against those of more storied museums. I realize now my procrastination to visit the Chazen Museum of Art only means I have been missing out on one of the best art museums I have ever encountered, which left me a little disappointed but decidedly happy I finally made the trip.

When I say the Chazen Museum of Art is world class, I mean it in the purest sense of the phrase, and had it not been for my ongoing effort to break my routines and gain new experiences I likely wouldn’t have realized that was the case for quite some time. I expected today to be a quite typical Thursday including a new but somewhat uneventful experience to cross off my “I have never...” list. I walked away with so much more. I think it is safe to say the Chazen Museum of Art will become a repeat occurrence in my life when I bring my “I have never...” year to an end... I’ll just have to see if I can wait that long to revisit this amazing institution at the heart of of the city I call my home.

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